The Miracle of Little by Little
My husband was just away for two weeks interviewing next-year’s applicants for his program, so when 9-year-old Yoel came home two weeks ago with a sticker chart to learn the laws of Chanukah for 15 minutes a day with a parent, the job fell on me.
Unfortunately, taking care of everyone and everything without my husband’s assistance meant that a week or so into my husband’s trip, I was already burnt out to a crisp. But despite my sorry state, every single day we pulled out Yoel’s Kitsur Shulchan Aruch and learned when to light, where to light, how to light, etc. at the living room table, in the middle of all the 5 PM balagan. As you know, I didn’t go to a Jewish school. I never formally learned the laws of Chanukah before, so most of the laws we learned together were only sort-of familiar to me, and I was pretty sure Yoel and I didn’t really understood a lot of what we were reading.
But nonetheless, yesterday Yoel set off for school with a full sticker chart to present proudly to his teacher. And at 4 PM, Yoel burst in through the back door. “Eema, you won’t believe it! The Rabbi gave us a test on the laws of Chanukah, to see who will represent the class in the school-wide Hilchot Chanukah competition, and I came in 3rd place!”
I gave Yoel a high-five, “Way to go! AMAZING! And who came in 1st and 2nd place?” I asked.
“David and Dvir.”
Ahh, of course. David is the son of a renowned Rosh Yeshiva, and Dvir is the great-grandson of a legendary rabbi and the son of highly-respected Torah scholar.
And then I felt a moment of shock.
Yoel had learned with ME, the baalat teshuva who had never even cracked open a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch before, but that 15 minutes a day of consistent (albeit confused) study had put him right up there with the boys who had studied with the Rosh Yeshiva and the Talmid Chacham.
The miracle, I realized, of never giving up, little by little, day by day.
This week Rabbi Nivin told us a story about a king who put all his servants in a very deep pit and instructed them to try to get out of the pit.
After a few hours, all the servants realized the pit was very deep and there was no way they would ever be able to get out, so they just gave up and sat on the ground.
Just one single servant remembered that the King had told them to keep on trying to get out, so this single servant continued jumping with his arms raised to be lifted out of the pit.
The next day, the King looked into the pit, and saw the single jumping servant with his hands raised, and he was the one the King lifted out to freedom.
The miracle of never giving up, little by little, day by day.
Last night I had a parent-teacher conference for one of my children. My mom always says that when you go to the doctor, pray that you will be a boring patient. And in the past, more or less, I’ve always been that boring parent. The one who is in and out in 5 minutes, and waves goodbye without a care to the other parents waiting outside the classroom.
But with this child, I have become the parent about whom the other parents waiting outside look fretfully at their watches and remark: “Is she ever coming out of there?”
I have become the mother of a child, I found out last night, who is drowning in school. Who lacks the basic skills necessary to succeed.
Leaving my child’s school last night, I felt a vague sense of panic. This child will never succeed in school! This child will never succeed in life! I am already helping this child every day, and it’s not nearly enough! The situation is hopeless!
And then I remembered the Chanukah quiz and the servants jumping in the deep pit.
All I have to do, I thought, as I took a deep breath, is keep jumping.
And await the miracle of never giving up, little by little, day by day.