This is a guest post by A Sarah Schnierer Admirer. A fan of the bais yaakov system, she nonetheless has had some amusing experiences.
I love Bais Yaakov. I enjoyed questioning the teachers and was never traumatized by anything they said. I took what they taught seriously and tried to internalize it, sometimes with funny results.
The BY movement, as explained to me, had two primary aspects: Tznius (which was conflated with middos generally) and davening. Academic achievement, while nice, wasn’t the point.
I idealized Sarah Schenirer. When I was 15, I would imagine myself going to a little town in Poland and announcing that I was here to start a Bais Yaakov. People would throw rocks at me and I would pick them up lovingly and say “Even Maasu Habonim Haysa Lrosh Pina.”
The little girls in my school would start going to shul every week. Sarah Schenirer would come to see how I was doing, and my young students, in their bais yaakov uniform, which I had sewed for them, would be davening shmoneh esrei while I glowed with joy.
I tried to put that in practice by doing B’nos groups, but sadly I wasn’t very good at inspiring my students. Oh well. The problem was, they were all already in Bais Yaakov.
It was a hot day and the class was restless. I admit I snuck a look at my watch once. Then I perked up. The teacher had switched from explaining a Ramban to telling a story.
“…my husband came home from the bris. And I knew something was wrong. I can tell these things. And something was definitely wrong. My husband had an ayin hara.”
I shifted around in my seat to hear better.
“He had an ayin hara, and it hadn’t been there when he left to shul! So I asked him, ‘Did anything happen this morning?'” She paused for dramatic effect.
We were all paying attention.
“He had to think about it for only a few seconds. Yes! There had been this man staring at him in shul. Just staring! For no reason at all. He was giving him an ayin hara!”
(If you don’t know, an ayin hara can come from showing off, getting a compliment or being looked at for too long.)
The teacher described how she dripped wax in a bowl and washed her husband with the water and then dropped the wax in again, and this time it sank to the bottom, showing that her husband was now clear of ayin hara.
Now I was hooked. Ayin haras are mysterious things. Someone who can see them is a handy person to have around. Someone who can pluck them off with a bowl full of wax is invaluable.
Ever-practical as I am, my hand immediately shot up.
“Do I have any ayin haras?”
Well, if I didn’t have any ayin haras before, I sure did by the time she finished glaring at me.
“I don’t answer such personal questions in public,” she said icily.
She did not invite me to pursue the matter further after class.