The holy Gaon Harav Yaakov Emden, zt”l, writes in the introduction to his siddur that when he observed how the Jewish people survived among the nations and remained loyal to the Torah despite all the terrible trials they underwent, “these wonders are greater in my eyes than any of the miracles and wonders that G-d did for our ancestors in Egypt, the desert and the Land of Israel in ancient times.” And the longer the exile, the greater the miracle of the Torah nation’s existence.
The wonders Our Creator has done for us in recent generations were especially prominent, when the waves of evil and heresy inundated wide swaths of our people and reached unprecedented proportions. In the terrible chaos, He in His great mercy left a remnant of authentic purity and faith for us — one that miraculously strengthened the Jewish spirit among our sons and daughters, which has no logical or natural explanation.
Of all the wonders that we saw with our own eyes in recent generations, we are especially moved by the image of Sarah Schenirer, a”h, whom Divine Providence sent to breathe a new spirit of faith in, and love of, the Torah in the hearts of Jewish daughters. She was zocheh to become the vehicle for a great salvation for Klal Yisrael by founding and blazing a trail for the Bais Yaakov movement. The tens of thousands of contemporary Jewish women who’ve been raised loyal to Judaism are the students of her students, who drank from the wellsprings of her wisdom. It is therefore appropriate to look at her words and learn from them, and to draw knowledge of Hashem from the pure spring whose waters revived the soul of the last generation.
Mrs. Schenirer testified that she viewed three verses as a call to action:
- “Serve Hashem with joy.”
- “I put Hashem always before me.”
- “Show us how to utilize our days.”
We will explain each one:
The holy Rebbe Rav Moshe Leib of Sassov, zy”a, said that joy in serving Hashem will save a person from being alienated from Hashem, because it is human nature to strive to be happy and run away from sorrow and sadness. Whereas whoever feels no joy in his avodas Hashem, will become easy prey for the evil inclination and will be regularly tempted to seek satisfaction in other matters and from alien and dangerous sources.
Therefore, dear Bais Yaakov girls, always try to serve Hashem from the heart and keep the Torah’s commandments out of love of the Torah life. The soul does not feel satisfied without a pure Torah life, and there is no joy in the world to compare to the joy of a mitzvah.
The source of the constant true joy — “I have placed G-d always before me” — was the second verse that Sarah Schenirer used to say.
When does one get a taste of a mitzvah? When one remembers the words of our sages: “Know before Whom you are toiling.” If mitzvos are done by rote, out of habit, without a sense of excitement and joyful emotion, you will not be able to taste their flavor, “The mitzvos of Hashem are straight; they make the heart happy.”
Serving Hashem with joy requires first and foremost precaution against sin. Violating prohibitions and serving G-d with joy are, of course, contradictory. Remembering our Creator at all times prevents one from being pulled into sin.
Sometimes one is tempted to do a sin — and “small” sins tempt us several times a day — but if one reminds himself of the Creator and His Providence, — then he will be deterred from sin. And in place of sinning, he will have fulfilled a great mitzvah.
Fortunate is one who does not taint himself in sin and does not corrupt the purity of his soul, and even more, gets paid for desisting from the sin as if he had fulfilled a mitzvah. He consequently can fulfill the words, “Serve the L-rd with joy.”
The third verse, “Show us how to utilize our days,” comes to inspire a person to incessantly maintain his avodas Hashem and to utilize every hour and every moment so that he doesn’t have a day that was not lived to the fullest; every day should be filled with content and good deeds.
The holy Chiddushei Harim, zy”a, explains: Hillel Hanasi would say, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” The “now” that we find ourselves in, the present moment, has never before existed since the six days of creation and will never return to the world again until the end of time.
Every hour and every moment has a special role, just as every soul has a special mission in this world, a mission that only that soul can fulfill and none other. Each unit of time is also an inimitable opportunity to repair the world, so it should be utilized quickly so as not to miss its one-time opportunity given by the One Who “called the generations from the beginning” (Yeshayahu 41:4).
Every single Jewish man and woman must realize that in Hashem’s world, a mission was assigned specifically to them. In Hashem’s world, we are all messengers charged with promoting Hashem’s Kingdom in the world. Awareness of the mission compels us to carry out many actions that increase the glory of Heaven. The feeling that we should utilize every day to achieve one holy goal will inevitably motivate us to carry out all of our actions with alacrity and fill every hour of our lives with wisdom.
We therefore find three means to strengthen our avodas Hashem:
- Feeling joy in our avodas Hashem;
- Remembering our Creator and serving Him for the sake of heaven;
- Alacrity and efficient use of time arising from the sense of mission motivating us.
We received these fundamental principles in the will left us by this great woman, who was charged by Divine Providence to bolster and strengthen the golden chain of righteous Jewish women and of loyal Jewish daughters over whom the sanctity of the Matriarchs hovers.
Strengthen yourselves with these holy principles, my precious girls, and Hashem will help you succeed and increase light and joy for the entire Jewish people.