Tznius For The Land Of Israel

The Story Of One Woman's Odessey Into The World of Teaching Tznius

Spring, 2016 Issue
by N'shei Chabad Staff

THE DAY after a lengthy tznius meeting in Bais Rivkah, I noticed a 20% off JEM promo in my in box. "I don't have a special portrait of the Rebbe," I thought to myself. "Perfect time to treat myself to one."

So I clicked on "Portraits of the Rebbe." There were 13 portraits listed. Without thinking I pressed on one of the middle ones, the one with the heavenly blue corner. It was a beautiful picture of the Rebbe, smiling and giving kos shel brachah to someone whose face was barely visible.

But I recognized who it is instantly. It was my late husband, Dr. Larry Resnick z"l.

How had I never seen this picture before?
Perhaps I was dreaming. I sent it immediately to all my children for confirmation. After an unequivocally unanimous "Yes, it's Daddy," I decided to buy it for my son on Shlichus in California. I emailed Rabbi Mendel Gourarie at JEM, a friend of my son from his Detroit days, to tell him of my discovery and inquire if he thought a 20 x 20 canvas of this photo would look good.

He replied, "We have this picture in that exact size hanging in our office, and we love it! But we had no idea it was Dr. Resnick!" (My late husband Larry served as one of the Rebbe's personal physicians from 1977-1994.)

The picture was taken four weeks after our first son Yisroel Leib (Raleigh) was born, at kos she! brachah on Motzoei Pesach, 5741 (1981). He and his wife Fruma are now Shluchim in Northern Califor.nia, along with their six Shluchim-in-training, ka"h. Thirty-three years later the picture suddenly appears. I felt the Rebbe had sent me a present. I ran to Rebbetzin Leah Kahan (who together with Rabbi Yoel Kahan was the unterfirer at my wedding) and told her of the "miracle" with a warning, "Don't tell me I'm a baalas teshuvah! Don't take away my excitement!"

After a solemn silence, she said seriously. "Yes, it is definitely a present from the Rebbe." "Thank you for saying that," I told her. "Your words will surely serve to further this very important cause."

Now you may ask: what ''cause"?
Last year, I bumped into the director of Bais Rivkah's Head Start program at a wedding. Familiar with my tznius activism in Crown Heights, she confided, "Tomorrow night is parents' orientation, and the dress of some of the parents still leaves much to be desired. I wish you would be there to help."

"Really?" I asked. "Why not?" she replied.
So we devised a plan. That night, a friend of mine, Sara Junik, and I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. designing a flyer for the meeting, calling on parents to dress appropriately when entering the Rebbe's mosdos and, we hoped, tugging at their heartstrings by reminding them of the protection of Eretz Yisroel by our tznius- a point the Rebbe made on many occasions.

The flyer was ultimately not distributed.
But shortly after, I received that email from JEM with my husband's picture- surely a present of encouragement from the Rebbe for my efforts. A few weeks later, I was set to give a workshop on tznius to Bais Rivkah's 12th grade girls. That morning, I was talking to my friend Chani Korf, Shlucha from Florida.

"Chani," I said, "I'm giving my 'super tznius' workshop in Bais Rivkah, but it's so hard to make progress. The girls get inspired, but then the inspiration fades. I wish we could create a kind of support group, like Weight Watchers, only for tznius."

"But Molly," she said, "you don't have to create one. It already exists. It's called Maagalim [Circles]. It was created some five years ago in Israel and has proved itself very successful. Here, let me give you my cousin Rivky Greenberg's number in Kfar Chabad. She's one of the founders and her mother-in-law Mrs. Greenberg is one of the women to whom the Rebbe gave detailed directives on chinuch and tznius in the 1970's."

I couldn't believe my ears. I immediately called Rivky in Kfar Chabad to get all the details. Ater I hung up, I rushed to my workshop in Crown Heights and from the car I phoned Sarale Blau, the organizer of the event, and told her about my new discovery.

"Sarale," I said, "I have a great idea. Why don't I introduce Maagalim at the end of my tznius workshop and then you jump in and suggest, 'Girls, why don't we try it out? In fact, let's have the first meeting in my house. Who wants to volunteer?' What do you think?"

"I love it. I'm in!" she said enthusiastically.
B'hashgachah pratis, the first Maagalim meeting at Sarale's house coincided with a visit to America by another one of its founders, Mrs. Yaffa Shpinner. She led the first meeting in Hebrew (with simultaneous translation by me) and did an absolutely fabulous job. The 12th grade girls were excited, and thus started the first Maagalim circle in America.

Over the next few months it was grati:f)ring to witness girls with smiling faces instead of rolling eyes digesting ideas of Hatznea leches im Hashem Elokecha- a.k.a. tznius. The positive reception encouraged me to further disseminate Maagalim to others. But I had a slight problem.

Yes miracles were happening to me. And yes I was getting gifts from the Rebbe. But I'm a baalas teshuvah, and we baalos teshuvah always get special treatment. Could I expect mere mortals such as FFBs to share in this privilege? How could I put them in this position? The question arose in my mind as I was scrutinizing the Maagalim Student Workbook where participants were consistently required to pose the following question to themselves: "What good things happened to me in the merit of my commitment in the area of tznius?"

