I have this folder. A folder of letters that my mother-in-law wrote to me and my husband—16, 17, 18 years ago. Since she wrote them, we have moved six or seven times. The letters, they get packed up and travel along with us. I hold these letters to my heart.

What are the contents of those handwritten letters? Words of love.

My Did my mother-in-law miss us? Of course. husband and I left my husband’s native city, Mexico City, almost 19 years ago on a journey to grow spiritually. Our destination was Jerusalem. Now this was before email, smartphones, social media and WhatsApp. This was still when calling long-distance required a phone card and a good sum of money, and when mail arrived with the postman.

Let me give you a background of my husband’s community. It’s a Jewish Syrian tight-knit one, where when walking on the street for the first time in my in-law’s neighborhood, I was introduced to: “This is my cousin and another cousin … .” It felt like either everyone was somehow related or at least friends since the beginning of time.

My mother-in-law was a woman who spoke with her siblings (she had seven) every day on the telephone. Everyone in the family lives within close proximity. Her home was always open and ready to feed and receive family—children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews. She would call me at least three times a day, not to pester or to bother, just to say hi.

You understand this woman? Her whole social life, her entire day, revolved around being with family. And then there was me and my husband, who one day told her and my father-in-law that we were moving far, far away.

And why? So that we could grow spiritually and become closer to a Torah way of life.

Whycan’t a person grow and feel close to G‑d, there, close to her, close to home? We tried to explain our reasoning. It was our personal decision. We sold what things we had, packed our bags, and while another might cry and scream about their loss, their sadness, my mother in-law put on a beautiful face. My in-laws listened, even if they didn’t understand. They blessed us, took us to the airport, and we were off.

Did my mother in-law miss us? Of course. Did she want us near her? Absolutely.

But let me tell you about these letters that she wrote to us, her children, who chose a different path than what she might have at first wanted.

They were letters of love. Letters of encouragement. Letters where she told us that she was proud of us and happy for us. Letters filled with compliments and praise. Letters that gave the message: “I’m letting go in order to have a common goal, which is that you grow, that you feel a connection to G‑d and your soul.”

You see why these letters are so precious to me; I take them with us wherever we go.



When Jacob arrived in Egypt, the Torah writes that he and his family numbered 70 “soul” (Exodus 1:5). The word soul is written in the singular, even though they were a group of 70 individuals. There were 70 individuals but they all had one common goal of serving G‑d; thus, they were one soul.

During our time in Egypt, we multiplied and grew in number. When we left, we were a numerous nation divided into so many types, full of strife. And yet when we arrived at Mount Sinai, ready to receive the Torah, the Torah once again writes in the singular not that “they camped,” but that “he camped.” (Exodus 19:1-2) The commentators point out that this singular usage refers to how all the Jewish people had a sense of unity and were with one heart.

IfWhat does it mean to be unified? it hadn’t been for this prerequisite of being unified with one heart, the sages explain, we would not have merited to receive the Torah.

What does it mean to have one heart? To be unified?

Does it mean that I need to be like you? That I need to dress like you, act like you, feel connected in the same way that you do? Does it mean that I need you to do what I want you to do? That I need you to love in the way that I need love?

Being unified—one heart, truly loving another—is achieved when I want you to do not what is most comfortable, easiest or best for me, but when I want you to have what is best for you. It is about paving the way so that you can grow spiritually, connected to G‑d in the way that you can best connect to Him. It is being unified in a common goal of growth, love, attachment and connection while allowing each individual to shine in the way that he or she needs.

With this prerequisite on Shavuot, we received the greatest gift of all, the Torah, and we became a great nation—individuals with all of our beautiful different colors united with a common goal to love and be loved, to come closer to our Creator.

I pray that I can love my children and their spouses as my mother-in-law loved us, and that I can pave the way for their growth as she did for ours.