Listening has becoming a lost art, I think. Oh, I know there are those that make a stab at it, but so many of us seem to become easily distracted while someone else's words become lost in our own need to express our opinions or relate our latest crisis. Sometimes we just can't be bothered to pick up on the nuances of our friends' words. We've become lazy, maybe even uncaring.

But for Esther Tauby of Richmond, British Columbia, though, listening is a way of life. Her own tragic experiences of losing two children have enabled her to reach out to others in distress. She has finely honed her listening skills so that she can hear the silent cries of a child in emotional pain or sense the needs of one of her students who is grappling with his or her identity, or even just the lesson of the day.

She can hear the silent cries of a child in emotional painEsther is an expert in time management, combining a busy family life with many community responsibilities as well as her work which includes teaching in various Jewish and secular schools. She's a graduate of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and is currently working part-time towards a Masters degree in Education, specializing in Counseling Psychology at nearby Simon Fraser University where she is an honors student.

Esther is also a writer, having been published in various publications throughout the world. She has also written many children's stories which she hopes to have published soon.

Esther's day begins at six in the morning when she heads off to the women-only gym near her home for an exercise class, followed by a full day of work, family and community responsibilities, often ending at midnight.

As one of only two Lubavitch community leader's in her city, Esther's house is always open to anyone who needs a warm welcome or a temporary home. Oftentimes, she has people staying over who have nowhere else to go and she cares for them as if they were family members. For Shabbat and holidays, she tries to invite people who haven't had the benefit of an extensive Jewish education or religious upbringing so that they can experience it firsthand. "We've tried to create a real Chabad House," she said.

Esther also finds time within her busy schedule to volunteer her expertise to teach young girls before their Bat Mitzvah and brides before their wedding. For the past seventeen summers she has organized and taught a class in Pirkei Avot, (Ethics Of Our Fathers) for the women of Richmond on Shabbat afternoons. She teaches classes for women in her home throughout the year as well. Being an ESL teacher, she also helps new immigrants with English. She is also readily available to anyone in crisis or those who simply need advice. "My phone rarely stops ringing," she said.

Esther Tauby (née Nemtzov) was born in Toronto to Orthodox Jewish family whose Chabad roots trace back to the city of Lubavitch in White Russia. She was nurtured in the love of Judaism at home, at shul and at Jewish day schools in Toronto and Miami Beach. After graduation from the Lubavitch Girls High School in Miami Beach, Esther moved to New York at the age of seventeen to attend Beth Rivka Teachers Seminary in Brooklyn where she earned her early childhood and elementary school teacher's license.

"I'm a religious woman who feels comfortable in both the Jewish and secular worlds"Esther was introduced to her husband, Rabbi Avraham Tauby, in Brooklyn, soon after her graduation. They were married in Crown Heights at the Lubavitch World Headquarters (770) in January, 1981. In March of 1982, the Taubys, with their newborn son, moved to Vancouver as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe where Rabbi Tauby took the post as the first rabbi of Beth Hamidrash, a Sephardic congregation.

Esther has always loved Judaism, she told me, never once considering shrugging off her religion or blending into secular society. Nor does she consider herself isolated by her Orthodox beliefs. "I'm an example of a religious woman who feels comfortable in both the Jewish and secular worlds. I live and work with many non-Jews and have the utmost respect for people of all religions and cultures."

Our commentaries," she continued, "explain that when G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He said 'Ko Tomar L'bet Yaakov' - so shall you say to the house of Jacob - which our sages explain is the women (Exodus 19:3).

"G‑d knew that we would be the ones to embrace it, ensure that our husbands study it, and then teach it to our children. In this way, G‑d guaranteed the continuation of the Jewish people for all future generations. Women are analogous to the "shamash" or helper candle during Chanukah," she explained. "It is the special candle designated to light the others without diminishing any of its own light. By empowering others and touching other people's souls, we strengthen our own." (See Esther's article Lessons From the Lights.)

Golda Rochel Tauby, almost four, of blessed memory
Golda Rochel Tauby, almost four, of blessed memory
Esther's own light was nearly extinguished nineteen years ago. Just before Passover in 1989, Esther and her family were awoken from their sleep by an upstairs smoke alarm which alerted them to a raging fire in their home. Two of their children (Moshe Zev, aged five and Golda Rochel, almost four) died as a result of smoke inhalation. She thanks G‑d daily that her three other children, including an infant daughter, and her husband, survived the flames.

