We would like to present, in installments, a short but very
worthwhile book by Sara Glaser, known to a wide public as the
initiator of the Lifesaver's Guide - the book and the
practical step-by-step lecture series — to more
living and housekeeping and living, which has the Approbation
of HaRav Hagon R' Chaim Pinchos Sheinberg shlita and
lbch'l Rabbi Nachman Bulman zt'l. Highly
recommended, as well as the Hebrew version, Chochmas
Noshim, with haskomos from Rov and Rebbetzin Weber
of Neve Yaakov and the Belzer Rebbetzin.
In the opinion of recognized rabbinical authorities,
LIFESAVER! and CHOCHMAT NASHIM books, tapes, classes, and
workshops may be paid for with ma'aser money (funds
aside for charitable purposes) if the intent is to be, or to
help one to be, a better wife or mother. Enough for a
foreword, and now, forward . . .
We hope you find this autobiography, making its published
debut in YATED, interesting and inspirational.
I was born at age fifty! It is hard to imagine, but that was
the way it was because my life really began then.
A friend gave me a book called The Torah. It was an
English translation of the Five Books of Moses. It contained
no commentaries, footnotes, or explanations. I was unfamiliar
with the Torah (the Bible or Old Testament) which is why it
was given to me.
About nine months later, as I was scanning my bookshelves to
see which 'friend' I wanted to renew a relationship with on a
long Saturday night, I noticed it for the first time since I
had put it on the shelf. The thought occurred to me that
maybe it was time I learned something about my heritage. I
knew I was Jewish, but I'd had no religious education, nor
did I know what Judaism was all about.
I grew up in Brooklyn, and although there were a number of
Jewish families in our neighborhood, I don't recall any being
religious. Momma kept a kosher kitchen until I was about
eleven. Even afterwards, she never allowed any pig meat or
seafood in the house, or mixed milk with meat products.
Friday nights, she always lit Shabbos candles. Unfortunately,
I never thought to ask her why.
As I took the book off the shelf, I did not know what to
expect, or whether I would find it interesting. I certainly
didn't give any thought to the possibility that it could
radically change my life. But that is exactly what this book
did! My outlook, values, behavior, and lifestyle were
gradually transformed. Of course the Torah (Chumash)
not just a book. It is Hashem's gift to us, a blueprint for
living a meaningful, fruitful, peaceful life, now and
I had always fluctuated between believing and not believing
that there was a G-d. If there was, why did He let such
terrible things happen to innocent people, to babies,
children, and the helpless? But if there was no G-d, how
could our magnificent universe exist, and run with such
precision and regularity? More and more questions surfaced as
I continued to read. I became engrossed with the Torah from
the very beginning, and the more I read the more involved I
became, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
I knew no religious Jews I could approach with my questions.
In trying to find answers, I read anything dealing with
Judaism that I could get my hands on. I read books by a wide
range of Jewish authors, with Reconstructionist, Reform,
Conservative, Modern Orthodox, and Orthodox points of view
I learned that millions of Jews had seen, heard and were part
of Hashem's miracles in the Exodus from Egypt, and in the
receiving of the Torah, at Mount Sinai. These are facts,
witnessed and passed on by an entire nation, from generation
to generation. They are not dreams or stories related by one
individual to a few others, and then related to more and more
over time, and accepted as such.
As stated in Deuteronomy (4:33-39), when Moses was
speaking to the Jews before their entering Canaan, "Has
any nation ever heard G-d speaking out of fire, as you have,
and still survived? Has G-d ever done miracles bringing one
nation out of another nation with such tremendous miracles,
signs, wonders, war, a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and
terrifying phenomena, as G-d did for you in Egypt before your
"You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will
know that G-d is the Supreme Being, and there is none beside
Him. From the heavens, He let you hear His voice admonishing
you, and on earth He showed you His great fire so that you
heard His words from the fire.
"It was because He loved your fathers, and chose their
children after them, that G-d Himself brought you out of
Egypt with His great power. He will drive away before you
nations that are greater and stronger than you, so as to
bring you to their lands, and give them to you as a heritage
as He is doing today. Realize it today and ponder it in your
heart: G-d is the Supreme Being in heaven above and on the
earth beneath — there is no other."
