To my dearest Avigail,
I am composing this in the present tense for you see I cannot relate to you as belonging to the past yet. You are in my thoughts and heart all day long. I am not ready to give you up and resign you to the past. I still need you in my sense of the present. I hear your voice all day long in my head. When I ‘hear’ you, I hear that great, deep laugh. I play it in my head. I look for shiurim of yours online and for videos of you. So you are alive for me, but I miss actually being with you!
You brought so much richness to my life and to so many others.
I think that besides being in awe of your incredible Torah accomplishments, some achieved at a very young age, there are many other dimensions to you that might not have known by many, some fabulous middot that you have. Each person who you touch has their own “take” on you, their own version of Avigail. You are experienced by many of us in similar ways and also by some people in different ways; each one of us has had their own private experiences with you.
Your depth and breadth of knowledge was always a wondrous thing for me! Not just in Torah subjects, but also in art and literature and so many other things.
Your love for Eretz Yisrael is deep, contagious and inspiring. You and I often said how lucky we have been to live in this particular time period in this country and to raise children here.
You help to change the world of Torah, particularly for women, in your all-too-short time on God’s earth–in ways that made a real difference. You opened up the world of pre-nuptial agreements, emphasized the importance of to’a’not to help deal with complicated halakhic problems such as agunot and related complex matters. You are not one to simply complain or moan, as some of us tend to do; instead, you always try to study the problem and find solutions through classic and contemporary halakhic thinking.
On our long walks through the streets and byways of Bet Shemesh, we have tried to make successful shidduchim; and we talked at length about our children, their schooling, their friends, and more… And Oy do you love your kids and you worry that each and everyone of them will have “a good, productive summer,” will go to the right school, yeshiva, army unit; will have good friends who contribute to their lives, the right friends. חנוך לנוער על פי דרכו is your and Yehuda’s motto.
We have a rule on our walks: no answering of cellphones– unless its Rochel! “Yehudit, I must take calls from Rochel!” What a fabulous pair of sisters who do for each other and for each other’s children and spouses and the sky was the limit. When Chaim and Dovi became bar-mitzvah, it was not just they who were celebrating this important transition. No, it was an entire-family event, meaning: Rochel, Shloimie and kids were part of the package as they lived in each other’s homes and are more like brothers and sisters and not simply neices, nephews or cousins.
It is amazing how you love your parents and siblings (“Did I tell you what this brother said? did? wrote?” “This is what my sister said…,” “My parents always have a custom…”).
Moshe and I were privileged to be at the bar-mitzva celebrations of Chaim and Dovi. I loved watching the dynamics of all the families. At the same time, I was worried about how the stress of making the Shabbatot would physically affect you. You gave me the privilege of helping to prepare for Shabbat and the right to have your own kitchen to myself and even be bossy to everyone! I loved it because I knew I was somehow lightening your burden. You did so much for me and now you were letting me do something for you! You were able to take a nap and thus come refreshed to these semachot and to compose beautiful divrei Torah for those occasions.
As you will recall, we first met while you were a coordinator and teacher at Midreshet Moriah in 1994. I was your “boss” but you were the brilliant teacher, funny and charming, and the girls loved you.
One day, your dear (not yet) mother-in-law Barbara (my dear friend since childhood) and I were talking about Yehuda and shidduchim. Your name came up at some point in Barbara’s comments. I said I loved the idea and that I would handle it — but I wondered: how was I going to spin the fact you were a bit older? I said, “Avigail, I know Yehuda from birth!! And his family as well, and you cannot beat that for background, and I am telling you — age is not going to be an issue!” I loved the fact that you and I were able to discuss the progress of this budding relationship while we taught at Midreshet. You are so…. NORMAL, and fun to talk to. Thank God, the rest is history. You and Yehuda have become a fabulous “Torah Power couple,” and I am proud to have a share in it, and to have danced away the night with you at your wonderful wedding!
You can always tell if I am unhappy about something, without harping or needing to pry unless you felt it was vital to initiate some more open sharing. With you it was “we have to walk for a couple of hours, so be ready to meet me at 6:30 a.m by Super Hatzlacha.” And then, “I know something is bothering you and I do not need to know what that is… let’s go see the flowers that are blooming!” You had loads to do but still made talking to others your priority.
It was always a treat to hear you at the yemei iyun in the Gush. You always say, “You can hear me anytime in Bet Shemesh!” No, Avigail, I wanted to see you in the big crowded tent in Alon Sh’vut! I was so privileged to be in your classes at MaTaN every
Wednesday morning for more than a decade! Of course, I went to all of the evening series that you offered, and return ‘on a high!’
There are those that might be full of themselves if they had your knowledge and those who would not see the big picture or be concerned about the position of the other. As we walk down the streets of Bet Shemesh you teach me lessons of what could be accomplished if one would be willing to make time and just “do.” The street cleaner on my street in Bet Shemesh would say ‘Hello’ to me when we walked. I told you he was a sweet man and here and there we would try to help him out with his needs; after all, how much could he be earning as a street cleaner? You then said, “Yehudit, I go through my neighborhood before chag and I collect money for the cleaning fellow. I knock on doors and do not stop until I have 1,000 shekels to hand over!”
During the week of shiva Yael Zigler called me to ask if I had a good story for her about you. I have many, of course, but she was pressured for time as she was alotted just a short spot on a radio program with Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi and needed a characteristic story as soon as possible. I offered the the previous story. Yael immediately said, “Wait! I know the flip-side of this story! It all makes sense now!” I really was unsure of what Yael meant. She quickly explained that Avigail had mentioned that some sanitation workers from Avigail’s neighborhood had offered to clean her house for Pesach but would not take money. Yael could not comprehend how someone who very clearly needed parnassah could offer to clean for no pay. Avigail simply had not told Yael about her collecting money from neighbors on a regular basis. That is you, Avigail — Do what you need to do. Get on with it. Think about and do for others. And no need to talk about it.
Your children and your dear husband have an incredible legacy to be proud of and to appreciate. You love your husband and family and are proud of each one of your children. Avigail… I miss you so much. I am not the only one. Thank you for being a fabulous friend. You come from wonderful stock. Your children have the honor of coming from special loving families on all sides. Especially in terms of chesed and love of Torah. There is so much love and caring in those families.
They will all help your beloved husband Yehuda.
Thank you for enriching our world.
With so much love, Yehudit
Your Torah is so sweet to me. מה אהבתי תורתך כל היום היא שיחתי
Yehudit Trina Spero