That Summer I Became Frum

That Summer I Became Frum

Last night was the 8th-grade graduation of my fourth daughter, Moriah, which took place in the Neve Yerushalayim auditorium. I was feeling really emotional. Moriah is my 4th daughter to have attended that school, and my last. When we moved to our new neighborhood, I decided it would make more sense to send my 5th daughter, Tsofia, to a school near our new home instead. So last night was the end of my family’s 15-year connection with that school. If felt kind of like leaving behind family and setting out across the sea.

Since I returned from the Ukraine, I’ve been trying to do hitbodedut every day like I did there: telling Hashem 10 things I’m grateful to Him for, 10 things that worry me, and 10 things that I pray He will give me.

And after the graduation, I felt a strong urge to do hitbodedut on the Neve campus, the place where I, at the age of 20, first tasted the sweetness of Torah, Shabbat, and being part of a group of young Jewish women hungry to grow and learn about our heritage–beyond gefilte fish and bagels and lox.

So I was walking around the campus, looking for a pretty green spot to sit down, and walked by a building that looked eerily familiar. Was that? Could it be? Yes, it was my building, where I had attended classes so many years ago during the summer after my junior year in college.

The door was open, so I nervously took a few steps inside. Would somebody catch me? How would I explain my 9:40 sneaking around?

But there was nobody there. In the entire building. And then I, even more nervously, feeling even more naughty, climbed the stairs to the classrooms. Unbelievable! I saw names I knew by the rabbis’ offices–the rabbi who had interviewed me when I first arrived at Neve was still there. And two of the rabbis who had taught me so many years ago.

I peeked into the classrooms, remembering what it had felt like to sit in them. The excitement, the newness of learning about Judaism deeply for the first time in my life. Something, it turned out, I was desperately eager to do, even though I’d never given my Jewishness much thought before that fateful summer.

And then I went into the library, where we beginners would meet with our tutors. My tutor would test my understanding of Rashi using an old linear translation, printed in 1950s font, with dark-blue binding. Did they still have them here? I haven’t seen one of those in decades! And then, across the room, I saw a blue book that looked familiar. And I went over, and yes! It was!

I opened the Rashi, and tried to imagine myself reading those words back then. I had been the age of my own daughter that summer, how could that be? The girl from Friends School, then Bowdoin College. Sitting in this room, discovering a new world. A new/old part of myself that had always been there, but had been lying dormant, in hibernation until that summer at Neve.

And, with tears falling, I expressed my gratitude to Hashem for 10 things that I have in my life today, thanks to the journey that started for me, in that place.

Thank You Hashem, that my husband and I and our children are connected to the Torah
Thank You Hashem that I have found teachers that inspire me
Thank You Hashem for Shabbat
Thank You Hashem for my husband
Thank You Hashem for our 8 children
Thank You Hashem that we have a religious home
Thank You Hashem for Jewish law, which enhances my life and family in so many ways
Thank You Hashem that I live in Israel, in Jerusalem
Thank You Hashem that my parents have come to accept my new way of life and get so much nachas from their religious grandchildren!
Thank You Hashem that I have YOU in my life.

My life could have looked SO DIFFERENT. Thank You for leading me, day by day, year by year, on this journey, closer and closer to my truest self. And You.

4 comments

  1. This is so beautifully written!Ashreinu How fortunate we truly are!

  2. Continue to appreciate Hashem’s blessings both big and small. Thanks for sharing your inspiration and feelings with women around the world! Much yiddishe nachas from your entire family.

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