Dear Reader,

Our Inbox has been overflowing with notes of blessing and concern about Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the Virgin Islands Henya Federman—along with her husband Rabbi Asher and their 12 surviving children—after the family’s tragic water accident on S. Thomas just over a month ago. A seemingly endless stream of personal and communal prayers, learning and mitzvah resolutions have been initiated to invoke Heavenly mercy for Henya’s recovery and to memorialize 4-month-old Shterna.

During Chanukah, the Virgin Islands community stepped up its always remarkable holiday activities to celebrate an unprecedented campaign of Chanukah illumination in merit of their dearly missed Rabbi Asher, Rebbetzin Henya and Family.

Sitting at her mother’s New Jersey bedside as her mother fights for her life and intuiting the raw pain of her island community, Moussia, the eldest of the Federmans’ 13 children, penned a letter to her friends and “family” back home (and sent it via her parents’ Facebook account).

We feel honored and pained to, along with you, peek in on Moussia’s thoughts and reflections. May it bring healing to our broken world and a miraculous recovery to our beloved Henya Rivkah bat Brachah Devorah Leah.

– The Editors

Hi, it’s Moussia. I’m going to hijack my father's phone for a few minutes :-).

You know that “Letter to Self” that your teacher made you write in fourth grade, to be opened only after twelfth grade, which you opened in sixth grade, regretted that in eighth grade, and still found the letter funny after twelfth grade?

When I was sitting shiva a couple weeks ago for my dear, dear sister—our dearest Shterna Sara—a couple of my friends who were studying with me in Israel made the long trek to visit me halfway across the world.

I asked them to bring a couple of things from my apartment that I had left behind. Among them was a stack of papers on which I’d jotted down some thoughts and ideas. I had hidden them away behind my candy stash in the third drawer of my cabinet.

After my friends left, I sat down to go through the stack of papers. I was ready for a good laugh at my week-ago self, and the things that I saw as struggles before my life changed drastically.

I was in for a little surprise.

Here is what the first paper read:

To my dearest Shterna Sara

Welcome to this
Magnificently ugly,
Stunning and nasty,
Unbelievable place.

Welcome to where
What is
Is cloaked
In what’s seen.

Welcome to where
Evil roars loud
Yet somehow
We can’t tell the difference
Can’t sort between
And its opponent.

Welcome to where
The world that you came from
Is a struggle to know
In this world you’re now in.

You come from a garden
Of quiet and bliss
And standing and stable and silent.
A world of frozen beauty.

I remember the day I wrote that. It was one of my first days in seminary, and I was missing my parents and adorable little siblings. I thought about the fact that the next time I’d see my darling newborn sister, she wouldn’t be so newborn anymore. She’d be sitting, crawling, and maybe even saying my name.

Baby Shterna Sarah Federman, of blessed memory
Baby Shterna Sarah Federman, of blessed memory

I thought about the day she was born. I looked through my messages with my mother to find the picture of me holding Shterna Sara’le in the hospital, hours after she had entered this world.

Seeing that picture had flicked a switch in my brain, and I started writing.

Either I’d gotten tired, or the bell rang just then, because I never got a chance to finish writing.

I’d wanted to tell her more about the beauty of this world, where the action’s at.

I’d wanted to tell her more. I was going to help Shterna understand the beauty of this world. I had planned to tell her that although the world she came from was G‑dly, blissful, and quite literally otherworldly, our world is where it’s at. It’s where the action’s at.

Heaven is beautiful, but it’s a world of “frozen beauty.” Heaven embodies majesty. Earth embraces Essence.

I was gonna tell her that although it’s hard, it’ll be okay. That you’ll get used to this world pretty quickly. That before you know it you’ll be drawing down Essence, elevating sparks, and making this world ready and set for a time when G‑d is seen and His Light is revealed to all. That although you were enjoying it up there, it’s only here that you can feel accomplished after a long day of work, morphing the mundane into spirituality.

Finding purpose may take a lifetime for many, but without life it could never be found.

But G‑d had a different plan for our dear Shterna Sara.

Tomorrow is Shterna’s Shloshim: a month since her untimely passing.

There are times when the pain is so intense, it takes my breath away. When I’m doubled over in longing to hold onto my baby sister and cradle her in my arms.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few weeks, it’s this: G‑d has a Master Plan. No matter how hard we try, no matter how many odds and how many chances are on our side, nothing can slip through His Plan. From a bird’s chirping to a WAPA power outage, to an accident that took the precious life of my beloved little sister, everything is planned by G‑d.

The fact that we are working to accomplish what Shterna accomplished in four short months is planned by G‑d.

The fact that we are in this world year after year, working for decades to accomplish what Shterna accomplished in four short months, is planned by G‑d.

It’s meaningful to me that Shterna’s Shloshim coincides with my Hebrew birthday. (I was born during the twilight hour, which gives me the luxury of celebrating 2 days.)

The Rebbe teaches us that our date of birth is the day that G‑d decided He needed us for His mission. G‑d granted me another year. More days to fill with holiness, more days to fill with trying my best to make our world a brighter, kinder and more G‑dly place. I’ll try to use this day and apply the lesson I’ve learned from Shterna’s life to mine.

We’re taught that the greatest light is one that emerges from the deepest, thickest, blackest darkness. To me, these past few weeks have looked pretty dark and black. I have no doubt that we are at the end of the tunnel, and that the greatest light, the light that will reunite us, is imminent.

Wise little Yudel put it well, with bitter tears streaming down his face: “I’m so so sad about what happened to Shterna. But I would’ve been even sadder if we would not have gotten her at all.”

We love you, Shterna, and we miss you. And we’ll do all we can from our end to hasten the coming of the day when we’ll be reunited forever. Instead of focusing on what could’ve been, let’s focus on what will be.

We storm the heavens for Mommy, and your job, Shterna, is to storm the heavens from your end.

But Shterna, we need Mommy’s help for that. The world needs our Mommy so badly. We storm the heavens, and we believe she’ll be better really, really soon. But your job, Shtern, is to storm the heavens for Mommy from your end. I know you got this, sister dear ❤️❤️.

We’re holding each other close and doing all we can for our mommy so we can get back to our island family really soon.

Hugs and kisses from my world to yours,


Your biggest sis

Please continue to pray and do Mitzvos in honor of the speedy recovery of my mother, Henya Rivka bas Bracha Devorah Leah

Donations to the Federman Family Fund can be made here.