I never knew what the word meant - until I sat in the classroom with my student who'd just turned 12. She sat in her place, ready to bentsh bircas hamazon, and I sat in mine, just beside her desk at the side of the classroom. Usually she sung bircas hamazon with the class, saying the words she knew correctly, and the rest incorrectly. But today, today was different. Today she was going to try and read it from the siddur - an accomplishment she was really proud of, being able to acually read Hebrew. Today, she would read it. Pointing at the first word - baruch, she moved her finger along, under the letter, and to the nekuda, working out how to blend the 2 together. Slowly, she pointed to each word, sometimes looking analyzing the nekudos for an age before decoding it. She went through the entire bircas hamazon this way. And I sat there in awe at her patience, her determination, her perseverance. I sat there and wondered,
"could I ever do that?? Do I sit there and spend so long analyzing something? Would I do something that I find that difficult for me, and do it anyways?" I can't say that I would, though I'd love to.
Once she began reading from the siddur, she'd do this more often, sometimes saying it all, sometimes half, giving up her lunch break to finish it. There were times that she'd ask her seat-mate to bentsh with her. They'd share the siddur, her seat-mate guiding her along the words, singing together their praise to Hashem. I'd leave them alone at these times, checking on them periodically, but they never tired. She was and is always ready to put in her best effort, and I want to be like that, too.
I don't sit with her during lunch anymore, so I miss the awesome sight of her bentshing. I sit with her instead in the classroom, or outside, where I teach her to read and to write. It's amazing to see her, a child who has things so difficult, persevere, until she gets there.
The Gemara tells us of a rebbi who sat with his student and learned the same piece with him 400 times until the student understood it. Sometimes, I feel I can identify with this rebbi. I teach my student. I teach it to her again. And again, and again. Sometimes up to 50 times I teach it, before she's grasped it. There are some concepts that I bring into the lessons almost daily, that she has no understanding of. Other concepts, she is now begining to get a handle on, and I wonder how she has the patience to try and try again. She knows that she doesn't understand, yet she doesn't give up, ready to try once more, to apply herself once more, to take off her watch that is distracting her, and try to give her full concentration to get it...
And one day, I hope I, too, will do that: try again and again, be ready to continue in spite of repeated failures, with the happiness that she spreads to all those around her.