A fter going out a few times with the Geulah Battalions and chalking up some achievements (the other ladies all wanted to pair up with me because I was considered the most persuasive talker), I found that I was also collecting some questions along the way.

“Some of the women say their rav paskens that a wig is allowed,” I said to Rabbanit Chana. “Or that they follow the tzniyus guidelines approved by their rebbe.”


“So what should I tell them? That their rav isn’t good enough?”

“There’s always room for more hiddurim,” said Rabbanit Chana. “Our approach is to be the best there is, you know that.”

“But what if their leaders don’t think a shal and redid are the best hiddurim?” I persisted. Rav Yosef was in the living room, learning. Gaunt and pale as ever. In his own world. We were talking in the kitchen.

“Do you believe in me? In us? In the group? In our derech?” she asked me, instead of answering.

“Of course I do!” I said, with all the fervor I had.

Only six months earlier, I had sent my boys to Vienna, to their father. Our little kehillah was everything to me at that time. It was my father, my mother, my sisters and brothers. My friends from the group helped me buy everything that Moishy and Meir would need for their move. They helped me move into the small apartment with Rivky. Friday night meals, Seudah Shlishis, we were always together. There was always someone I could call, someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a group to belong to. I couldn’t imagine life without the kehillah. I felt so fortunate to be counted among its members.

“Of course I believe,” I repeated. “But what about the answer to my question?”

“A believer doesn’t need answers,” Rabbanit Chana replied with quiet authority. How I admired her wisdom at that moment! “There are answers,” she said, draining the water off a pot of potatoes and transferring them to a bowl. “Good answers. But I want you to believe without them.”

So I believed. I believed there were answers, and that they were good. It’s very easy to believe that you belong to a select group. And I believed in Rabbanit Chana, and in her husband Rav Yosef, and in our group and our derech. For two years I believed with all my heart, but little by little, cracks appeared in my belief.

I was afraid they would get wider, so I quickly sealed them up.

For example, at one meeting in the summer, all the ladies were saying they didn’t feel hot. When you wear thick layers of clothing for a holy purpose, you don’t feel a bit hot, they said. Just like they say about all the Jews who gave their lives for kiddush Hashem — they felt no pain. Udel, Esther, Chagit, and Leah Rochel all sat there in a circle, saying how nice and cool they felt.

“I don’t even feel all the layers I’m wearing.”

“You know, I bet the women who go around in thin clothes feel hotter than us. I feel fine.”

“It’s a neis, how I can walk around in this summer heat in a thick shal and redid, and I feel like I’m in an air-conditioned room!”

“Even when I had errands to do in Bnei Brak, I stayed cool and dry!”

I said nothing. Because I felt awfully hot and sweaty. All the time. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 680)