Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Come with Me: In memory of Rav B.C. Shloime Twerski ztz”l, Hornosteipler Rebbe

Ruchama Feuerman

We had been told that a famous chassidic rabbi — a rebbe — was coming to the Shabbaton. And there he was. He was bony with a pear-shaped head and deep-set aristocratic eyes — like the old Jews Rembrandt painted. To my 14-year-old eyes, he looked ready to keel over, but he couldn’t have been more than 60.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

pathI was attending an NCSY weekend, the purpose of which was to draw Jewish teenagers nearer to the Torah’s traditions. Although I went to an Orthodox high school and observed Shabbos and kept kosher, I (along with a number of my classmates) was on a trajectory toward assimilating into the American melting pot. Yeshivah was no match for the glittering jewels of disco dancing and popular culture.

It was my fifth time at a NCSY Shabbaton. I maintained a sly, subversive presence. I called out inappropriate phrases in Hebrew or Yiddish during peak moments, when a rabbi or staff member was trying to get across an important religious message. The staff didn’t care for my attitude, but didn’t kick me out either.

Sometimes, though, the lectures or the beautiful songs got to me, and I fought the hot lump climbing up my throat. No one was going to make me more religious. I would never give up my beloved overalls to wear long Ortho skirts outside of school, or mutter blessings under my breath before I ate. No way. And no one was going to manipulate me into crying.

I was in terrible pain then. My parents’ marriage was disintegrating, month by month, meal by meal. As soon as my parents came home from work, I hid in my room so as to avoid the tense and desolate atmosphere of our family dinner. I was already envisioning their split-up and which parent I’d have to stay with, when I really wanted to live with the other parent but didn’t dare admit it. I didn’t dare feel anything, because then everything would fall apart. Feelings were suspect, treif. And so there, at the Shabbaton, I stayed dry-eyed — no matter what.

So why did I keep coming back? The chance to meet other people was a big draw — my class at the yeshivah high school consisted of nine girls. And of course, I leapt at any chance to get away from home.

On that particular weekend, this chassidic rebbe from Denverjoined us. At one point during the sit-down meal, he got up to don a gold brocade beketshe — some kind of smoking jacket worn by rebbes, said my friend who knew about such things. For the rest of the Shabbaton, though, he walked around without any jacket or hat, just in a white shirt and black pants, slouching a little, or sitting inclined to one side, leaning on a flinty elbow. Despite his low-key demeanor, he had an undeniably strong presence. When he gave a dvar Torah, I noticed how all the teenagers tilted toward him in that unconscious way young children lean toward parents when they tell a story.


 To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha. To sign up for a weekly subscription click here.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Weekly Struggle
Shoshana Friedman Cover text: promise big and deliver what we promise
Only Through You
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A response to last week’s letter, “Waiting in Passaic”
Are You Making a Kiddush Hashem?
Yonoson Rosenblum In communal affairs, “one bad apple…” often applies
Chance of a Lifetime
Eytan Kobre I identify with the urge to shout, “No, don’t do it!”
Work / Life Solutions with Bunim Laskin
Moe Mernick "You only get every day once"
Seeking a Truly Meaningful Blessing
Dovid Zaidman We want to get married. Help us want to date
Shivah Meditations
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Equivalence between two such polar opposites is puzzling
Magnet Moment
Jacob L. Freedman Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about
Secrets and Surprises
Riki Goldstein Top-secret suits Eli Gerstner just fine
Blasts of Warmth
Riki Goldstein Keeping the chuppah music upbeat in low temperatures
Behind the Scenes
Faigy Peritzman The intrinsic value of each mitzvah
Good Vision
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Good or bad, nice or not? What you see is what you get
Day of Peace
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz On Shabbos we celebrate peace within and without