But then I got it. I wasn't me. I was just the "baal agalah", the wagon driver. It was Maagalim that was doing it. It was Maagalim that was giving everyone the opportunity to share in the status of a baalas teshuvah.

They could all be getting presents!
So at the third meeting, after plenty of advice and chizuk from Israel, I garnered all the courage I could muster and introduced "the question."To my surprise, the silence that ensued was soon broken.

"I took a skirt to the dressmaker and my husband took me to Florida," burst out one newlywed girl with a huge smile. I thought she was making fun of me. So I persisted. "And you really think he took you to Florida because you lengthened a skirt?" "Why not?" she replied. "He never took me to Florida before."

I was totally shocked. The strategy really worked. And then one of the girls piped up: "Okay, I was walking down the street and saw a 75% off sale sign at H&M, and there was a gorgeous dress but it was too short. So I figured with 75% off I can buy two and make them into one. That has never happened to me before."

I could not believe it. Not only were they getting presents from the Rebbe but they were willing to admit and share them openly. One of the girls gave me a special present as well. She showed me a letter that she had written, now published in a well known Jewish magazine, which showed that she had truly internalized what we were learning.

Then there was a visit to the Ohel with Rebbetzin Shula Kazen with a Pan from the girls of Maagalim. Rebbetzin Kazen had been involved in this tznius endeavor from the very beginning. In fact, she was present at that first meeting in Bais Rivkah, giving us constant chizuk and advice.

"Molly," she told me, on many of our joint trips to the Ohel, "you have to ask the Rebbe to help, that Hashem should put seichel into the heads of the people who can help, that they should help, that they do the right thing.'' I do this regularly now in my letters to the Rebbe.

The very next day, I received an email from Rabbi Zalman Wishedski, Shliach from Basel, witzerland, in whose Chabad House I had given a lecture two years before. Here is what the email said (translated from Hebrew): "I just spoke with a young woman on the telephone about matters related to Yiddishkeit. In the course of the conversation she said that after hearing your lecture at the Basel Bais Chabad she resolved never to leave her house with her hair uncovered. 'Perhaps not completely,' she said, but always covered. Continue your good work."

I had given this lecture two years earlier, but only now - at the right moment - did I learn of the impact it had on one lady's tznius observance. What a timely present from the Rebbe! I remember my first yechidus with the Rebbe in 1979. I took tremendous care to select an attire that was impeccably conservative: navy blue gabardine suit, closed -neck canary yellow silk blouse, a strand of pearls, patent leather shoes, and a lizard handbag.

"Do you always dress like this?" were the Rebbe's first words to me after his gracious welcome.

"Why, what's wrong with what I'm wearing?" I asked, stunned. The Rebbe smiled and replied, "Now you came to see me. I want to make sure you always dress this way." In recent years, I have taken this encounter as a directive to elevate tznius onto the pedestal it deserves. For over a decade I have been nudging, encouraging and lecturing on this topic, but it has often felt like a losing battle.

Now, for the first time, I am filled with tremendous hope. Instead of trying to change "everything" all at once, Maagalim is a modest endeavor with tremendous & force. It focuses on strengthening small groups of women or girls, committed to giving nachas to the Rebbe. Girls and women voluntarily and consistently attend closed bi-weekly gatherings to learn the halachos and the Rebbe's hora'os on tznius, through questioning, challenging and openly discussing the issues with the ultimate aim of becoming (and acting and dressing as) the Jewish princesses we truly are. (The notion that Jews are royalty is mentioned in the Gemara and is actually used in psak halachah. Incidentally, the Yiddish word eidel comes from the foreign word meaning "noble.")

I like to compare Maagalim to the second set of Luchos (the tablets we received on Mount Sinai), which were given without much fanfare but endured, while the first set did not. It is also similar to the Rebbe's directive to Shluchim- to affect the world through ahavas Yisroel, by helping and caring for one Jew at a time.

Over the summer, with tremendous help of Morah Chana Gorovitz of Bais Rivkah Seminary, I translated Maagalim's student booklet into English and dedicated it ilui nishmas (in memory) of my husband. Now it's available to all those not fluent in Hebrew. There is also a two-volume teacher's curriculum which is in the process of being translated.

I am glad to report that currently there are two Maagalim groups meeting in Crown Heights- one for high-schoolers, one for seminary girls, and two more in formation, one for teachers and one for Junior N'shei. (A group consists of no more than 15 participants.) Maagalim groups are also set to launch in Toronto, Miami, Pleasanton, CA, and Paris, France, as well. It is a tremendous project and I know that the Rebbe is continuously blessing it with much hatzlachah.

We women can and should and need to serve Hashem and bring Moshiach closer dressed as He wants us to dress, and behaving as He wants us to behave. Maagalim can help. As Chassidus teaches us, the avodah of teshuvah is for everyone, and it is a joyous avodah. I encourage everyone to join or even start their own Maagalim circle - even if it is only for the sake of receiving the Rebbe's presents!

For information on how to start your own Maagalim circle, please contact dir770@gmail.com or mollymres@gmail.com.

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