Memories of Mommy A”H
January 19, 2023
A tribute to Mrs. Shevi (Hochman)Aszknazy
By her children
It was Friday night when parchah nishmasah.
We had the privilege to be at our mother’s side, saying Tehillim, when she ascended from this world to the next. We watched her, remembering her words at the Shabbos table some time ago. She spoke of menuchah, sourcing this idea from its mention in Minchah Shemoneh Esrei L’Shabbos. She explained how true menuchah is a complete, all-encompassing focus on Shabbos, a focus that leaves no room for any unrelated thought or worry. This kind of focus, that overcomes distractions, seems almost unfathomable in our times, but our mother believed in it and worked toward it throughout her life. As her last Shabbos entered, a serenity blanketed our home, a menuchah our mother achieved after a lifetime of work.
Our mother, as she always said, was a “work in progress.” Growing up, it’s not that we knew her as perfect; instead, we watched as she looked for each opportunity to grow and to change. Her avodas Hashem was far from abstract to her. This work was real to her. She would evaluate herself with honesty, area by area, and decide how she wanted to change. We would have conversations with her about different middos, and she would speak about the practical ways she could implement new heights, inspiring all of us to grow. Like another person might get shoes for a new season, our mother asked herself, In which way am I serving Hashem with renewed commitment this month? The greatness that our mother reached reflected her profound and sincere desire to continuously grow, which manifested itself in everyday pragmatic changes.
When our father asked us what exemplified our mother, we instantly answered in unison, “Chessed.” Our mother seized every opportunity to do chessed, viewing each chance as a gift.“You’re doing me a favor,” she would stress when someone worried they were taking advantage of her. “No” did not feature in her vernacular—she offered before she was asked. There were many times, especially when she was weak, that she felt challenged, but she somehow pushed herself nonetheless. When it came to the impossible, she made it possible.
It wasn’t that she ignored her own needs, it was simply that her need was to give to others. The bursts of energy that she did have came from performing such acts of kindness. She would encourage us to heed every call we were asked, but if we were unable, she would offer to do it herself. If she would hear a story, she could not delay, acting right away upon it, doing whatever was necessary without question. Whatever she did, she did to perfection, thinking of what the beneficiary would appreciate and how to elevate her chessed.
It wasn’t only in giant acts of kindness that she excelled, it was her whole mannerism. Her cheerful greeting made everyone feel special, and her constant smile radiated simchah.
Simchas hachaim was what defined “Morah Shevi,” the name by which she was known. She put all her kochos into every child in her beloved playgroup, caring for all of them as if they were her own. Her endless joy in nurturing each child was apparent in her lively songs and her infinite patience. She had a unique ability of seeing the potential in every toddler and somehow understanding exactly what they needed. Parents were astounded by the difference in their child at the end of the year—which playgroup morah improves a two-year-old’s middos? Many times, they would call for advice years later. She personified the pasuk “Chanoch la’na’ar al pi darko.”
Her upbeat, enthusiastic manner extended far beyond her playgroup—and even when she had little strength, she still exuded that same positive energy. This simchas hachaim stemmed from her hakaras hatov and complete bitachon in her Creator. Her perpetual refrain was “Thank You, Hashem,” and she truly believed not that all will be for the good, but that all is good. She lived with Hashem. She never had a conversation without mentioning His Name and expressing in some way her love, gratitude, and trust in Him. He was her constant Companion. Teva was a transparent glass to yad Hashem—she saw clearly through it with a concentrated, passionate declaration of “Ein od milvado,” which often led to open nissim.
Yiras Shamayim was a real metzius to her, a tangible fear that inhibited her from transgressing issurim. She was unique in our time in that she allowed herself to acknowledge Gehinnom—indeed, whenever she burned herself, she would reflect that “Gehinnom’s worse.”
There was no such thing as compromising in her dveikus b’Hashem. Her tefillah was her most cherished time. She davened all the tefillos kevuos with intense kavanah, absorbed in developing her relationship with Hashem. No matter her physical state, she had to daven to Hashem and connect to her Maker—her neshamah was the ikar; her guf was the tafel.
Her clear-sighted perception of what is most important was apparent in her support and strengthening of our father’s Torah. She knew that it was mayim chaim, an overflowing spring of life. She never viewed her mesirus nefesh for his Torah learning as a sacrifice; she recognized it was her source of life. When going to weekly treatments, she drove herself in order to avoid bitul Torah. Her respect for our father and his Torah was tremendous.
About a year ago, our mother realized there was a lack of structure for high school girls in the upcoming Pesach vacation. She was not well, and yet she initiated, designed, and ran a program for over a hundred girls, starting their day with a meaningful davening and a dose of inspiration. She did this while running her playgroup, preparing for Pesach, caring for her kids, helping others, supporting her husband’s Torah, and undergoing treatment. She did it because she couldn’t recognize a problem, whether in her avodah or in another’s lack, without determining a solution.
The world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassadim. This mishnah was often heard in our home, in the mikdash our mother built. This past Shabbos, our world shook when our mother’s neshamah moved on in menuchah, for our mother personified these three pillars. She did not live for herself. Our mother lived for our father’s Torah, to serve Hashem, and for others.
Mommy, thank you.
Mommy, thank you for your indescribable love, care, and devotion.
Mommy, thank you for developing our talents and middos, for recognizing our potential and teaching us how to tap into our strengths.
Mommy, thank you for instilling in us, “A Yid isn’t normal. We’re above normal.”
Mommy, thank you for giving over the drive to do, do, do.
Mommy, thank you for giving us the ability to follow in your footsteps, to carry on your legacy.
We love you. We know you are davening for us at the kisei hakavod.
Your grateful children
The family would greatly appreciate stories and memories in writing. They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.