On Tuesday, October 26, Rebbetzin Lisa Septimus, of the Young Israel of North Woodmere, spoke on a Zoom event, titled “Prisms of Positivity,” and hosted by UJA Federation New York And JWLC (Jewish Women’s Leadership Council of the Five Towns). This was part of a six-week virtual program featuring various Five Towns speakers. Each program consists of 15 minutes of inspiration followed by a 15-minute group discussion. Women can register at www.guraljcc.org/prisms-of-positivity/.
Rebbetzin Septimus shared that Rabbi Akiva embodied Torah and Torah values. He was focused on the positive. Specifically, he focused on the mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself. He said this is the great mantra of the Torah and it should inform how we behave. He lived by that value and the interpretations of Torah stemmed from that value. He taught and lived his values.
Rabbi Akiva said that if he had been on the Sanhedrin, there would never have been an execution. Rebbetzin Septimus pointed out that the Hebrew word for woman, ishah, and the Hebrew word for man, ish, have the same letters alef and shin. When a husband and wife treat each other with respect, then there is G-dliness resting with them, represented by the Hebrew letter hei. If they don’t, there is fire – just the alef and the shin, which stands for eish (fire).
Rabbi Akiva was told to stop teaching Torah as he was endangering his life. He responded that without Torah he had no life. He died standing by his values.
She shared a teaching of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks zt”l. After Sarah dies, Avraham cries, but in the next pasuk he gets up and goes on with his mission. He focuses, even at the age 137, on pursuing the promises Hashem gave him.
Dr. Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, as well as a neurologist and psychiatrist, authored Man’s Search for Meaning. He taught that there can be terrible pain that people endure in life. They don’t ignore their pain, but they focus on the future.
Rabbi Akiva, at age 40, was forward-looking. He didn’t fear failure. He had the perspective of a vision of the future.
Rebbetzin Septimus taught that being positive is not about pretending something isn’t painful. She stated that something painful is painful. We do need to acknowledge our challenges and difficulties. Sometimes being able to feel something is powerful. “There is a difference between acknowledging and shutting down. We need to remember that we are incredibly strong. We’re capable of greatness!”
Rabbi Akiva began learning at age 40, and he became a great scholar. It’s important to have a perspective of seeing what is possible and not focusing on loss and at the same time not pretending that there is no loss.
She taught that when you live your values, you are living your essence. Victor Frankl taught that people should pursue meaningful lives where they live their values. That is what truly makes a person happy. We have to live life being in the moment and appreciate where we are.
By Susie Garber