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The Sukkah’s Embrace

The Sukkah’s Embrace

Rebbetzin Kanievsky & the sheltering sweetness of a mother’s love.

by

Four years ago we stood on the narrow steps to the Bnei Brak apartment of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kanievsky. My son and I were here with his nursery school class. Rabbi Kanievsky was going to give a blessing to this group of four-year-old boys who were all dressed in their Shabbos pants and shiny shoes.

That morning my son had woken before dawn and come racing into our bedroom. “Ima, I want to get dressed. Is it almost time to go? The Rav is waiting for us!”

When we walked into the Kanievsky home, the first thing I noticed was how small the apartment was. How will we all fit? We went into the tiny room lined with hundreds of books that go from the floor to the ceiling. The boys clutched their mother’s hands as the Rebbetzin walked in. It felt like the room expanded somehow. It didn’t even feel crowded.

“What beautiful kinderlach!” the Rebbetzin exclaimed as if she has never seen children before. “Come, I want to tell you a secret, kinderlach.” The boys let go of our hands and slowly moved towards her like branches of a tree reaching for the sunlight.

“I have a little package for each of you. But do you know what is sweeter than candy?” The boys’ faces were lifted up towards her with smiles filling their eyes. It was so completely quiet. “The Torah. It is sweeter than any candy in the whole world.” She whispered words of blessing as she handed out little bags with candy to each of the boys. Then the Rav’s assistant came to bring the boys into the Rav for a blessing. But my son clung to my skirt, refusing to move.

“You’ve been waiting for so long for a blessing from the Rav,” I whispered. “I’m waiting right here. Don’t be afraid.” I tried to bring him towards the rapidly disappearing line of his friends. But he wouldn’t go.

“No, Ima. I want to stay with you.” I didn’t know what to do. We came all this way. He was speaking about this trip for months. My mind started to fill with self-doubt. I thought about a client that I was struggling with who was in a terrible relationship and seemed less reachable every week. I thought about the button that fell off one of my daughter’s shirts that week and when I told her that I would take it to the tailor, she looked up at me in surprise saying, “Ima, you don’t know how to sew?” I thought about all of my children. I have no idea how to raise these children, how to run my house, how to speak to my clients. I don’t know how to be a mother. Why is my son the only one who is afraid? There must be something wrong with me.

Suddenly Rebbetzin Kanievsky was beside me. Her hand was on my shoulder as she peered down at my little boy.

“You don’t want to leave your Ima? You’re a smart boy. I want to give you a blessing. You should grow to be a scholar and a leader among the Jewish people. Here motek, this is for you.” The Rebbeztin handed my son a honey cookie and then looked me in the eye. Her own eyes were full of light, like a million stars were shining from within.

“A mother’s love is like honey. That is why your son wants to stay with you. Because of that sweetness that you give him. Don’t be afraid to keep giving that to your children. Just like God’s sweetness. Just like He holds us in His arms.”

My eyes filled with tears. I lifted up my son. I don’t know why I deserve such a beautiful gift, but God chose me to be your mother. Forever.

When we heard that the Rebbetzin passed away during Sukkot, I was sitting in the sukkah with my children. Tears rose in my throat as my daughters gasped in shock around me. The Rebbetzin? She passed away? When? Why? How? I thought of the hugeness of her heart. How her eyes lit up when she saw all those little boys in her home. How the sweetness of all of her blessings lingered still. I looked up at the glittering decorations hanging above us and the stars peeking out from between the branches. I heard her words echo towards me: A mother’s love is like honey. Just like God’s sweetness. Just like He holds us in His arms right here in the embrace of the sheltering sukkah.

October 5, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Miriam, October 6, 2014 2:54 PM

Incredible article

I can't wait to show it to my daughters. You are a bracha from Hashem to the world! Ka'h!

Miriam, October 8, 2014 12:25 AM

Me again

I sent it to my daugther in Israel and her reaction was: "Ma, send me more!" Thank you, Sara Debbie!

(2) Anonymous, October 5, 2014 3:02 PM

sweetness of mothers love

Wow you are so honest how u felt, that's why she came over to u and said something that a mothers love is sweet like honey . When we are honest and want to grow and not blame.. It's god sending us love .. To all mothers now continue being honest with your feeling we are all sweet like honey our sweetness will pour on to our children .mothers stay strong this month.

(1) Xanthe Levi, October 5, 2014 11:29 AM

Delightful

Dear Sara,
Your story is so moving and full of beauty. All the love between you and your children, the Rebbetzin and the Rabbi, the other mothers and their boys... this is why I love Judaism, for the gentle sweet way children are brought up, with shining role models like the Rebbetzin. We are so blessed by HaShem, B'H!

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