I don’t know where to begin. I know my thoughts will be disjointed but I cannot seem to think straight. My name is Tzipora Hornstein, one of Avigail’s students for the past 10 years in Chashmonaim. For 10 years I have been able to learn almost weekly from your wife/mother. She was the most amazing teacher I have ever had. She opened up my eyes to Torah in a way that no other teacher has been able to. I prided myself on being a “teacher’s pet” – not that I was more special than anyone in the class, but I was the nerd who took vociferous notes and she knew she could check my notes each week to see where we left off. It was a little joke the class would have.
I called those of us in Chashmonaim her chasidim because she was our Rebbe. We just sat there waiting to learn from her, from whatever would come out of her mouth. The one year when Matan Chashmonaim was debating changing up the roster of teachers we put up a fight, demanding that Avigail come back. We couldn’t imagine a year without her. She could say jump, we would say how high.
There are so many times throughout my life that I think of her just because of what she has taught me. We have learned with her Parshat Hashavua, the weekly Haftorah, the story of Yosef and his brothers, sefer Bamidbar, sefer Yirmiyahu, Daniel, Ezra and Nechemia, Akedat Yitzchak, Tehillim, and the methods and thought processes of different Parshanim. There was so much more to learn from her, I cannot fathom the loss.
One time my daughter joined me to one of the classes on Yirmiyahu. She walked away amazed. She told me that she didn’t know you could learn Torah that way, that she had never had a class like that. I knew what she meant.
During the years of parsha and haftorah learning, my family thought I was brilliant with the insights that I would so easily share from her class of that week. She had a way of teaching that her words just stuck.
Weekly, during Yetziat Sefer Torah, I think of her. I remember learning in sefer Bamidbar the part of “ויהי בנסוע הארון” how she described it. The excitement that bnei yisrael felt, they were about to enter eretz yisrael. This was the moment. And then the disappointment with the complaining of the am. I feel that excitement and disappointment every shabbat – I hear how she expressed it with so much emotion. Every Shabbat.
When I say tehillim – I am constantly thinking of all that Avigail taught me. I never enjoyed learning tehillim until I learnt it with your wife/mother. She had a way of explaining the perakim that made sense. Her teachings are on my mind as the tehillim are said, as in Anim Zemirot – how we should behave and the importance of the words, as in perek ק”ז how it relates to yom haatzmaut and how rav yoel bin nun teaches it as a prophecy of kibbutz galuyot, and how her brother teaches על נהרות בבל. Her descriptions and teachings were so vivid, they made the tehillim come alive.
She influenced my life in a way that cannot be described.
I remember when you/your father would substitute for her at Matan Chashmonaim. We were not the easiest group – we wanted Avigail back!
And she was also a friend. I remember two and a half years ago discussing the bar mitzvahs we were both making. She gave me great ideas on what to do with the visiting family. We spoke to her about good books for our children to read. We discussed the family vacation you took last year to Greece as we had been in Greece as well last summer. She was just a person you wanted to be with and spend time with. I wish I could have been a closer friend.
When I visited Avigail in the hospital this year I didn’t know what to say but I didn’t want to leave. There was something special about being in her presence. It bothers me that since I am not in Israel for the summer I was not able to pay a shiva call. I feel lacking. I would always tell Avigail that I am davening for her multiple times a day. She said it made her feel good to know that. Now that I am not, I am reminded multiple times a day of the heartbreak and loss that her petirah causes when I no longer say her name.
I wish for you nechama in the knowledge that your wife/mother was such a special person. My thoughts of are you, her family, and I cannot imagine the pain you feel knowing that it is tenfold whatever I am feeling. המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שער אבלי ציון וירושלים.
Thinking of you,