An extraordinary asifah, honoring the 80th yahrtzeit of Sarah Schenirer, a”h
This past Tuesday morning, the Barclays Center of Downtown Brooklyn filled rapidly with thousands of talmidos, hailing from schools throughout the tri-state area and beyond; even Canada. Many women, including Rebbetzins and esteemed community members, attended as well.
Several themes resonated in the electrifying addresses of the well-respected speakers. One was the power of the individual to make an impact. As Rabbi Ephraim Sher said, each of us is a Kohen Gadol in our own Beis Hamikdash, and can be marbeh kvod Shamayim.
Harav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, spoke of the chochmas lev that personifies the Jewish woman, which encompasses yiras Shamayim and ahavas haTorah. He called on bnos Yisrael to cultivate those middos, and to build strong homes with powerful walls that do not allow insidious high-tech influences to enter.
Every individual can make an impact; some, like Sarah Schenirer, impact worlds and affect generations. Harav Ephraim Wachsman, shlita, discussed the secret of Frau Schenirer’s immortality. Everyone has to choose, he said, between chayei neshamah, a spiritually directed life, and a physically focused one. One who chooses chayei neshamah lights up the world. Rav Wachsman said that the greatness of tzaddikim such as Rashi and the Chofetz Chaim are linked to the tears their mothers cried when praying that they grow up to be righteous Jews.
He also mentioned that while Sarah Schenirer’s struggle was against the apikorsus threatening the youth of her day, today it is the lowness of contemporary culture, with its attendant pessimism and materialism, that seeks to break us. But we can fight it; we can become the people Hashem wants us to be, able to be misanag al Hashem.
Rebbetzin Sora Ziemba referenced the fact that 80 represents gevurah, and this past Shabbos was Shabbos Chazak. The new sefer we are about to begin, Vayikra, is chiefly about korbanos, derived from the word karov. Sarah Schenirer called out to bnos Yisrael, b’lashon chibah, to draw closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and His Torah.
A soul can make an impact, if its Source is allowed to enter. “Kol dodi dofek, pischi li,” Rebbetzin Rina Tarshish called out, citing Shir Hashirim. She shared a mashal from Mrs. Craindell Mannes of Chicago about a man who sought to honor someone with a lavish banquet. The honoree asked his host to bear in mind his fish allergy, so severe he could not even inhale the scent of fish. Standing outside during the party, the guest of honor asked his host, “Why is that sushi bar here? I told you I am allergic.” Why, indeed, Rebbetzin Tarshish pondered, would the host show such insensitivity? Perhaps he hadn’t realized the severity or significance of the allergy.
This serves as a metaphor for one who serves Hashem without concern for the laws of tznius. She can think, “I am doing so much chessed, I don’t talk lashon hara — do a few inches really matter?”
They matter very much, affirmed Rebbetzin Tarshish. When we keep modesty in our camp, Hashem can come in, showering us with brachah.
The Chofetz Chaim awoke each day with the words, “Gut morgen, Tatte, doh redt Yisrael Meir HaKohen fun Radin,” fully sensing Hashem’s Presence. We, too, can strengthen every area of our lives by focusing on Shivisi Hashem l’negdi samid.
A person can make an impact. And when that person works with other, similarly-driven individuals, the effect is even greater. Rebbetzin Frume Kirzner acknowledged the unforgettable colleagues of Sarah Schenirer and Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, a”h, who invested their lives in Bais Yaakov and were zocheh to great siyatta diShmaya.
The koach of an inspired tzibbur is massive. May the hisorerus of all who attended this memorable asifah become a chefetz, something tangible, influencing their lives and those of their families ad bias goel tzedek bimheirah.
Other highlights included filmed blessings from Gedolei Torah and heartwarming messages from illustrious Rebbetzins, mechanchos, and talmidos of Sarah Schenirer and Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, as well as a beautiful choir performance by girls from several Bais Yaakov schools.
Tehillim, Kel Malei Rachamim and Kaddish were recited by, respectively, Rabbis Osher Ehrenreich, Baruch Ber Ungarischer and Abish Brodt.