The Miracle of Little by Little

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.


  1. Powerful Message. Im so touched! With your attitude, your child will go far. Bhatzlacha, may you have much nachas from this child and all your children.

    As mentioned recently, I wanted to share this with you – it coincides well with your recent post
    Kol tuv

  3. wonderful for you and your son to learn hilchos chanukah together! one day at a time, one step at a time. what a lesson for us all! when hashem sees our hishtadlut (actions of trying) he will bless us with real hatzlocha and accomplishment. I am sure with the help you are showering on your child will lead that child in his/her time to shine in his/her way. chanukah samaech!

  4. It is hard being THAT parent, I know

    They need to progress compared to their previous achievements and not what the national guidelines are or whatever. So long as they are making progress themselves, celebrate that progress.

    Loved the Chanukah story too, what nachas.

  5. as usual your post is so relevant to exactly what I needed!

    happy Hanuka!

  6. A very wise Morah once told me at a disappointing Parent-Teacher conference that parents forget that school is only 12 years of a lifetime, and that many children who are not “ideal” students are amazing human beings, with talents that don’t surface in a regular classroom. Unfortunately, when they are young, school is their, and our, whole life. The Morah reminded me to keep concentrating on my child’s good points (and there were many, just not academic) and one day it will all be behind us. Some kids need more help than others getting through school, she said. That’s okay. Now twenty years later, I can say that that child made it through college, is married, working competently in a field she loves, and raising a beautiful family. But that night, I will never forget the teacher’s words, that it is okay in life not to be a “good student.”

  7. Beautiful post
    About your child struggling in school, maybe consider trying outside help like a tutor or someone who specialises in the area/s of their struggles. (Obviously i have no idea what the issue is so this suggestion is a stab in the dark). I dont know if doing the exact same thing and hoping for miracles is the only avenue for your child to be able to do better in school…

  8. We’ve Got It Backwards

    by Bracha Goetz

    “Mommy, I can’t read this.
    It’s all upside down!
    Mommy, it’s the truth –
    Why do you have that frown?”

    “b’s and d’s aren’t easy.
    For me, they are hard.
    M’s and W’s –
    I can’t tell them apart.”

    “Tatte, I can’t daven,
    Like others in shul.
    I don’t want to go.
    I look like a fool.”

    “Kids laugh at me.
    It’s because I’m so slow.”
    Years have passed by,
    And you sure did grow.

    There was no instant cure.
    You worked hard many hours.
    You didn’t give up,
    Drawing out untapped powers.

    Doors started to open,
    We thought were sealed tight.
    The first blessing read,
    Brought such huge delight.

    There’s still dyslexia,
    But your eyes shine with joy.
    Courage is now,
    A big part of our boy.

    You learned how to struggle.
    You’re not scared to try.
    You fall down. You get up.
    I barely hear you sigh.

    “It’s all upside down!”
    Your words were not wrong.
    Those given a big weakness,
    Can end up the most strong.

    Bracha Goetz is the author of 32 books to help children’s souls shine:

  9. The strategy of little by little will help everyone. The main thing is to be positive about any and all accomplishments not just those school related. When a child can contribute to the family – whether by pairing socks, setting a table, watching and entertaining a younger sibling, polishing shoes, or clearing up after a meal – it builds self esteem in a real way. (not just empty compliments) Sharing your own struggles and growth over time can also inspire a child to try again. It is important to get to the bottom of what is causing the problem, dyslexia, is only one of many challenges that can be overcome with the right help. Much hatzlocha and nachas from all of them! Happy Chanukah!

  10. Impressive and inspiring! (I still don’t think I’ll try learning mishnayos with my 8-year old next week when my husband is in miluim.)
    Happy Chanukah!

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