My trip to the States is a bit more than half way over. The best part was, of course, seeing vaguely familiar faces. This is even better than seeing girls who I know well. The images that are more elusive draw closer and tend to say things like, "I was in your class twenty five years ago" or (blush) even longer. Of course, I am tactful enough to not respond by saying, "WHAT!! That's YOU". The vast majority of the Oldies But Goodies have done well; they live good lives with a profound sense of meaning and direction. Some of you have children who have gone far beyond what you ever dreamed of for yourselves. Some of you have carved your own way as individuals. This reality isn't new, and it isn't the result of the Shidduch Crises.
When you learn the lives of the women in Torah and in the Prophets and Writings there are women such as Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, who are always referred to as the Imahot, Mothers. The reason is that their identity can be seen through the way they raised their children. Some of you may have heard of Christian Barnard, the South African doctor who did the first heart transplant. When you read about him and his life, as things turn out he was quite a fascinating individual. This fact isn't what most of you will see as central to his life. You would want to know about whether or not his procedures really work. His success can only be known if you know about his patients. The Imahos are something of a mystery; while we know about specific traits and characteristics of their inner lives, Leah's hopes and prayers, Rachel's compassion, Sarah's modesty and RIvkah's kindness. What we don't know is their personal histories, their thoughts aspirations and the events that colored their lives.
These images give you something to look towards when you are building your family. Your inner life will be revealed by what you build. Those of you who are not married, those of you who will G-d willing find the right one in the near future, and those of you who are building your lives' in solo mode for the near future, have a selection of women, Devorah, Yael, Yehudis, and Ruth whose lives are presented independently of those who they touched. In fact, the sages say that they are greater than "the women of the tent", the Imahot, because they were acting without the support of others. When I look at you, I see both.
I also was fortunate enough to hear of some new brides. Shoshanah Reyes is engaged, as is Malka Deutch.
Each community has its own flavor. My first days were in Brooklyn. The high energy, fast talk and the habit of raising the bar higher and higher (so that, for instance, no one thinks twice about having kids in learning, dressing with absolute tznius and giving huge amounts of tzedakah).
This was a real contrast to Boca Raton. The community there is somewhat older, far mellower, and relate to each other almost as cousins. The Rabbi of the community, Rabbi Gibber is younger than many of his congregants, but very much their father. His wife, Jennifer, is one of us Old Neve Types (not that she is old at all) and is the mom, sister, dear friend and anything else a Rebbitzen can choose to be in this sort of a community. When you enter their shul (which started with nothing just a few years ago), you walk past a photo exhibit both of the members learning, davening, enjoying their kids at the Avos U'Banim and much more of the same. You turn the corner and you walk past a wall full of our heroes, ranging from the Chofetz Chaim to Rav Lau with Baba Sali and the Rambam looking at you from the distance of many centuries. The Gibbers have the "custom" of inviting shul members every week (at least two families), which draws them closer both to them and to each other. Miami was very much a bridge between the vitality and high energy of Brooklyn, and the sweetness and mellow shades of Boca Raton.
When I headed north, I was met at the airport for a trip to Far Rockaway and the amazing Amen group that is in the ajoining community. The group started when one of the women of the community suffered the tragedy of losing her daughter to cancer. Instead of retreating into embitterment and anger, she decided to commemorate the beauty of her daughter's life by promoting getting her friends together to daven, say Tehillim sing and hear shiurim. Some of the participants having been going daily before heading to work for more than ten years. It is an amazing place to be!
Wherever I went, the women I met asked me if I was at 'The Chasunah'. The Wedding I am referring to is the Litman wedding, the one in which the bride and groom rose from the shiva for her father and brother. I wasn't. I was here in the States, with you. I wish I could have been at one of the most brilliant victories of light and hope over the forces of darkness. It took place in Binyanei Umah, the largest convention center in Yerushalayim. The immediate world crashed as wanted and joyous guests. When one of my friends showed me a clip, I felt like I was there, together with the women of Far Rockaway, the folks in Miami and Boca and all of the rest of you wonderful people that I have been with. Maybe next letter will be longer, fuller, and give you what you people have given me.
Love, and have the brightest Chanukah ever,