How did I become a part of Lechu V’Nelcha?
I went to Bais Yaakov Intensive seminary and was enamored with Rebbetzin Fink’s shiurim, many of them based on Rabbi Mordechai Miller from Gateshead’s shiurim. Let me tell you a little secret. I always had a dream of attending Gateshead seminary, yet for many reasons, this remained just a dream. When I heard over the Torah from Gateshead through Rebbetzin Fink, I felt it touch a deep part inside me. When seminary was over, I knew there would be a deep void in my life in the absence of structured shiurim. Since I live out of town, I made a firm commitment to follow the Brooklyn Monday night shiurim on the phone. Monday night became the highlight of my week, when I would lock myself in my room, take out my notebook and be transported back to seminary. I’ll never forget the excitement when I heard the announcement about the first Shabbaton and the magic I subsequently encountered there. I attended the first four Shabbatons and the first summer retreat, until I got married and ‘’graduated’’ the school of Lechu V’Nelcha.
So… what does Lechu V’Nelcha mean to me today?
I’m not anymore a part of Lechu V’Nelcha. That is, I don’t attend the shiurim (even though I do occasionally tune in to the Monday night shiur on the phone) and I don’t anymore join the Shabbatons. But boy is Lechu V’Nelcha a part of me! It’s within my home, my life, my heart. The messages I heard, the warmth I experienced, the atmosphere I inhaled, is part and parcel of my life and accompanies me every step of the day. Sometimes consciously, when I recall specific answers I heard from Rabbi Miller but more often subconsciously. I know the special Lechu V’Nelcha ruach is embedded in my bones.
So even though I’ve long graduated, and I’m baruch Hashem married with four children kah, I’m still benefiting from those first four Shabbatons I attended. I benefit intellectually, when I recall and sometimes reread the shiurim I’ve heard. Some of them I can repeat almost by heart, and they give me chizuk at the weirdest moments. I benefit emotionally, when I sing certain songs and I can almost touch the magic I experienced at a late-night kumzitz. I certainly benefit spiritually, as Lechu V’Nelcha has deepened my commitment to becoming the person I want to be. My family certainly benefits that their akeres habayis is a Lechu V’Nelcha alumnae. The things that matter to me are not the same as the things that would’ve mattered had I not attended Lechu V’Nelcha. I cry when my son has a Chumash seudah. It gives me the greatest pleasure reading about Dirshu’s latest accomplishments. When hardships strike, I feel that these are opportunities for self-development sent to me by a Father Who loves me. And no, I am not a baalas teshuvah who was exposed to these ideas at Lechu V’Nelcha the first time. I grew up in a chassidish home, attended an amazing school and a wonderful seminary, where I baruch Hashem excelled. So what difference did Lechu V’Nelcha make in my life? What did I get from there that I didn’t get from my upbringing until then?
I think the answer is three fold. First of all, the Torah given over at Lechu V’Nelcha, with the unique Gateshead taam, was truly, for me, revolutionary and eye opening. Second, the manner in which they give it over enters not only the mind, but the heart. The atmosphere at a Shabbaton, the acceptance and friendship and feeling of being among like-minded girls, prepare the ground so that the life-giving words of Torah seep right in. The consistency of attending a shiur every single week, ensures that the benefits of a Shabbaton are not lost over time, but are only strengthened and developed further. For me, listening on the phone, the shiur was just that, a shiur, but for the lucky ‘Brooklyners’, the shiur was a much-looked forward to opportunity to connect and socialize. Nowadays, with over 30 Lechu V’Nelcha branches, this opportunity is available to girls all over the world. Third, the timing at which Lechu V’Nelcha enters a girl’s life is crucial. Already an adult, yet many times still with a childlike perception of Yiddishkeit from earlier years. Free from the confines of school and not yet committed to marriage, these post seminary years are a game changer in a girl’s life. It is so easy for the direction of ruchniyus to take a sharp downward turn, without anyone even noticing, not even the girl herself. And no one takes responsibility for that. No one, except Lechu V’Nelcha which carries each and every girl lovingly to the safety of marriage, and sends along ample tzedah laderech to ensure an enjoyable journey until there and a safe landing.
And so, I extend my deepest thank you to Lechu V’Nelcha. Thank you for the good times, the uplifting experiences, the thought-provoking workshops. Thank you for connecting me to mentors and friends from all over. Thank you for setting up a support system to keep me in place. Thank you for caring enough for my ruchniyus and emotional wellbeing to invest untold amounts of time, effort, and money to ensure that I grow, remain strong and maintain the purity of a fresh Bais Yaakov graduate. May you be gebentched with hatzlachah and brachah and lots of nachas from all your graduates, the noshim tzidkonios who will hold the hands of their kinderlach as we march to greet moshiach tzidkeinu.