"A tragedy like ours defies human comprehension. There is no way to understand it." Esther credits her faith as well as the support and prayers from family, friends and the global community for keeping her going. "I also benefited from a superb medical team as well as grief counselors. I'm proud to say that I'm a functioning member of society, in spite of our devastating loss. There is no such thing as 'getting over' being a bereaved parent," she continued. "It's a chronic condition and one you learn to live with."

They needed to be in the Rebbe's comforting presenceAs Chassidim of the Rebbe, Rabbi and Esther Tauby felt the need to travel to New York soon after the death of their two children. They needed to be in the Rebbe's comforting presence and to receive the Rebbe's advice and blessings. "Although it was more than eighteen years ago, I vividly remember the meeting. We poured our hearts out to the Rebbe. The Rebbe blessed us as only the Rebbe could. He gave us the courage and strength that he knew we needed to carry on with our lives and mission.

"The Rebbe also told us that we should remain in Richmond (where the fire occurred) and help to kindle many souls in our community with the warmth and light of Judaism and Chassidism. In essence, the Rebbe was giving us a mission, a holy task, one that we will continue doing until the Redemption arrives, hopefully very soon. Then we will all be reunited with our loved ones, young and old, who have left this world."

But at twenty-nine-years old, learning to live with the pain of losing two of her precious children, her home and all of its belongings was not easy. Esther had to start over.

Moshe Zev Tauby, 5, of blessed memory
Moshe Zev Tauby, 5, of blessed memory
One day, when she was feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of her losses, she looked into the Rebbe's writings for some comfort. She came across, by Divine Providence, an article about the Rebbe's teaching on the Holocaust. Esther devoured every word as she felt somewhat like a survivor herself.

"The Rebbe," she explained, "said that the most important thing about the Holocaust was not whether or not we understood the reasons for it, but what we did about it. The Rebbe said that if we allow the pain of the loss to overwhelm us and to keep us from raising a new generation of Jews with a strong commitment to Judaism, then Hitler will have won. But if we rebuild, if we raise a generation of proud and committed Jews, then we will have triumphed."

The Rebbe's words comforted her and she took them to heart, understanding what she must do. She continued teaching with perhaps a clearer purpose and need to imbue Jewish children with pride and commitment. She did this, not only as a teacher, but also by establishing and maintaining Hebrew schools for Jewish children who attend public school.

Then Esther realized that not everyone was as lucky as she was to have so much support, and so she sought not only to educate herself and others, but to diminish the pain of a broken world.

"I try to listen with my heart as well as my ears"After intensive grief counseling and on the recommendation of her grief counselor, Esther herself underwent the necessary training to become a grief counselor. Who better than she would know the human souls' nooks and crannies that is home to debilitating pain? Who better than she would know what steps to take in order to reawaken a spirit that has been bludgeoned by loss?

Esther is a registered professional counselor in Canada. "I see counseling as an extension of teaching, especially with the cognitive behavioral model of therapy," she explained. Also, when you counsel, you have to practice active listening. It is so important to listen. Listening was the hardest thing for me to learn, as I'm usually the one doing the talking." But she has learned it well. She listens to everyone, young and old, Jew or non-Jew. Her clients include children with emotional and behavioral disorders such as autism, adults who are suffering from any type of loss, and families dealing with anticipatory grief of loved ones. "I try to listen with my heart as well as my ears." Esther listens and guides them on a path to healing.

She also teaches through her writing. Her written words enlighten the inner core of Torah and teach its importance, and encourage Jews to be the best that they can be.

"It seems as if I never do quite enough. No matter how much I do, there is always more that needs to be done," she said. "I try to do my best every day and try to never waste time. I teach my children and student's that time is the most precious commodity as it can never be replaced."

This Passover will mark nineteen years since the fire that irrevocably altered the lives of Esther and her family. They are years filled with teaching and healing. "I'm very blessed, you know. Thank G‑d, I have five wonderful children, including four sons and a daughter, in addition to the son and daughter who died. My children have given me so much nachas, such joy and pride, and the two oldest boys and their wives have also given me three beautiful grandchildren, thank G‑d."

Esther's children and grandchildren along with countless other children that she has taught and counseled are part of a new generation of proud and committed Jews. Esther has truly triumphed.