From time to time, particularly in the comments section, this site comes to seem like a wall for krexing (sic?) about all the real and imagined failings of the chareidi community and/or some of its members. I number myself among the krexers.
That is why I like to get out from time to time to be inspired by the amazing people produced by this community, and who to a very large extent attracted me to the chareidi world in the first place. Yesterday, I spent four hours with a remarkable woman who runs a project for Ayelet HaShachar in which chareidi women are connected with secular Israeli women who have expressed an interest in learning Torah texts or hashkafa. (About this particular program I’ll be writing in the future.)
At the beginning of our talk, by way of explaining the source of her confidence that chareidi women have the power to make a revolution in Israeli society, which is desperately casting about to find its moorings (another subject to which we will be returning in the future), she told me a story about her mother, a”h.
When she was about 60 years old, her mother went to a doctor to consult about a growth she had detected on her neck. The doctor ascertained immediately that the situation was far worse than she imagined. In fact, he told her that cancer had spread through her entire body, and she did not have long to live. She smiled.
Perplexed, the doctor assumed that she had not understood him, and once again told her of the gravity of her situation. She kept smiling. “Why are you smiling?,” the doctor asked.
“I grew up in a home with wonderful parents. I’m about to marry off my ninth and last child. Each of those children is going in the path in which we raised them. Why shouldn’t I smile?” she answered.
That doctor came to the shivah, he explained, “just to see the family that merited that smile.”
At the end of our conversation, the head of the program shared a few more stories about her mother. When the mass Russian immigration began in the early ’90s, her mother used to go out to the airport to greet the newcomers to Israel, and eventually had more than a 100 ba’alei teshuva families under her wing.
When the head of a program was a kallah, one of her sisters needed some cleaning help, and her mother called the head of seminary for baalos teshuva. A girl was sent over, and became close to the family. After about three weeks, she told the mother that she had been kicked out of the seminary because she had been caught “in the filthiest place there is.”
The mother called the head of the seminary, no small tzadekes herself, and asked her how she could throw out a girl with such a beautiful neshama. The head of the seminary asked her how she could keep a girl in the seminary who was walking the streets at night.
The mother called the girl and asked her why she was doing these things. She explained that she had neither a mother or father, and she needed the money so that some day she could have the security of a roof over her head.
The mother invited the girl to come live with her family, and gave her the family’s living room as her own private room, with a partition installed for her privacy. The linens purchased for the kallah were given to the girl, and the family ate their Shabbos meals in the hallway so that the girl would not feel that she had displaced them.
And today? “She is more chareidi than any of us,” said my hostess.
Needless to say, I spent a lot of time crying yesterday.