12 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 25, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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An Eternal People    

An Eternal People

There were no Jews left in their world, and now thousands upon thousands appear and assemble in a massive outpouring of tefila. What were they thinking?...


There is a Rav in Jerusalem who was born near Kiev over ninety years ago. Keeping mitzvot, teaching Torah, and encouraging Jews to come closer to their Creator, were all crimes against the State in communist Russia. His kiruv activities eventually let to his capture, “trial” and sentencing to Siberia for nearly seven miserable, torturous years.
After his release, Rav Michel Dorfman ztz"l, a Breslover Chassid, was one of the key figures involved in clandestinely maintaining visits to Rebbe Nachman's gravesite in Uman, especially for Rosh Hashana. Religious gatherings of any kind were still strictly prohibited and Jews from abroad were never granted visas to travel to a site of Jewish importance. Irregardless of the danger to himself, Rav Michel, with tremendous mesirat nefesh, willingly continued to bring foreign tourists to Uman.
He was finally allowed to leave Russia and move to Israel in 1970. It was Rav Michel and others like him, whose self sacrificing ways eventually led the Russian government to permit Jews to visit Uman. After decades of struggle and conflict with the authorities, the numbers of Yidden congregating to daven on Rosh Hashana in just the last twenty years, has slowly risen.
Before he passed away this past Av, when I heard that in Tishrei 5766, it was reported that over 35,000 Jews converged on that small Ukrainian town of yesteryear, I tried to envision the enormity of his nachat, the great expansion of simcha Rav Michel must have experienced, living to witness such an awesome phenomenon in his own lifetime.
And what about the elderly Ukrainians who had seen, sixty years ago, all vestiges of Jewish life purged from the vicinity? There were no Jews left in their world, and now thousands upon thousands appear and assemble in a massive outpouring of tefila. What were they thinking?
Am l'Netzach!! An Eternal People!
This past month, an unusual celebration occurred in our community. The fourth grade girls from the Tznei Lechet elementary school had been invited to participate in the annual performance for “Batya.” My fourth grader informed me of this weeks in advance, while she and her classmates were practicing the songs they would be singing. Every year a different Bait Yaakov is picked to perform a concert in honor of the ongoing Shabbat afternoon activities that the Batya organization sponsors. This year it was Tznei Lechet's turn.
As the event drew nearer, and the little girls grew more nervous and excited, it finally dawned on me that three classes of fourth graders –about eighty girls total—were going to be performing in front of over 3000 fourth graders—the sum of all the fourth graders in all the Bait Yaakovs throughout Jerusalem.
We mothers, therefore, if we wanted to have the opportunity to hear our girls, would have to come to school the morning before the concert was scheduled to be held in Binyanei HaUma. There was no option to go to the huge hall itself, because all the fourth grade girls of Jerusalem's Bais Yaakov system already filled the auditorium to capacity! There was simply no room for mothers and others
Realizing the significance of this triumphant affair, I was not going to miss it. However, I wasn't prepared for the emotional experience of just being in the presence of so many smiling, shining, radiant souls, all bursting with gusto as they sang songs that celebrate our existence as a people. My tears were flowing copiously, with the joy of appreciation for what this momentous occasion signified. .
Ivriyot anuchnu, bnot Yisroel,
Ivriyot anuchnu, l'olam nihiye v'nesha'ar!!
We are Jewish girls, we will exist and remain forever!
And in the name of our People who Hashem chose,
we will be proud
We will expand and improve...
...the flag that we will raise, is our Torah
...a religious fire in our hearts
al kol nishima v'nishima, n'hallel et Elokeinu!
...and with every breath we will praise our G-d!
The idea for Batya originated in Cracow with Sarah Schneirer, who, as we all know, valiantly, nearly single handedly, formulated her plan for the spiritual rescue of young Jewish girls from the waves of assimilation and enlightenment sweeping through Europe before WW II. Devoted to spreading Torah concepts with love, song and inspiration, she envisioned a future of knowledgeable Jewish women educating their daughters in the ways of Hashem. She taught and she taught others to teach. And sixty years later, young responsible girls, the madricot, are still planning games to play, stories to share and songs to sing with the youngsters in their groups, keeping them occupied with worthwhile projects during the hours of the Shabbos afternoon.
When I spoke with Rabbi Yehoshua Lieberman, the son of the late Rabbi Hillel Lieberman (zt”l), the man instrumental in establishing the foundation of the Bait Yaakov educational system in Eretz Yisroel, Rav Yehoshua told me that sixty years ago, when Batya began here after WWII, there were only about 150 girls throughout the country!
Today, he said, the number of girls participating in Batya on a typical Shabbos afternoon is over 37,000!!
Am l'netzach!! An Eternal People!
When I pause to reflect on the enormous contribution  Rav Michel and Sarah Schneirer had, making a difference in so many thousands of Jewish lives, I am deeply inspired.  One person's impact!!
After every calamity that has ever beset us as a people, the survivors have gone on to rebuild their lives, with the light of unique individuals illuminating the way. Billions of tears and millions of prayers of our Jewish brethren throughout the ages are behind every action we do today, every mitzva we are privileged to perform. And all of our individual deeds now form the spiritual support system of those to come.
A single day is a celebration of our eternity. Am l'netzach! An Eternal People!
* * *
Chava Dumas is a mother, writer, illustrator and doula living in Jerusalem.  She is presently working on an anthology.

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