My Learning Partner, Sara Deb


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I met my learning partner, Sara Debbie Gutfreund, at a writing conference for religious women 3 years ago. After the conference, while rummaging through her purse in search of her cellphone, for some reason Sara mentioned to me that she wanted to learn the book Garden of Emuna. I did too.

“Why don’t we learn it together?” Sara suggested without even looking up from her cellphone search.

The truth is that I did NOT want to learn anything with this woman I didn’t know– for a zillion reasons. As usual, I didn’t have ANY time. I had a three-month-old baby, and I was already frequently dropping balls in my personal Jewish mom juggling act. Maybe it would be a whole messy, awkward, unpleasant waste of time followed by a messy, awkward, unpleasant “break up.”

But I did really want to read the Garden of Emuna again. And who knew? Maybe Hashem had planned for me to have this random conversation with this random woman for some special, Divinely-planned reason?

So I answered: “Great! Email me!” sort of hoping that she would Email and sort of hoping she wouldn’t.

But that random woman didn’t forget. And three years and over 25 books learned together later, I thank God she did not.

Sara and I almost never see each other, since she lives in Telzstone. But every weekday Sara and I read a few pages of a Jewish book on our own, and then Email each other with our thoughts on what we read. Six pages, and then six pages more, and then six pages more until we can congratulate ourselves on another book under our collective belts.

I do my chavruta reading at the very end of my day, when what I want more than anything is to collapse into my bed and fall instantly asleep. But I know that Sara is waiting for my Email, so I read those six pages, type up my thoughts, and tack on a few words about how life is going.

But the truth is that Sara is not the only one waiting for me to prop my eyes open and read and reflect. My soul is waiting as well– for some words of Torah to provide a little spiritual nourishment for this JewishMOM after a long day of wiping noses and washing dishes and testing kids on vocab words and biting my tongue when the banana smoothie flows yet again across the table like the Mississippi flooding its banks.

So many amazing changes and new developments in my life have come about because of the exhausted, droopy-eyed half an hour that I spend on my daily chavruta correspondence. It was during that falling-on-the-floor half an hour that I dreamed up the idea of doing video peptalks, of creating the JewishMOM videos series, of writing inspirational articles for you Jewish moms in the first place.

Sara and I have supported each other through not-so-easy times: pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and post-partum challenges (we gave birth a month apart this past summer). When both of us were recently struggling with writers block, we tacked on a few daily pages of Finding Water (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) by Julie Cameron in order to get our creative juices flowing again.

When I have to make a tough decision, the first thing I do is call my husband, and then shoot off an Email to Sara marked with a red exclamation point and the word “Advice” in the subject line.

For me, Sara has lived up to her name. Sara Debbie Gutfreund.

My learning partner, Sara Debbie. My Good Friend.

Click here to read the article that Sara published this week on I LOVED it, so exquisite, so powerful. So Sara Deb.
Just One Prayer by Sara Debbie Gutfreund

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  1. Amanda Bradley

    that is such a great way to run a chavrusa! i think i might try it, i’ve had so many chavrusas falll apart becasue of running out of time in my life, but that system might work!
    Thanks, Chana Jenny!

  2. I was talking to a neighbour today that is a shm and has been home for the last 9 years.
    She loves it, but has realised that she needs something for her soul but has no time.
    It sounds like you’ve found the perfect solution- I will suggest it.
    Where can she find an e-mail havruta?

  3. I’m interested too – maybe we can all hook up on here!

  4. Your friend Sara Deb wrote a very important article. No matter how religious and learned you are, life can exhaust you (emotionalyy or physically) to the point where you can’t find the place inside you that prays. But just knowing that you want to pray, and that there is Hashm to pray to can make all the difference.

  5. Can you remind me which other seforim you’ve covered with your other learning partners?
    I know I’ve seen it somewhere but forgot in which post . I’m looking for some recommendations . Thanks!

    • JewishMom

      here’s a few:
      strive for truth–rabbi dessler
      garden of emuna and gates of gratitude–rav arush
      GPS for the Soul–Tanya
      48 Way to Wisdom–Rabbi Weinberg
      rav shimshon pinkus–on Shabbat
      We read the parsha for several years every week, and then switched to the haftorah

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