Posted on July 22, 2013 by Susan Daniels
I became a widow in the year 2000. I never thought I’d be checking that box on printed forms and registrations.
I had two small children, and a two week old Masters in Education. My most memorable interview was at the Orthodox Day School where I found my new job. The principal tried to convince me that I belonged at their school. He told me that I needed people to care for me, and this was the place. There was no need for any formal “model Lesson” on my part, as he knew in his heart that I would be a successful teacher. He knew I would love the kids the way they needed. This principal was an angel in my life. How was it possible that at the very moment I needed this job, this care, this feeling of being capable- it was given to me?
I so belonged at this school. Just running my hands over the Hebrew texts found in the office and around the school made my heart feel good. Running my fingers over the text I knew I was home. However, I had no formal Jewish education.
I was the only Secular teacher who would sit in at Mincha and be taught by the kids. I would try to learn with the fifth grade in their prayer classes. At many moments I would cry when pieces of the Torah would touch my soul. But I needed more.
I was remarried in 2011. The man I married was a widower, and had 3 grown sons. He was very spiritual as well, yet wanted more religiously. I felt immediately connected to his late wife. I know this is odd, but I felt as if she had come to “get me” for her children and husband. There was a covenant: I would care for her kids as if they were my own, and I would receive the love of my life. I would be the go between as her kids were to become Baal teshuva and I already knew how they would live and needed to bridge the gap with their father. We would try to learn together, embrace all the kids and make a family that accepted each other. It worked for us all.
In 2013, my daughter Amy graduated college and traveled to Israel on Birthright. I decided to ask her to extend her trip. I wanted to meet her in Israel, and then learn with her in Jerusalem. It was not a very hard decision as to what school to choose- Pardes seemed to be the correct choice on many levels.
At Pardes we were able to choose our own courses. Two of my four courses are with Rabbi Reuven Grodner. I am drawn to this man, his words and his ideas. His classes touch my soul. I am often found with tears in my eyes as if I have come home, not only in Jerusalem but in this Rabbi’s class.
Rabbi Grodner asked us where we were prior to Pardes. It was a way to see what prior education we had, and to what level he would teach the class. It was no surprise that he knew my principal from my day school. In fact Rabbi Grodner, is very close friends with him. This was the man who gave me unconditional support and love.
Would you call this a coincidence?
Within the second week of classes, I find myself totally absorbed in Pardes. The learning has filled my heart and soul. I am getting up at 6:30 every morning to walk a mile and half to school and I am so happy.
My husband’s son Jason and his wife live in Charleston, South Carolina. They have two girls who are my precious granddaughters. We are very close. They called me to ask how classes are going, and to tell them all about Jerusalem as they lived here a few years ago. They tell me that Jason has been searching for the Rabbi that once taught his mom (may she rest in peace) back in New York like 40 years ago, when she became a Bat Mitzvah. They wanted a sense of who she was taught by. He found him and has been emailing this man, for a few months, and lo and behold he is teaching at Pardes this summer.
They ask if I know Rabbi Grodner.
So I ask you… who really put me into Pardes? Are there really coincidences in life that we cannot explain?
If you have the chills right now- it’s because if your life feels right –it is. We think we are in control of our lives but in a large sense we aren’t. While we try to always control- know that in Hashem’s care we are always where we need to be. Sometimes signs are blatant but sometimes they aren’t.
So I thank Pardes, and of course I thank Rabbi Grodner for inspiring me to know that this is my true path. I thank Hashem for giving me this wonderful life filled with unfolding understanding and wisdom. I pray that everything in your paths be as meaningful and beautiful. If you only open your eyes and hearts it will be.
Pardes 2013 Summer Program