I generally ignore WordPress’s daily prompts, except today. It wasn’t an exceptionally brilliant or intriguing prompt, but my mind responded to it, not on a logical level, but a very emotional one, and I feel compelled to write about her.
My 12th grade Navi teacher changed my life. Well, not she herself, I did that, but she was a very large catalyst. I can’t say she was brilliant educator; I slept through most of her classes. She was though an exceptional teacher.
After yet another period resulting in drool pools on my desk and line patterns on my forehead, she called me over.
I stood there hand on hip waiting for her chastisement.
“The Navi speaks to me, TYTT,” she said. “It doesn’t do it for you. And that’s ok. Everyone has different things that pull and inspire them. I can’t have you sleeping through my class though.”
She had started off well, that spoke to me, but not sleeping through her class, wasn’t really an option, my eyes would just glaze over, I couldn’t fight the boredom.
“I’m giving you this sefer,” and she handed me a non-descript book, with a picture of stone staircase on the jacket cover. “I want you to read it, and take notes on it. Summarize it, jot down your own opinions, if you agree, disagree, any questions you have. This will be your curriculum. And your notes, your test. Ok?”
I looked at her questioningly, this seemed too easy, just read a book and take some notes, but I accepted the book, and the task.
The book was R’ Akiva Tatz’s “Living Inspired”.
And that book answered all the questions I never knew I had. And I felt secure in knowledge and not just faith. Things, religion, mostly, made more sense to me.
Thought is one thing, action another though.
I still slept through all my other classes, Historia, Chumash, Beer Tefillah, Hashkafah, Parsha… none of them got through to me, not like that book did.
But I graduated High School realized quite suddenly that no one was telling me what to do. No one was telling me what was right and wrong appropriate or not. I’d have to live my own life, make decisions and choices on how to lead it. And the thoughts finally translated to action.
I chose to be a teacher, and I chose to marry a man like my husband, and chose to live the lifestyle I now lead. And a whole lot of other smaller (and medium sized) choices too. My life wasn’t happening, I was making conscious decisions to make it so, spurred on by the contents of that book. I was living inspired.
I had clarity on the cycles of life, on daas torah, on the conflict between hishtadlus and bitachon and other big ticket questions.
I read his other books, listened to his shiurim and I my life changed, for the ever better.
I owe my wonderful life to my 12th grade Navi teacher. When I invited her to my wedding, I slipped in a little note,
Dear Rebitzen ——-,
I don’t think I’ve ever fully expressed, and explained how much I appreciate what you did for me in 12th grade. I know, it seems simple enough, a good idea that panned out: Give a disinterested student an interesting book, have her be involved in something Jewish during your class instead of her drooling on the desk in slumber.
But had you not done what you did, I would not be who I am today. And I would not be marrying the person I am; I have you to thank for that.
By just being the shaliach, introducing me to the works of R’ Akiva Tatz, and from him, R’ Dessler, I am forever indebted to you. Those books changed my perspective on everything, it explained so much, and my life, outlook and actions reflect that.
I hope to share in many more Simchas with you. And anything good, anything of merit, anything I or my husband, or children, or generations to come accomplish, is all because of you.
I would have never came across R’ Tatz and his work if not for her. And even if I would have, I don’t think I would have had the patience to fully concentrate on what he was trying to convey. Twice a week, I had 45 minutes of intense depth and inspiration that I got to comment and question. And today whenever I need a little pick me up, when life starts feeling monotonous, I go back to the book – she let me keep it.
I’m a 12th grade teacher now, and on the short Shabbosim, with the long Friday nights, I have my students over for a little oneg. Together we learn Living Inspired, and I love seeing the light behind their eyes, when it clicks for them, the way it did for me back then.