And indeed, I did ponder it in my heart a great deal, as well
as in my mind. The Torah presents the truth, the facts, for
us to examine as they really are. As a result, I no longer
needed to depend upon what I could see with my own eyes. At
that point, I knew Hashem existed.
I also knew that my search for the `right' temple or
synagogue was over. I had been attending all kinds of
congregational services, trying to see where I felt
comfortable. When I realized that I believed in Hashem's
existence, and His Torah, I knew there was no choice.
I joined an Orthodox shul, because only there,
acceptance and observance of the Torah, and its
halachos, are without any modification. The Torah does
not alter its contents and laws in order to suit society's
changing values. The Torah warns us not to add or detract
even one letter from it. We cannot `pick and choose' those
commandments we find convenient or easy to observe and
disregard the others that Hashem gave us.
The status, power, and/or money of a few, or many, do not
change what is true. The truth is constant and absolute, no
matter how inconvenient it is physically, financially,
politically, or otherwise; or how uncomfortable or difficult
it may be for those who don't want to `stand out' as being
different from the majority.
I learned continuously, and as the months went by I felt an
intimate relationship developing between Hashem and myself. I
sensed His Presence near me much of the time. My repentance
was such that there were nights my pillow was wet from crying
as I became aware of and acknowledged transgressions, and
asked for forgiveness.
I found myself excited and nervous preparing what I would
wear on Shabbos for Him, as if I was preparing for a special
date. I would hope that I pleased Him with the flowers I
chose and carefully arranged each week. I was concerned that
everything I thought, said, and did was acceptable to Him.
I am convinced that Hashem's Spirit helped me to grow closer
to Him because I can see no other way that I could have
reacted and responded as strongly as I did, without His help.
I had no observant friends to call on for guidance and
Most of my Shabbosos those first few years were spent alone.
Sometimes I would go to other congregants' homes for Shabbos
meals. Friendships that I enjoy to this day developed with
these warm, giving people.
I lived on the fifth floor, and a considerable distance from
the shul, whose members were mostly middle-aged and older.
Few were able to join me in the long walk home, let alone
climb five flights of stairs. However, the lack of companions
gave me the opportunity to read and learn more.
I designed a learning program for myself. Starting on Sunday
and ending on the Shabbos, I would start reading the Torah
portion relating to the current week, with all its
commentaries. I would then read the Haftarah, and then
discourses by well-known rabbis on the parsha. If time
permitted during the week, I would also read other books
including those dealing with Mussar.
My changes were gradual but steady. I became aware that the
Torah was refining me, inside and out. My thoughts, speech,
dress, behavior, choices, and priorities were being
A dramatic example of my changing from the inside out had to
do with my being a chain smoker. For years, I'd smoked three
to four packs of cigarettes a day. I knew it was bad for my
health, but as much as I wanted to stop, I couldn't. I tried
many times. I even went to a hypnotist. Nothing seemed to
help. Not even my teenager's pleading. In the beginning, even
while observing Shabbos, I would keep a cigarette and matches
in my pocket so I could `light up' as soon as Shabbos was
One day as I was reading the Torah, the words on the page
seemed to jump up and hit me in the eyes. To paraphrase, it
said that our bodies, which Hashem gives us, are holy
vessels, and therefore we should not desecrate them. It is a
sin to do so. Instantly, I realized this is what I was doing
by smoking. I stopped that very minute. Cold turkey, as the
saying goes. How could I disobey Hashem? I have never smoked
It took six long, difficult, nerve-wracking months, to stop
wanting a cigarette, and not be nervous and irritable
because I wasn't smoking. There were so many times that I
felt like climbing the walls, or screaming, crying, or doing
something wild. Eating, or drinking something sweet, like ice
cream, malteds, or cake, helped to weaken the desire for a
cigarette. While at work, whenever I had the urge to smoke, I
would send my secretary out to buy me something sweet. I
gained thirty-five pounds during this ordeal.
I realized, to my surprise, that a habitual smoker is
addicted, just like those who take drugs, and I was going
unassisted through what is called withdrawal symptoms. But
with Hashem's help, I was successful. This experience clearly
showed me that I can accomplish or achieve something, no
matter how hard it is, if I consider it really important or
want it strongly enough; and if Hashem deems it to be.
