3 Teves 5782 / Tuesday, December 07, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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The Master Teacher    

The Master Teacher

She was at the holy Western Wall, immersed in prayer and trying her best to cling to the Almighty, when a bird passed over and dumped its payload right on her head...


“There is nothing like a story that is both true and comes from the heart. Lori's story is both. The way she narrates the story of her life, and seamlessly weaves in the changes that took place over time and with an open heart to Hashem's intervention, is a great lesson for anyone.” Tziporah Heller, January 6, 2016


My name is Lori. I was raised as a tinok shenishba (literally “kidnapped child” ---one not taught anything significant about Judaism) in that my mother ob’m, who came from a family stricken by the Pogroms in Russia, turned away from Judaism. Despite the fact that she often spoke to me in Yiddish growing up, G-d was never discussed. We did not go to shul even on the High Holidays, we did not keep kosher, and we lived in a primarily gentile neighborhood. She, however, made it clear that I should marry Jewish because it was the right thing to do. She also emphasized the importance of a secular education above all else. So I became a teacher. I married young to someone with a similar upbringing, both of us being only children and having descended from very religious grandparents and great grandparents. It was our parents who turned away.


When my children came of age, I sent them to the Conservative/Reform Hebrew schools because I was never offered the chance to attend synagogue. I assumed that I would gain a proper understanding of what it means to be Jewish.  What my husband and I failed to realize was that learning does not occur in this manner.  What my children were exposed to was not enough. I did not know that. Looking back, I’m shocked, being an educator, that I did not investigate further the meaning of Judaism. It was simply not on my radar screen. Looking back, since hindsight is 20-20, I would truly say that understanding one’s soul is bar none the most critical purpose of life. A weak foundation cannot sustain a home. When I finally woke up to the importance of living one's true faith, many years had passed and I was immersed in the secular world, working full time and trying, with my husband, to raise our family of four children. We were pretty much alone in this endeavor.


Time flew by and my children grew up and seemed to be spiraling, not really knowing who they were. So I reached heavenward for the first time in a very long while and spoke to G-d in my own words to help them find their beshert, a prayer I had said many years before when I first met my husband. I, the perennial teacher, realized that, at this point, I needed instruction and so did my husband. Wow! Did I wake up late, but honestly better late than never reigns true in this case. When the student is ready the teacher appears. We were led to High Holiday services at AISH, where I learned more than I could ever imagine. I was overcome with emotion like never before. I started taking classes near where I live and in Los Angeles, and, as Hashem would have it, at my very first class, the rabbi stated how important it is for a first born to go to Israel. We had never been to our homeland nor had our first born son. We made a decision right then and there to take our son with us to Israel. The younger siblings had the advantage of having gone on a Birthright trip.


Things were already turning around following my connection to G-d through personal prayer, after so many years of neglect. Our son, whose Hebrew name is Ya'akov, had just met a girl named Rachel. So I thought to myself---Could it be? Was G-d making a match for him, as the names suggested. Well, as it turned out it was a match, for sure, but not the kind I was thinking. Meeting her was for a definite purpose, however. As I continued to daven, I prayed that G-d would be my "Master Teacher" and guide me personally as to what steps I needed to take. I asked, and I received an answer in a most ubiquitous way, as I shall relate.


It was 2010. We proceeded to make arrangements for our trip to the land of Israel. Still reeling from the thought of Yaakov meeting Rachel, I boarded El Al with my husband and eldest son. Rachel had given Yaakov a little packet for the trip equipped with tissues, lip balm, ear plugs, antiseptic wipes, chewing gum, and mints. The trip was full of spirituality and beauty from the plane ride to the landing to the itinerary. Israel felt so much like home. It was a dream come true. Many of us do not realize that Judaism has an amazing spiritual side.


One day, while at the Kotel, I was standing with my son and my husband, who motioned to me to move closer to the tour guide who was explaining the protocol and procedure before entering to pray at the Western Wall. I moved closer, and just as I did, a bird flew overhead and left his excrement all over the front of my long hair. While in complete disbelief and with thoughts of how I would now have to find a restroom quickly in order to proceed with my family, my son called me over, promptly took out the packet Rachel had given him, and proceeded to remove a couple of antiseptic wipes that were in the packet and clean the affected strands of my hair. What was the likelihood of him having moist towelettes to help me out?  I felt deep within that there was a message I was supposed to glean from this incident, but at the time my main thoughts were ones of gratitude for being saved so quickly from total embarrassment. We entered the Kotel, and I vowed to investigate the meaning of this occurrence when I returned home to California.


Upon return I sat down at the computer to research the possible significance of the strange event that took place at the Kotel. The closest I came to an explanation was when I located a blog written by a young Yeshiva student who had been davening with tefillin outside one day when a bird’s excrement landed on his tefillin. His story ended in gratitude to Hashem for instructing him to check his tefillin, because, as it turned out, there was a problem with them, and they were not kosher. So I reasoned, could my hair not be kosher? I did not understand. I knew nothing of the mitzvah of married women covering their hair. Upon further research, I read with interest about this significant commandment and how it can benefit one’s entire family. I was speechless that G-d was actually teaching me. I was beyond grateful for Hashem’s loving kindness for having answered my prayer to be shown something that I needed to do (a very important mitzvah) and for the fact that He orchestrated that Rachel should meet Yaakov for the express purpose of doing a favor for me so that I would not have to be embarrassed. I have learned how important it is for all Jewish women, especially married women, to be modest. Tzniut (modesty) is not easy in this generation but it is a great merit and a wonderful way to connect to Hashem. Nothing is random, and there are no coincidences. Miracles like this happen daily. We have only to open our eyes to them.


I continue on my journey as a Ba’alas Teshuva, proud of who I discovered I am, and ever so grateful to Hashem for teaching me what I never learned as a child or young adult. I asked for His help, and He provided it. He continues to guide me as long as I connect and come to Him for advice. He will do the same for others who reach out to Him. When we believe, when we ask for guidance, we receive it. What loving Father would not answer His children? It’s never too late to learn. Since then I have learned to pray in Hebrew, and my husband and I have become observant, I reason if I can do it, most assuredly anyone can.


The esteemed Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller said, “Remember, a woman’s sense of self and power should not come from the number of heads she can turn, but rather from the minds and hearts she can touch.”

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