When I was in school, my teacher used to say “osios machkimos, seeing the mifarshim help you learn.” I used to ask “if I don’t understand the hebrew how will it help?” and she would say “just by seeing the words, you’ll learn from the beauty of the author.”
I remember my fifth grade teacher explaining why she made bulletin boards. “Even if you aren’t learning from my lesson, at least you’re learning from my walls.”
Most of us are visual learners. We learn by seeing. We walk around and subconsciously whatever we see goes in to our heads. It can be something positive or Chas veshalom the opposite. I know how a tzaddik learns on vacation by seeing the famous picture of Rav Moshe Feinstein learning while on vacation. I know just how caring Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky was by the picture of his beautiful smile. I learned about how a rebbe has to accept and guide his chasidim by seeing pictures and videos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. But I never learned about the beauty of the Nashim Tzidkanios.
I heard about the Imahos, the Nevios, Nshei Tanach and Contemporary Rebbetzins but I could never visualize it. I could never apply it to my life.
I remember once seeing a black and white image of Sara Schenierer. She was the woman we should all emulate. But she didn’t look like someone I wanted to be. She looked like a drawn image. She looked like a sketched person and not all lifelike. I wondered if I was supposed to look like a coloring book picture. I just couldn’t relate to her.
Honestly, I grew up confused. My moros and teachers taught us the right way but I could never apply it because I had never seen it.
At sixteen, I went with my family to a chasuna in Bais Rivka hall in Crown Heights. In the hall was a large picture of one of my role models whom I’d never seen before. I saw Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson and thought “wow, this is what my teachers were all talking about!” I saw pure beauty and chein and felt that this was a woman I could aspire to be.
If only I had seen pictures earlier, what more of an impression it would have made on me.
Now I’m concerned about the next generation. They need to see role models. They need to have what to emulate. And maybe, just maybe, instead of just playing house and school, they’ll also play rebbetzin.