As women arrived at the Jambaroo Valley Lodge, nestled in the beautiful mountains outside Sydney, for the 16th annual Australian Nshei Chabad Convention, one of the Rebbetzins told me, " Isn't the Rebbe an amazing genius? What other Rebbe in the world would tell the women to leave their homes, their kids, their husbands, to just drop everything and go away, together with other women, for two whole days." The Rebbe knew we really need these two day reprieves, to reconnect with other women, to recharge our batteries, both physically and spiritually, I thought. She went on to say," And what do we women focus on for the entire convention? Not material things, but spirituality, how to be better Jewish women, how to help others, how to bring Moshiach." So true.
Approximately one hundred and eighty women came together this past weekend. They came from every city in Australia, from Tasmania and, New Zealand too. This group was representative of the women of the Asian Pacific Region of the Chabad world. I felt as if we were lifting up the entire world from the bottom, spreading the spirituality of the event up, out, and across the entire globe. There were many women there I had never met before but nonetheless, we felt connected and greeted each other like old friends.
The first evening started off powerfully when we all gathered in a circle and each of us was given two minutes to speak. Each woman introduced herself, and said something about what the Rebbe meant to her personally. Some women told stories, others expressed their feelings, and some were quite humorous. It gave me such a warm feeling of unity and pride. The ahavas yisroel (love for a fellow Jew) was palpable and I felt so proud to be part of this wonderful movement. Women told uplifting and positive stories about how the Rebbe impacted on their lives and their communities for the good. We all share a common knowledge that it is the Rebbe who has full confidence and trust in us women to be an intrinsic and vital part of achieving his life's goals. We came together with the sense of urgency knowing that the Rebbe is counting on us to complete the job of redeeming the world and, that he could not do it without us.
Lighting Shabbos candles all together Friday night is very special for me. It takes me back to my days in Machon Chana, the yeshiva for women who are becoming observant. The special spiritual power of a group of women bentching licht has the effect of regenerating my spiritual batteries. We'e all on holidays, there are no blechs to set up, veggies to cut, or tables to set. We are now really like queens, everything is waiting for us, the table is set and the food is cooked. All we have to do is greet the Shabbos Queen. It feels totally liberating, and I see it as a hint for what it will feel like when Moshiach comes.
We were in the lovely country, where it's quiet and peaceful. The peacocks walk around with impunity, strutting their stuff, making loud noises. There is a little brook and we take walks. We eat without worrying about preparing or cleaning up. And we eat, and eat, and eat some more. We have a few l'chaims and we relax. We sing, chat, go to Torah classes, and we frabreng, some of us into the wee hours of the night. We laugh, perhaps some of us let our hair down, regress a bit and act like school girls or campers, and its all in good fun. No one is judging anyone for how they want to spend their time on convention. This is their holiday, their personal time, for each individual woman to savor and enjoy as she wishes.
Undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of daily life, I get to see another side of women that I have known for years but, never had the opportunity or time to open up with. Suddenly, I get to know that particular woman I may have only nodded hello to for the last ten years while rushing down Carlisle street yet never had a conversation with. We find out we actually have stuff in common. Relationships deepen and new contacts are made. This Shabbos I am having a family as guests at my table I never would have invited had I not spent time with this woman at convention.
After two days I missed my husband and felt it was time to go home back to the reality of my every day life. I left on a high trying to hold onto the inspiration I gained and, that feeling of being closer to the Rebbe by bonding with my sisters--we are all his daughters.