Wednesday, January 10, 2007
REBBETZIN SARAH FREIFELD, A HOME OF ROYALTY
Today, the 20th of Teves, is the yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Sarah Freifeld, the first wife of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, my Rosh Yeshiva. In tribute to her, here are some vignettes and sayings from around the web [slightly edited by me] and from the English Mishpacha magazine [Sukkos 5767 issue].
Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, the well-known disciple of Sarah Schenirer, commented that out of the many excellent students she had taught over several decades, two students stood out: Rebbetzin Freifeld and Rebbetzin Leibowitz.
The Satmar Rebbe told one of his Chassidim, "In past times, women were davendik.".. Davendik means that on small baby steps you ask for help. On big ones, too. In formal prayer, too, but also when you're prayerful, full of inspiration, hopeful or defeated. To ask for that blessing, for strength and even for chen - to find favor, charm, grace in the eyes of others.
Another example of davendik is a mother of a large brood preparing school sandwiches and asking that each child's real needs be met that day, and day by day, slice by slice, sandwich by sandwich - and that the filling be sweet. A slice of life. So many situations must be addressed in private moments, heart-to-Hashem talks, outpourings, unburdenings. Rebbetzin Freifeld put it this way: "Hegyon libi lefonecha - Accept the thoughts of my heart, the unspoken but poignantly felt requests of my heart."
from a Microsoft “Converts to Judaism” group:
… the late Rebbetzin Chaya Sarah Freifeld, was a noted expert in Tehillim and founder of the first seminary for baalos teshuva* (Jewish women returning to Torah observance) in America in the late 1960s. This was one year before her husband, the late HaRav Shlomo Freifeld, founded the Yeshiva Sh'or Yoshuv in Far Rockaway for men. She not only knew all of the 150 Tehillim by heart, she had learned almost 100 commentaries on each pasuk (verse) of every one of the 150 Tehillim. At the end of the Shloshim (the one-month period of deep mourning after someone has passed away) for Rebbetzin Freifeld, a major Rosh Yeshiva pointed out that the Sages asked if a woman could have the status of Rebbe. He then went on to point out that Rebbetzin Freifeld was one of those special women who qualified -- because of her love of Torah, her phenomenal learning, her love of all Hashem's creatures and creations, and her ability to understand and counsel the many, many souls of all ages who came to her in her relatively short life. This is a family known for its depth of Torah learning, its tremendous chessed [kindness] to others, and for brining back countless Jewish souls back to their spiritual heritage.
*note: the Seminary was named Ayeles HaShachar, after a verse in Tehillim [22:1], and like Sh’or Yoshuv, not all the students were baalei teshuva.
from a comment to an article on Aish HaTorah’s website:
I practically grew up in the Freifeld house as a small child. What a special home it was and what a special man Rav Freifeld was. When he spoke to me it was as though I really was the most important person on earth. I remember spending Shavuos at the Freifeld house when I was about 9 years old. Rav Freifeld's daughter and I stayed up till midnight to "see the sky open," and we did. When we ran to tell him about it he took us completely seriously, as though there were nothing more important for a Rav to do in the middle of the night on Shavuos than sit and discuss the sky opening with two 9-year-olds. When I think about that home I think about love and warmth and acceptance for all Jews. I think that that was the first place that I was exposed to so many different kinds of Jews (and they definitely weren't the "mainstream" Young Israel type that I was used to in the 60s). The Rav and his Rebbetzin took them all in - loved them and nourished their souls and their bellies thereby turning many a hippie on to Yiddishkeit. When I think of an eishes chayil that I would like to emulate I think of Rebbetzin Freifeld zt"l. I feel extremely privileged to have been part of their home…
The remainder is from the English Mishpacha magazine - Sukkos 5767 issue.
A HOME OF ROYALTY
The home that he [Rabbi Freifeld] and his Rebbetzin created was as much a part of the Yeshiva as the Beis Medrash and the dormitory, and for years, the yeshiva had no dining room**…The exposure of young couples to the unique relationship between the Rosh Yeshiva and his Rebbetzin…was a glimpse at the potential of the Jewish marriage to transcend pettiness and ego. “It was a magnificent partnership, his marriage embodied royalty.”
**a personal note: Many of the talmidim at the Yeshiva, and talmidos at the Seminary, partook of their first Shabbos meals at Rabbi and Rebbetzin Freifeld’s Shabbos table. Many of us remember with great fondness the Rebbetzin’s gefilte fish: it was a huge oval ball, just the right texture, and spiced with an extra dose of pepper. The Rebbetzin once told my wife that her fish wasn’t always so good. In fact, she had to discard many “failed” batches of fish before she perfected her recipe.
A talmid once asked him how he could be a flexible husband without becoming a “doormat”. Rebbe answered him, “People say it’s shver tzu zein a Yid, it is difficult to be a Jew. They are right, and the reason is because a Yid has a responsibility to be misbonen, to contemplate his course of action, to consider what is expected from him in each situation. There is no right answer, because you have to weigh each situation anew.”
Rebbe then shared a personal example. “Recently, I was going to the doctor, and my Rebbetzin asked if I preferred to wear shoes or slippers. Though slippers were more comfortable, I wanted to wear shoes, so as not to feel like a choleh [sick person]. I wanted to wear shoes to show kavod [honor, respect] for myself, for the doctor, and for the people in the waiting room.
“Then I stopped to be misbonen. If I wore shoes, who would be the one to lace them? I certainly couldn’t. My Rebbetzin would have to bend down and do that for me. What about her kavod? I wore slippers.”
After the Rebbetzin passed away [it was around 1983], one of Rabbi Freifeld’s close talmidim accompanied the aron [coffin] to the burial in Eretz Yisrael, and when he returned to America, he made his way directly to Rebbe’s home. The room was filled with distinguished Roshei Yeshivos who had come to be menachem avel [pay their condolences], and Rav Shlomo introduced this talmid by saying, “Achim b’tzara, brothers in anguish.” He had drawn his beloved talmid into his own suffering, allowing him to share his Rebbe’s distress.
Tehi zichra baruch – may Rebbetzin Freifeld’s memory be for a blessing!