Anniel Nagler is a physical therapist. She lives in Hollywood, Florida with her three teen-aged daughters. For two years she has participated in Oorah’s TorahMates program. She reached out to share her experience.
As if women juggling kids, jobs and spouses don’t have enough to worry about, it seems that we now have to pay attention to self-care. Every magazine I open or podcast I listen to warns that if we don’t make time for self-care, we will somehow roll off the rails. By “self-care,” they usually urge women to spend a day at the spa, get a make-over at Sephora or scarf down a box of chocolate.
Over the past two years, I have learned that the most important aspect of self-care, for me, is nurturing my spirituality and connection to Judaism. It has done more to improve my self-confidence and my family life than a massage ever would. But this journey to discovering my spiritual self was not one that I started willingly.
Several years ago my children began participating in Jewish education programs run by the Oorah organization. Instead of letting the kids do their Jewish thing while the parents did business as usual, the group leaders recommended a different kind of self-care. They felt that to support my children’s Jewish growth, I needed to enroll in Oorah’s TorahMates program and spend two hours a week studying some point of Jewish observance with a partner Oorah would select.
It was kind of a spiritual Tinder without being able to swipe left – Oorah would select the partner for me.
I have to be honest. When I received the news about TorahMates, I was more than a bit skeptical. As much as I appreciated the concept of Torah study and growing for the betterment of my children’s education, I didn’t really see how my learning with a stranger would strengthen their Jewish identities.
I wondered if I couldn’t do some sort of community service instead. Or some self-guided learning? I couldn’t imagine how I was going to carve out the time and work out a schedule for me and some unknown partner to sit down and learn. It really was a challenge.
But for some reason – which I now attribute to Hashem’s hand — I was partnered with this really remarkable woman named Chumi. When we first started learning together, we were both drawn to strengthening our emunah (faith) and found some books we could study with. Some of the books were good; some better than others. I was always amazed at how Chumi made learning with me such a priority in her hectic schedule,
When we began, Chumi was a mother of five (now six), working full time as a nurse and attending grad school to further her education. I was so awe of her and felt that I had no reason to grumble about the time commitment given everything she was shouldering. If she could do it, I certainly could, too, I reasoned.
As the weeks flowed into months and the months into years, we grew closer and shared more about our personal lives and the ways our emunah is such an integral part of our day-to-day functioning. The hour weekly phone call has expanded. We now speak or text almost every day. It became abundantly clear, to us both, I believe, that it really was Hashem who brought us together to learn and grow from one another.
I am abundantly grateful to Oorah for providing an opportunity to develop my own spiritual growth and learning of Torah. Oorah’s Torah Mates coordinators were amazing – pairing me with a woman who was a perfect match. Torah learning had not been a priority in my life for many years. I was always so busy worrying about my children’s growth and education. I put my own development on the back burner. I understand now how important it is for me, as the mother of my household, to have a strong foundation in Torah and emunah. This is the only way I can influence my children in a positive way.
I am also incredibly grateful for, and amazed by my partner, Chumi. She embodies a person who lives a life that revolves around her emunah. During the few years that I have known her and have witnessed her countless struggles, I am inspired by the way she is able to call upon her belief in Hashem to and her strength of character, to get through them. She is truly an inspiration to me! I am blessed to be able to learn from her. She teaches me far more from the way she lives her life than I will ever learn in a book.
By studying with Chumi, strengthening my relationship with this woman I admire and increasing my own attachment to Hashem, I have repaired a spiritual part of myself that I had not even realized was damaged.
This is the ultimate self-care. It has restored my inner life and made me a better mother. Doesn’t that beat spending $200 for a face cream at Sephora?