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Life by the Book

C. B. Lieber

Mrs. Esther Tendler, who was nifteres last month, left her mark on thousands of people, yet never considered herself unusual or special

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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According to the Tendler daughters, Rav Aharon told their father, “I have two shidduchim for you. One is the daughter of a rich man, and he’ll support you for many years. The other is very poor but is mistapekes b’muat.” Yosef Tendler said, “I’ll take the mistapekes b’muat.” And he was introduced to Esther Perr

T he conversation was classic. One of Mrs. Esther Tendler’s sons, a rabbi in Atlanta, called her one day and shared, “Ma, I had to give a speech on spirituality, and I spoke about you.”

“What? Me? I’m not spiritual!” his mother protested.

“But you’re always talking to Hashem. Whenever you get in the car, you say, ‘Hashem, please get me there safely.’ When you get to your destination, you say, ‘Hashem, thank You for getting me here safely.’ Hashem is such a part of your life!”

“That’s not spiritual,” Mrs. Tendler retorted. “I just want to get there safely!”

Mrs. Esther Tendler wasn’t “spiritual.” But she constantly talked to Hashem: “Hashem, please make the food came out good. Hashem, help me to help You.” In her final illness, when she suffered from the nausea of chemotherapy, her children heard her saying, “Hashem, I hope I brought You nachas. Thank You, Hashem, for all the chesed You do for me.”

And by bringing Hashem into her own life and into her family’s life, she ultimately influenced countless others.

Shining Eyes

Esther Tendler was born in 1937 to Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Leah Perr. She was raised in South Ozone Park, Queens, where her father was a rav. Her only frum friends were her two brothers, Rabbi Yechiel Perr, today of Far Rockaway, and Rabbi Eliezer Perr, today of Lakewood.
Until eighth grade, she attended public school, as there was no Bais Yaakov in the vicinity. For high school, though, she traveled to Bais Yaakov of Williamsburg, where she was so enthralled by the lessons that she would sit with her eyes shining and her mouth hanging open.

“Mommy, the sefer Torah is coming.” At the hachnasas sefer Torah

In Rebbetzin Kaplan’s Bais Yaakov, talmidos were encouraged to marry men who were learning. So when she was 20, she was redt to Yosef Tendler, one of the first American-born talmidim of Rav Aharon Kotler, at the suggestion of Rav Aharon himself. 

According to the Tendler daughters, Rav Aharon told their father, “I have two shidduchim for you. One is the daughter of a rich man, and he’ll support you for many years. The other is very poor but is mistapekes b’muat.”

Yosef Tendler said, “I’ll take the mistapekes b’muat.” And he was introduced to Esther Perr.

“She always said, ‘I live in luxury,’” recalls one of her daughters. “She’d say, ‘I have a house, I have clothing. What more do I need?’”

The couple settled in Lakewood, where they lived very simply, making do with almost nothing. Eventually Rav Aharon advised Rav Tendler to look for a position in chinuch, so he could continue learning part time. Rav Tendler was hired as the menahel of the high school (known as the Mechina) of Ner Israel of Baltimore, and the couple moved to their new city with two young children.

Although at first, Mrs. Tendler taught sporadically in Bais Yaakov, by the time she had her seventh child, she had become a stay-at-home mother. At that point, however, both she and Rav Tendler recognized that it was time for her to get out of the house. She needed more stimulation and she needed to be doing something for herself. And so she made the decision to go to nursing school — in the 1970s, as the mother of an already-large family.

“She was very mesudar, very organized,” recalls one of her older daughters. “Shabbos was ready by 9:30 on Friday morning. We were born one after another. We have a lot of personality, and we were noisy; we would jump and yell. She would put something down and it wouldn’t be there when she needed it. It was hard for her, yet she did it anyway.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 573)

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