There I was, 19 years old, young and idealistic, a couple of months out of seminary, working… going to school. At work (and I worked in a yeshivah), my coworkers were either like me, or… not so like me. Some jokes that made me the tiniest bit uncomfortable, some interactions with men in the office that were just a bit too informal, internet (kosher!) news. At school, there certainly weren’t many I could relate to. And as the months went on, I began to wonder, who am I really? And how long will it take for me to be just like those around me? I missed seminary so, so much…
And then a friend told me about this Monday night shiur, and another friend mentioned it again. And although my schedule was tight and time was scarce, I said I’ll try it out.
When I walked in that first time, the first thing that struck me was — quality. How on earth did they get a group of girls of such high caliber —intelligent, talented, growth-oriented, Torahdig girls — to all gather together in one place at one time? Here I was, a “top” student, from a “top” seminary, with the “best” girls, and yet I had never seen a group of this caliber. I came once, I came twice, and then Lechu V’Nelcha became my place. This is who I am.
Oh, how we used to squeeze into Rebbetzin Fink’s dining room every Monday night. We found rides with each other, and we made sure to come early to get a seat. The comradeship, the warm atmosphere, the candies on the table. And the shiur! Each lesson was an intellectual and spiritual delight, which challenged our minds and our hearts. A question, another question, a third, it built up, it built up, and then… the masterful conclusion, the powerful, penetrating lesson, so clear, so true and then made so relevant to our daily lives.
What did I learn at Lechu V’Nelcha? I would sum it up in two words: avodas hamiddos. When you think about middos, what do you think of? To me, it was a vague concept, something some people just have and some people just don’t. Something tzaddikim worked on for seven years… certainly not something very relevant to a 19-year-old girl.
At Lechu V’Nelcha, avodas hamiddos became an everyday reality. We came to view avodas hamiddos as the purpose of our lives. Every challenge, every situation, comes with a question: Why did Hashem send this to me now? What character trait do I need to work on to get through this? Our workplaces, our challenges, instead of being extraneous and detracting from our avodah, became the avodah itself! A personal workout from the Eibershter Himself! What better preparation is there for marriage than this?
And what did I gain at Lechu V’Nelcha? Ruchniyus, meaning, and… friends! Oh, what good friends we were. There was none of the usual jealousy, politics, and cliques frequently found among teenagers. No one was less and no one was more. We all loved and cared for each other. We listened to each other, helped each other, and made plans together. And when one of us became engaged? We all turned out, with true joy, to share in her simchah.
Oh, the memories I have. The Chol Hamoed trips together, enjoying each other and the beauty of Hashem’s world. The melaveh malkah’s, the Purim Masquerade. And the Shabbatons! Those much anticipated Shabbatons! Rabbi Miller’s shiurim… a treat for the mind that penetrates the soul. The singing, the wonderful singing. Songs of yearning, songs of meaning. The Kabbalas Shabbos on Friday night… our special Aleinu L’Shabeach. The workshops, the speakers, each of a quality suitable to Lechu V’Nelcha. The games, the pure fun!
And what do I feel about Lechu V’Nelcha today? I believe in Lechu V’Nelcha very strongly. I feel those two years I was part of Lechu V’Nelcha gave me something invaluable for marriage and for life. I hate to think what I might have become without it.
And I find myself telling my children those same things Reb. Fink used to tell us: “Just because you have a gift, doesn’t mean you are a gift!” or “Rachmana liba bai (Hashem wants our hearts).” And I still live my life with the motto of avodas hamiddos. Each of my challenges, each of my children, presents the opportunity of: What middah is Hashem telling me to work on in order to get through this? This gives my life constant meaning and constant joy.
Lechu V’Nelcha is not a mosad, it’s not a name. It’s not a money-making business. It’s just a pocket of kedushah, of friendship, run with the pure motive of caring for our girls and being mekadesh shem Shamayim.
Actually, I wouldn’t mind joining a shiur or two, or perhaps a Shabbaton one of these days….