I was shaken up when I realized that when we left being
slaves in Egypt, we then became servants of Hashem. I
repeatedly re-read these pertinent passages, giving them much
thought before I could go on, because of their
I was becoming aware of the enormity and completeness of my
relationship with Hashem; both my dependency on Him for
everything, and anything, and my responsibility to obey His
commandments. It is all-encompassing, from birth until
I realized that the Torah teaches us the importance of
responsibility, duty, and self-discipline, and to conduct
ourselves morally at all times. In today's world, the focus
is on rights, privileges, what is `coming to us,' and doing
`what feels good.' As my Torah reading and learning
progressed, I better understood that the responsibilities
incumbent upon us extended to all our waking hours, from the
moment we open our eyes in the morning until the moment we go
to sleep at night.
Friends would ask me if I didn't miss eating or doing those
things I used to enjoy before becoming religious. I simply
explained that since I replaced those things I gave up with
things that give me greater satisfaction, I don't yearn for
or miss them; and that I now have an inner peace I never knew
The Creator, Sustainer, and Controller of all existence is
also my best Friend, Who does only what is best for me. There
are no random, inconsequential, meaningless occurrences in my
For example, in 1980, during my first year as a Torah-
observant Jew, I was taking a night course after work on the
subject of Shabbos laws. One evening, while the rabbi was
speaking, I suddenly began a private conversation with myself
in my mind. It had nothing to do with the subject at hand,
and to this day, I cannot explain how or why it happened,
except, that perhaps Hashem thought it was time for me to
address this issue again. When becoming observant, I asked a
rabbi if I should wear a wig. He said it wasn't necessary.
Should I be wearing one? I now asked myself. Ask
rabbi. Wait! If you ask the rabbi and you don't like his
answer, you're stuck, because you cannot `shop around' asking
different rabbis until you get the answer you want. So don't
ask! But now that I thought of the question — if I
ask, I wouldn't be honest with myself, or with Hashem.
The moment this thought entered my mind, I saw my hand go up
and heard myself asking the rabbi the question. The rabbi
said he would discuss it with me at the next session.
I was not looking forward to his answer. If he said I should
cover my hair, it could be uncomfortable. I would miss the
pleasant feeling of my hair blowing in the breeze. It also
would increase my expenses. Mainly, I liked my hair. It was a
physical part of me that I felt good about. Since childhood,
I had an inferiority complex about my face being ugly. Having
a part of me that I thought was attractive, therefore, was
important to me.
I waited all through the next class for the rabbi's answer to
my question. After class was over and only he and I remained,
he said that he had checked with three rabbis who were
authorities on Jewish law. He was told that since I was
previously married, I should be covering my hair. Well, that
was that. I asked for it, and I got it.
The next day found me driving from Silver Spring where I
lived, to Baltimore, to a sheitel lady's house to try
on wigs. I bought and immediately wore one, the same color
and style as my own hair. I hoped no one would notice I was
wearing a wig.
It did not take long to find out. I was sitting at the dining
room table, about twelve feet from the front door, when my
son came home. He did not even have his second foot in the
apartment, when he looked at me and said, "You went and did
it! You're wearing a wig!"
About an hour later, I was picking up a friend to drive to a
shiur. As I drove up, before she even got inside the
car, she smiled and pointed to my hair, indicating that she
saw I was wearing a wig. Well, so much for trying to look
Surprisingly, covering my hair turned out to be less
important than I imagined. What turned out to be of greater
consequence was the good feeling I had, doing what I learned
was right. In addition to feeling spiritually better and thus
happier, an added bonus was that I no longer had to be
concerned about whether my own hair looked good or not
underneath the wig.
However, eleven years ago, I stopped wearing them. It was not
an easy thing to do and it took a long time to make this
decision. There was no question that I (and most older women)
look better and younger in wigs as compared to wearing a
fabric head-covering such as a snood, scarf, or
and or a hat. But because it was hard for me to tell the
difference between one's real hair and a sheitel, I
felt I was not appearing in public as someone who people
would know immediately is covering her hair.
So, in spite of the fact that I look different from most of
the Orthodox women I know, I decided it was more important to
do what was best for me spiritually. I have never regretted
[to be continued]