At our Shabbat table, quite often we have Mrs. Cash (that is really her name) as a guest. She is a 94-year-old woman who comes to shul dressed like a queen; she is always regal, exuding a special light, as she smiles at all she encounters.
Mrs. Cash never had children and has no extended family in close proximity, but the moment she enters, all the children in shul surround her to wish her a "Shabbat Shalom."
If you visit her home on a Friday afternoon, it is spotless, and you are greeted by the delightful aroma of Shabbat food cooking. The table is set for one and the candlesticks are ready to be lit.
Over and over again, she will tell you that her mother taught her to honor the day. "My mother would say to me: 'My darling daughter, no matter how heavy your heart may be, do not shame the holy Sabbath. Remember at all times your holy ancestors and behave accordingly.' I never forgot that."
Friday night is too difficult for her to go out, so she sits with the pictures and memories of her loved ones and eats her Shabbat meal alone. Shabbat morning, she once confessed to me, it takes her three hours to get dressed to go to shul.
But she is determined that as long as there is a Shabbat, and so long as God gives her life, she will be in shul.
I asked her where her strength came from and she answered "God is always at my side."
She is frail and fragile and has gone through many painful trials and tribulations in life, but she has a wonderful matriarchal aura about her. I asked her where her strength came from and she answered without a moment's hesitation, "God is always at my side, I am never alone."
In fact, God to Mrs. Cash is not a theoretical concept or a distant removed being. He is her personal God, her Companion in life.IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SARAH
Mrs. Cash is one of the many women who, each in their own unique way, follow in the footsteps of our matriarch, Sarah.
A fascinating Midrash teaches that in Sarah's tent the lights never went out -- they stayed lit from one Shabbat to the next. In addition, there was blessing in her dough, and, a cloud of Divine glory constantly hovered over her abode.
Here is the way this Midrash speaks to me:
Sarah's tent had a wonderful light –- an upbeat energy, a warmth. She created an environment of optimism, of joy and laughter.
Although she did not have children until the end of her life, she did not allow her barreness -- what others might consider a major deprivation and an obstacle to happiness -- to keep her down. She infused life and brightness into every day of her life.
This is because Sarah saw life as light -- an opportunity and a gift from God. She was the ideal partner to her husband Abraham, and she worked together with him in God's vineyard, bringing light to so many people.
The blessing in her dough symbolizes her ability to be content with what she had –- she wasn't driven to acquire things. She was satisfied with the dough that was her portion in life. And that too reinforced the light.
The cloud of glory represents the presence of God. Sarah made the Creator feel welcome, cherished and valued in her home.A MODEL FOR ALL WOMEN
Creating an atmosphere of light, contentment and joy -- regardless of the circumstances of one's life -- is perhaps the greatest gift a woman can give those entrusted into her care. Bringing positive energy into an environment can be the most powerful force and motivator imaginable.
Our matriarch Sarah understood this and because of her, all of us have those very same resources within us.
Creating an atmosphere of light, regardless of the circumstances, is perhaps the greatest gift a woman can give.
Like her ancestor Sarah, Mrs. Cash's material needs are very modest –- there is a blessing in her dough and it satisfies and satiates her. Yet, when it comes to charity, her frugality disappears.
She, as so many other women in our community and elsewhere, bring life with her wherever she goes. She inspires and teaches by example. Mrs. Cash does indeed have a veritable cloud of glory constantly hovering over her abode.
By integrating the blessings of "the light, the dough and the cloud of glory" into their lives, moment by moment, women like Mrs. Cash are illuminating the path of spiritual growth for their families, their communities and the Jewish people.
God bless them all!