We celebrated JGU’s third Virtual Rosh Chodesh Celebration on January 18, 2015 for mothers and daughters from around the world. At the virtual Celebration, we celebrated the life of Devorah, which is the Haftorah reading for this Shabbos Parshas B’shalach. We also welcomed Rus Devorah Wallen, a musician and psychologist as our women of the month. I was inspired and gained three important life lessons, which I recently discussed with Susan Axelrod, consultant for Jewish Girls Unite,

Lesson 1: FOCUS

“Devorah Judged from under a Palm Tree”:

Every word in the Torah is precise, so what lesson can we learn from the fact that she judged from under a palm tree?

A palm tree has one heart and no branches and symbolizes that Devorah influenced the Jewish people to serve Hashem with one heart. In a palm tree, the nourishment comes up from the ground straight to the top where the fruits grow and it does not get sidetracked by other branches, so too they had one focus and didn’t get distracted from serving Hashem. (Talmud)

Rus Devorah shared a relevant quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
Living in the NOW, wherever you are:
“In every situation the journey of your life may bring you, you must be fully present where you are. You may only be passing through on your way to somewhere else seemingly more important – nevertheless, there is a purpose in where you are right now.”

In a world with so many distractions, we can lose focus and forget to prioritize. We must realize how valuable our time is with our family and friends. Let’s make a conscious effort to truly listen to others and be fully present.

During our meeting, Susan illustrated a picture of my tasks and activities being ‘poured’ into a funnel – the result looked like a palm tree! As we listed my activities, we discussed the most important things that I should allow into the funnel such as: My Family, My JGU/JGR Family, Obtaining A Permanent Home for JGR, Chabad activities, JGU programming. However……….Pesach in Lake George didn’t fit into the funnel because it was diverting a huge amount of my energy from our mission to inspire Jewish girls.

Suddenly, I saw Devorah’s palm tree before me and remembered the lesson! I recognized that the JGU tree required my undivided attention in order to get the proper nourishment. I realized that I needed to let go of Pesach in Lake George for now in order to have one main focus to grow a stronger Jewish Girls Retreat with a permanent home for JGU. It was a difficult decision because we will miss our Pesach Retreat family until we resume the program again.

Ask Yourself:
* · Do you have a mentor, coach, “mashpia” to guide you?
* · Are you listening to your inner calling?

Lesson 2: SHINE

Devorah would prepare wicks for the candles in the Temple, and would give them to her husband to bring there. In this way, she encouraged him to illuminate the House of Study.

▪ Her husband became known as “Lapidot”, which in Hebrew means “torch”. Hashem was very happy with Devorah’s actions. He said: “Since you desired to increase My light, I will increase your light”.
▪ Hashem rewarded her with prophecy, and her spiritual light shone over all the Jews. She became the only Jewish woman in history to be in the leadership position of a Judge.

Rus Devorah shared the following inspirational quote:

“Being a ‘lamplighter’ of Jewish souls is even more relevant to the Jewish woman. She is the actual candle-lighter who was given the special Divine assignment, extraordinary privilege and bright mitzvah of lighting the candles for the holy Shabbos and festivals; and in a deeper spiritual sense…she is the first to light up the young souls of the infants until they begin to shine on their own.”

Susan and I spoke about ways that Jewish Girls Unite will become a safe platform for thousands of women and girls to express their creativity and shine their inner light. Women and girls are lamplighters with the power to help others shine through nurturing their unique strengths.

We are ecstatic that we are launching the new Jewish Girls Unite website at the Rosh Chodesh Adar Virtual Celebration. There will be many opportunities for women and girls to get involved.

Ask Yourself:
· What can you do today to shine your inner light?
· What are you doing to offer others the opportunity to shine?

Lesson 3: MOTHER

After Devorah won a major battle, she sings the Song of Devorah in which she chooses a strange way to express her leadership of the Jewish nation: “I arose, Devorah, I arose as a mother in Israel.”

· It would make more sense for Devorah to describe herself as a general, leader, judge, and prophet.

* Why does Devorah choose the title “Mother of Israel”?
* We don’t even find commentaries that mention anything about her children and if she had any.

This reminds me of my conversation with Susan. She shared with me her deep passion for “growing Jewish daughters into mothers”. I asked her what we should write in our mission statement: “Growing Jewish daughters into LEADERS or MOTHERS?” I wondered if LEADER made more sense, just in case someone doesn’t have children?

Susan explained, “We are expanding the definition of the word ‘mother.’ A woman can be a mother, even if she doesn’t have biological children of her own, by nurturing others as only women can.”

This is Devorah’s message to all Jewish women: We are all mothers!

Devorah was exemplifying traits of motherhood within her various roles of leadership. As a prophetess and judge, Devorah elevated the Jewish nation spiritually and emotionally. She nurtured them to become a light unto the nations. As a military general, she acted as a mother fighting for their peace and security so they could fulfill their potential. Just like Devorah, we were given the role of nurturing others with our unique feminine powers. It is our task to educate and inspire a love for G-d, encourage others to shine, help people achieve physical, emotional and spiritual health and create an environment where others can flourish and feel safe.

Ask Yourself:
* Whom do you mother?
* How do you use your feminine traits to nurture them?

Mothers and Daughters, I pray that you will get inspired by the women of the past and present and join our future monthly Rosh Chodesh Virtual Celebrations.

Shortly after I wrote this letter, I received the sad news that my beloved grandmother, Meme Rachel bat Shalom returned her pure soul. She is the extraordinary Matriarch of my maternal family. She was a mother to many who became part of her extended family and lovingly called her “Meme”.

This heartbreaking experience of losing my last grandparent reminds me again that time passes so quickly, so slow down, appreciate family and friends and be fully present. Every moment is a gift, so let’s use it wisely to shine our inner light and help others shine too. I am eternally grateful to my dear Meme Rachel, for nurturing me with love and kindness and for dedicating her life to being fully present for her children, grandchildren and extended family. Merci Meme!!! (she spoke French) for showing us by your shining example what the title “Mother in Israel” truly means.

Nechama Laber

See next article for more about Meme Rachel, O”BM.