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Sara Schneirer: The Most Print E-mail

writingsRABBI YECHEZKEL (CHASKEL) SARNA, the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Chevron and a very great man, was addressing a gathering at the bris of Reb Moshe Chevroni's grandson

— who was also a grandson of the Gerrer Rebbe. A large segment of Eretz Yisroel's Torah giants were there, among them the grandchildren of the following leaders of the previous generation: the Chofetz Chaim, the Slonimer Rebbe, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Levush Mordechai, the Alter of Navardok, the Alter of Mir, and the Alter of Slobodka. Their grand­children were all there at this bris.
Rav Yechezkel Sarna got up and said, "Everybody in this room thinks that it was his grandfather that did the most for Am Yisroel in the last one hundred years. The Chofetz Chaim, the Alter of Navardok, the Alter of Slobodka — the talmidim they had, the yeshivos they created. I'm here to tell you that it's none of them."
Rav Sarna was very confrontational, and the people present said, "Reb Chaskel, let's not have fights. Please sit down."
Reb Chaskel said, "I'll tell you more. The one who did the most for Klal Yisroel in the last one hundred years, never learned a blatt gemara."
"Outrageous!" everyone said. "Reb Chaskel, you're going too far."
He answered, "I'll tell you more. When I mention the name, you will all agree with me that it wasn't your grandfather, it wasn't one of these great rabbis, but yes, it was in fact this person who did the most for Am Yisroel in the last one hundred years."
Everybody started laughing. Can you imagine that the chassidim and the misnagdim would all agree on who did the most for Am Yisroel in the last century? Was it possible?

Reb Chaskel mentioned the name...and they all agreed with him.

The name was Sarah Schenirer. If it wasn't for that woman who never had a formal Jewish education, if it wasn't for that woman who got this idea of educating our girls, then chas ve-chalilah the face of Am Yisroel would look very different today indeed.

What did this woman have? She didn't learn a blatt gemara like the men do. She didn't even go to a Bais Yaakov. What did she have that gave her the merit to be the force that did the most for Klal Yisroel in the last one hundred years? Nobody told her to do what she did. She had a lot of detractors, people who wanted to excommunicate her.

The story is told that they came to the Chofetz Chaim to complain about this woman who was doing something new under the sun. "For three thousand five hundred years we didn't have any school for girls. And who is she anyway?" They asked him to take action. The Chofetz Chaim was very agitated. He ran into his room. They thought he was getting his coat, to go out to do battle. Instead, he came out with some zlotys, coins, and said, "Such a tremendous mitzvah and I shouldn't have a part in it? Here, give her this money."
Baruch Hashem, the Chofetz Chaim backed her, the Gerrer Rebbe backed her, the Belzer Rebbe gave her his blessing. But what made her do it?

There is a famous story of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos, who at the age of twenty-seven couldn't learn Torah, couldn't recite Birkas ha-Mazon, couldn't even say kerias Shema. He cried and cried until he reached Reb Yochanan ben Zakkai, who was able to finally teach him Torah. So much so, that he became Rabban shel Yisroel.

Why did Reb Eliezer ben Hurkenos merit to become the Rebbe of Am Yisroel? Because he was able to cry for Torah. You have to be will­ing to cry. Sarah Schenirer cried for the Jewish girls who were getting lost. In her autobiography she writes that she cried for those children. That's why she merited to become the Mother of Bais Yaakov, the Matriarch of future generations of Klal Yisroel.

Rabbi Noach Weinberg

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