The Baal Shem Tov is said to have famously stated, “All the world is my teacher.” In Jewish Girls Unite, we emphasize drawing lessons from everything in the world around us, and practically applying those concepts.
A few nights ago, Rabbi, Schneur and Baruch Laber built the counselors-in-training a beautiful bonfire. As we gathered around to roast some treats and sing, I tried to recall some of the Torah lessons I’ve learned about fire. A particularly poignant one was the Rambam’s perspective on the spiritual correspondents to the four earthly elements, as brought down in his Yesodei HaTorah. Fire is one, and it symbolizes the negative character traits of arrogance and anger. Though a lot of people might not guess it, I have a rather fiery nature, and struggle with a temper. When one becomes angry, they temporarily forget Hashem is the One in control, and their emunah and bitachon flicker.
As I sat staring at the flames, wondering how I would solve my predicament, I realized the moon was nearly full and shining bright. I shifted my gaze to the heavens, and the inspiration hit me like a lightning bolt. The moon was teaching me something, too. The Jewish People are compared to the moon for multiple reasons: We, like the moon, wane and wax. We become ‘small,’ stumble and fail time and again; but there is hope, for we rise, grow, and are restored to our former radiance. Remembering humanity’s imperfection and potential was comforting and encouraging to me. Also, the moon’s light isn’t its own, but it only reflects the sun’s rays. Likewise, our ight is nothing but a reflection of a higher Being’s light – that of Hashem Himself.
Sarah Imeinu epitomized these values. How so? In Parshat Chayei Sarah, the years of her life are enumerated piecemeal: “And the years of Sarah’s life were a hundred years and twenty years and seven years.” Rashi explains this statement to mean, “All Sarah’s years were equally good.” If this was truly so, though her life was rife with difficulty, she didn’t allow negativity to overpower her conscience. Her faith and trust in G-d was rock-solid, which fruited a life of consistent serenity and focus on G-d’s will for her. Though all the odds were stacked against her, she transcended them and ignited in the world an even greater light. “Lech Lecha” she was told; ‘go to a strange land, where you don’t know a soul, to purify and illuminate it.’ And she did. Sarah had the anavah to graciously accept what was Divinely dealt to her, even if she couldn’t yet perceive the bigger picture. She made her will a clear reflection of G-d’s will. Sarah – literally “Princess” – was the embodiment of Hashem’s royalty, a holy vessel for His light. Now, I am inspired to ask myself before I become angry or say something sharp, “Is this going to echo what Hashem desires of me?”
Through Sarah’s lens of recognizing the Almighty always intimately involved in life’s happenings and directing one’s every step, how can one become angry or anxious? Sarah teaches me trust in Hashem, and true inner peace. Sarah’s light and voice are invested within every one of us. It is possible to achieve her unique perspective of life. We are the Sarahs of today.
I would like to thank Rabbi and Mrs. Laber, and all of the staff, for making this dream of JGR possible, and giving us the opportunity of such an experience. Thank you to my friends here, old and new alike, for being who you uniquely are. And the biggest todah to Ribono Shel Olam, for everything He blesses us with.