by Sasha Friedman.
Anyone who knew Debbie Allison, OBM, would say that her most stunning feature was her million-watt smile. When she smiled at you, you felt like the only person in the room. “She had a twinkle in her eye,” says Mrs. Sarah Abend of Chabad of North Hollywood.
Last Simchas Torah, I remember sitting with Debbie outside of the shul and talking. “I love people-watching,” she said to me conspiratorially. After years of chemotherapy, she could only whisper, and one of her arms was immobile in a sling. When I expressed my sadness that she could not move her arm, she looked me straight in the eyes and said firmly, “It will get better.”
Debbie passed away at the age of 51 on January 8, Shevat 7, leaving behind her husband, five children, and one new granddaughter. Although I admit I have not attended many funerals, I felt that I could not miss her lavaya. And apparently, hundreds of other people felt the same way. The chapel was overflowing to the point that seating was set up outside, and even then there was standing room only. The rabbi who gave her eulogy literally cried through the entire speech, and there was not a dry eye in the crowd.
But Debbie was a woman of joy. As much as we mourn her passing, we know that she would have wanted us to be happy and focus on the good. It is therefore fitting that a women’s Rosh Chodesh shiur was established in her honor in the month of Adar.
Organized by Mrs. Sarah Abend and Mrs. Elkie Abend, this shiur takes place monthly, with various guest speakers. The first speaker was Mrs. Chana Rachel Schusterman, who spoke beautifully about the idea that one can feel both joy and sadness. Debbie’s close friend also said a few moving words about the joy with which Debbie approached the challenges in life.
The second shiur, for Rosh Chodesh Adar II, took place on Thursday, March 6, and was delivered by Rabbi Mendel Lipskier of Chabad of Sherman Oaks. Rabbi Lipskier spoke about the idea that one cannot hear the megillah backwards, or out of order. Practically, this means that one cannot arrive late to the megillah reading, hear half the megillah, and then catch another reading for the first half. On a deeper level, the Baal Shem Tov explains that one cannot consider the events of the megillah to be “out of order,” or occurring as a one-time historical event. Rather, the themes of the megillah are recurring, and we can continue to glean lessons from them to this day.
For example, when Modechai tells Esther to go to Achashverosh and ask him to save the Jews, Esther is hesitant. Mordechai tells her, “If you don’t go to Achashverosh, salvation will come from someone else, but you and your father’s house will be lost.”
Esther and Mordechai were descendents of King Shaul, who had been commanded to execute Amalek. However, he let Amalek live for one night, and in that night Amalek impregnated a maidservant whose descendant was Haman. Now was the chance for Esther and Modechai to rectify the mistake of their ancestor (hence, “you and your father’s house”).
The lesson we can learn from this story is that we are here for a reason, and we are given opportunities that are our destiny to fulfill. However, Hashem will still make sure that His plans are carried out, with or without us.
Rabbi Lipskier shared many other insights about the story of Purim, including the historical timeframe, which was quite fascinating.
For more information about the Rosh Chodesh women’s shiur, contact Mrs. Sarah Abend at 818-989-9539.