A Corona-Induced Concept: The Lechu V’Nelcha Virtual Shabbaton!
The stores are still closed, the schools are still closed. Masks and social distancing regulations are still in force. There is a pall in the air and there is no way that post-seminary girls can have a Shabbaton this year, despite their great disappointment.
Or is there?
When it comes to Lechu V’Nelcha and growing in our avodas Hashem, mere technicalities are no obstacle. The girls came over to Rebbetzin Dina Fink, founder and director of Lechu V’Nelcha, and asked: “Rebbetzin Fink, can we have a Shabbaton?” And her response was: “Well, as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, z”l, would say, “‘If you can’t be a millionaire — be a thousandaire!’”
Hence was born a corona-induced concept: the virtual Shabbaton, and all by telephone only!
“A very, very warm welcome to our first-ever tele-Shabbaton,” begins Rebbetzin Fink. “This is really, in a sense, a dream come true because our dream was always to have a Shabbaton where we can have girls all over the world participating. I would have never thought of how the Eibishter would have made that happen — send somebody in Wurhan to eat a live bat, to create a pandemic, and this is the opportunity Hashem has left us with.
“The maamin looks for the silver lining in the cloud. It’s an opportunity, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants us to connect to Him this way…. We are very very grateful and we’re very, very overwhelmed by the response, because there are approximately 300 girls who have registered from all over the world — from Australia, Eretz Yisrael, Vienna, Aix-les-Bain, Basel, Gateshead, London, Manchester, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Lakewood, Monsey, Providence and from many more places.”
To those unfamiliar with Lechu V’Nelcha: It is a global program for post-seminary girls that provides weekly shiurim, bi-annual Shabbatons, trips, programs, retreats and anything else that helps the girls grow and stay connected to their ruchniyus and to each other. There are branches all over the world where the girls enjoy top-notch weekly speakers, build thriving friendships, and gain a solid base during this sometimes challenging stage.
And so it began, Parashas Bamidbar, the Lechu V’Nelcha 27th Shabbaton: the most unusual and at the same time the most inspiring Shabbaton ever. “There’s no place like Home” is the theme, and Rebbetzin Fink explains: “There’s no greater treasure than the treasure of who you are… It’s important to take inventory — who you are, what chinuch you were exposed to, what opportunities Hashem gives you. Recognize when Hashem gives you something that counts, he’s counting on you! … We don’t even know what we have, we have no indication of who we are.”
Erev Shabbos featured a treat of a shiur by Rabbi Todros Miller of Gateshead Seminary. Intellectually stimulating, soul-stirring and yet at the same time entirely down to earth, his shiur was, as always, a treasure to behold. “I went into Shabbos on such a high from Rabbi Miller’s shiur,” expresses Leah from Monsey. “I shared it with my family over Shabbos.”
The girls entered Shabbos uplifted with zemiros, insights by Rebbetzin Fink and an Erev Shabbos message from the inspirer of thousands, Tammy Carmel. On Shabbos itself, each girl enjoyed a written shiur by Rabbi Miller on Maamad Har Sinai, as well as a review of Hilchos Shabbos.
Motzoei Shabbos brought concurrent shiurim by Rabbi Nechemia Grama and Rabbi Miller. This was balanced with a hilarious comedy by Mrs. Marion Fine and topped by Chassidishe stories related by Rebbitzen Shlomtzy Weisz.
Sara from Yerushalayim shares her impressions with us: “It was a perect blend of fun and inspiration… it was full of life. I felt a certain lightness that I hadn’t experienced in a long time; I felt like it was one big, happy family. It was very connecting, spirited, fun and also very inspiring.”
Sunday morning started off with a bang — with a round of exercise with Devoiry. “It was a really good stretch after sitting around for two months!” says Sara. “It felt really good.”
Then followed the popular question–and-answer session with Rabbi Miller. The depth and insight of the questions themselves portray the quality of a Lechu V’Nelcha girl. They asked about emunah when faced with the loss of a loved one, about the concept of bashert in shidduchim. They asked about having cheshek in davening and about quality friendships. And the answers were powerful, to the point and, of course, completely Torah-true.
Mrs. Tzirel Rubinstein, shidduch mentor, came on the line. “She spoke about challenges during this time with shidduchim,” said one participant. “Her punch line was that in shidduchim the most practical tool is bitachon!”
The girls were privileged to hear Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, who has spoken for Lechu V’Nelcha a number of times already. One girl enthused: “You’re hearing about bitachon that’s so real, you could touch it. It’s not a theory. Each point goes straight to the heart. This is not a madreigah for high people, it’s for everyone, something real that you can have, too… It feels like he’s living life together with Hashem — I was blown away.”
Concurrent interactive workshops were held by Rebbitzen Faigy BenShalom, Mrs. Debbie Greenblatt and Mrs. Yael Kaisman. The speakers at Lechu V’Nelcha are real, connected to the participants, attuned to higher ideals and yet very in tune with the needs of the girls.
And of course, no Lechu V’Nelcha event can be complete without the singing. The singing of yearning, and hope. Of holiness and striving. Of togetherness, of asking and of thanking. Aleinu l’shabei’ach!
The feedback came pouring in. “WOWOWOWOWOW!!!!! That was AMAZING! I LOVED the Shabbaton” shared a participant from Manchester. “I’m grateful for coronavirus (not the part that people are suffering) because living in England, I was able to join for the first time, so that literally made me super happy [and] that’s part of the silver lining for me.”
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Shabbaton!!” exclaimed Chava S. “It surpassed all of my expectations, and when we finished off, I was on the same spiritual cloud as the previous Shabbaton…”
“Thank you sooo much for organizing the most amazing, inspiring, thought-provoking, creative and mechazek first-ever virtual Lechu V’Nelcha Shabbaton!!!” shared a participant from Monsey. “I can’t thank you enough for putting this together in this difficult time, when the chizuk and Torah thoughts are most needed.”
So if you are a girl reading this — a girl who wants more, a girl who seeks meaning and connection, a girl who, in these turbulent times, seeks an anchor, a platform of growth, and a connection with girls like yourself. If this is who you are, or if this is who you would like to become, we welcome you to pick up a phone and call the information line at 1718-4-800-LVN(586), or email email@example.com or lechuvnelcha.org, and give yourself a gift. A gift for now and a gift, as I, a Lechu V’Nelcha alumnus of 10 years or so, say, a gift for life.