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Inner Strength:
The True Meaning of Z’chus Avo

AVI SHAPIRO

“Nancy is a very special person, a true individual and I truly feel lucky to be her friend. It is rare to meet someone that is in touch enough with herself that she can follow her own goals and dreams without being distracted by forms of peer pressure.”

— Susan Buchsbaum

“ The fact that Nancy is deeply religious impressed me early on in our friendship. I was impressed that this incredibly modern woman held very strict religious traditions. Wherever we were racing, she would lug her own kosher food and in an age where everyone is on the phone, she refused to use the phone on Friday nights and Saturday—and forget the car altogether. She never made excuses or acted inconvenienced, she did these things because they were part of her. . . . There was a confidence about her that could not be shaken, and an inner strength which inspired others.”

— Jane Maloney

PEER PRESSURE. We all know it; we have all succumbed to it at some point in our lives. As a child we may have pulled a nasty prank on our teacher that was totally out of line with our true nature, only to be “cool.” As an adult we may be focused on attaining wealth so we, too, can afford luxuries and build ourselves magnificent homes to keep up with our friends.

How many Jews who grew up religious abandoned Judaism completely out of their compelling need not to be “different”? Out of their desire to fit in with the crowd? The answer, unfortunately, is: too many.

It is only natural to crave acceptance among one’s peers, to feel welcome, to be “normal.” Nancy was different. Nancy had many friends. Her friends were Jewish and gentile; religious and secular. Due to her passion for biking (not exactly the most common sport among Orthodox Jews), Nancy frequently found herself among non-Jews and non-religious Jews, in faraway places. Nancy never hid from them or succumbed to fitting in. When everyone went out to eat, Nancy went along. What would her friends do when Nancy did not order anything? Why was Nancy not eating? It didn’t matter. As Nancy used to say when pressed, “No means no!”

This is real strength. To be able to stand up alone in a crowd of peers and declare “I am different! I am a Jew!” demands a unique inner strength. What is the source of this strength?

In our prayers, there is a theme that is stressed over and over— Z’chus Avos—the merit of our fathers (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov). We are constantly beseeching Hashem to forgive us for our sins—not because we deserve to be forgiven—but because we have Z’chus Avos. We are the children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.

 


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Acknowledgments Introduction Testimonies Photo Gallery 1 Reflections from Nancy's Mother