[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Ki Tavo 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
My friend Temima is the person who had the greatest influence on me in my lifetime.
I say this as an understatement, for the truth is that she has given me my whole life. And all of this without her knowing it. She was unaware of her influence, living her life in quiet and tranquility. Yet I made her my Rebbetzin, even though we are the same age and our friendship lasted from age fourteen until her passing away at the age of twenty-seven from an illness.
Already as a girl she was weak and sick, yet she never emitted a single complaint, sigh or expression of envy. Rather, she accepted her suffering lovingly and said, “Everyone’s lot is like this. My suffering also atones, purifies and purges me.” She said such things innocently. And that was her name: Temima – Innocent. Apparently, when her parents chose that name for her, it injected her with a spark of divine intuition.
At first I didn’t notice her, because she was not a dazzling student. She was even less than average. She had a lot of trouble understanding, as well as remembering, and I was amongst the good students, so what did I actually have in common with her?
But one day, we happened to sit together on the bus on a class trip. We talked a bit, and that evening I returned home with a new realization: This girl was no know-it-all, but she was worth more than I. Compared to her, I was a wretched creature.
When I say that we chatted a bit, I do not mean that she was a chatterbox – she spoke simply and to the point. I was the chatterbox, whether or my words were relevant or pointless.
In any event, that day I decided that she would be my Rebbetzin, and that I would try to learn from her. Obviously, I never informed her of this, because she would have responded with her bashful smile and said, “What nonsense!”
That’s how she responded when people thanked her for anything: “Why are they thanking me?” For her part, she would perform kind deeds for people day and night, boundless kindness. She did it for the poor, the wretched, the depressed, employing infinite patience, and all for the sake of heaven, with that simplicity and naturalness. She would help and help everyone until her strength ran out, despite her failing health.
I began following her path, and since then, my life has been full of light, a sweet light, a soft light, a gentle light, a pure light. I took pleasure in performing kindnesses without any calculation.
What natural, simple love of her fellow man she exuded! She never complained and never criticized anyone. Yet regarding herself she fastidiously took care that she should be without sin.
I have a hard time defining her personality. She wasn’t the female do-gooder type, but a simple girl who was just very careful to do no wrong. She was particularly careful about two things: 1) not to do anything to disturb others, and 2) to repent constantly regarding the slightest speck of arrogance. She made a recognizable, constant effort to remain innocent, even to the point of occasional naivety, and to remain humble.
She was always modest and unassuming. She never sought honor or position. She never sought to be “someone” or “something”. Quite the contrary, she took pleasure in remaining a “nothing”.
She certainly wasn’t looking to make an impression with her outer appearance. She never invested in beauty care, she wore modest, simple clothing, although always clean and neat, wearing layers of clothing from head to toe, and she even looked for a head kerchief worn by girls. She never studied the laws of modesty, but modesty was something natural to her.
Even though G-d did not bless her with health or with intellectual skills, she had not a drop of envy. Quite the contrary, she was very happy. How? Through the kindness she performed, relentlessly and unceasingly for others. Her kindness was infinite.
There was something else that brought her joy: prayer. When she recited her long prayers, morning, afternoon and evening, at those times when she was not busy with her kind deeds, one could see in her eyes that she was basking in supreme pleasure, indeed, that she was in heaven. At those moments, she looked like an angel. A little, human angel, but an angel all the same. She was a gentle angel. From her I learned that it is possible for a simple person to be an angel.
Temima had but one longing – to serve G-d. She filled her life in every way.
Thank you, my friend, for being with me.