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Holy Woman

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Holy Woman
The Road to Greatness of Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer
By Sara Yoheved Rigler
Artscroll/Shaar Press - Mesorah Publications, New York: 2007
ISBN 10: 1-4226-0047-5
ISBN 13: 978-1-4226-0047-4

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - September 4, 2007

Holy Woman is the unforgettable story of Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer, who along with her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kramer, touched the hearts and souls of everyone they met. In this heartwarming and inspirational book, Sara Yoheved Rigler traces Rebbetzin Kramer's life, and the thousands of people who were touched by this righteous couple.

The Rebbetzin was born in 1924 in the village of Rapide in the Carpathian Mountains. Her chassidic family adhered to the teachings of the Munkacser Rebbe - and she maintained the staunch Torah observance that she learned as a child her entire life. At the age of twenty she was sent to Auschwitz, where she was experimented upon by the diabolical 'Dr.' Mengle. Of her immediate family, the Rebbetzin was the only member to survive the Shoah (Holocaust). After the war she made her way to Israel, where a shidduch (a marriage match) was arranged for her, by the Satmar Rebbe, with Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kramer. R' Kramer was born in Transylvania in 1910, and he was an astute Torah scholar. He lost not only his parents and most of his siblings during the Shoah, but also his first wife.

After their marriage, R' Kramer and his wife settled on a moshav, and set up housekeeping in a small house that was not much more than a hovel. They lived the rest of their lives in this diminutive house, doing a little farming and raising a few cows, while practicing a remarkable level of chesed (loving kindness) and tzedakkah (charity). Although they never had any children, they stood in as parents to countless children to whom they opened their home, and their hearts. Some of these children came to live with them for only a few weeks, others for their entire lives. They also opened their hearts to any wayward soul that crossed their path who needed a gentle push to guide them toward a Torah-centric life. The Kramer's ability to direct individuals toward a Torah life is exemplified in the author's own experience. After having spent several years in an Indian ashram, Rigler met the Rebbetzin, a meeting that was to have a powerful impact on her life and which is touched upon in this book.

Despite living in poverty, the Kramer's managed to arrange dowries for countless brides, organize school tuition for hundreds of children to attend religious schools, as well as numerous other good works. In addition, Rebbetzin Kramer also took in dozens of severely handicapped and brain-damaged children, giving them personalized, twenty-four hour care, and most important, the love of a mother.

Rebbetzin Kramer was a true tzeddekes (righteous or holy woman), and in this book Rigler examines not only Rebbetzin Kramer life, but also how she grew to be such a pious and influential woman. Holy Woman is, however, much more than 'just' a biography. It is a book about spiritual growth, Torah, marriage, and mussar (ethics). Throughout, Rigler offers insights into the cross-roads, the times and places where Rebbetzin Kramer faced decisions that could have turned her life in one direction or another. In each case, Rebbetzin Kramer choose a strictly observant, Torah life-style. Rigler illustrates how everyone faces these crossroads, and she offers lessons and guidance that will help you to choose the path that will improve your personal and spiritual life, your learning, and the lives of those around you.

Rigler is a marvelous writer. Her style is conversational in tone, and she paints a vivid portrait of these two tzaddikim who lived in virtual obscurity, yet who touched the lives of tens of thousands of people. In writing this book Rigler drew from her personal relationship with the Rebbetzin, and it includes not only the Rebbetzin's own words of wisdom, but also personal insights from many of the people she touched. The Kramer's are exemplary role models, and their story is awe inspiring! This book will not only educate you about the lives to two extraordinary people, but it will also inspire you to strive to achieve greater spiritual heights.

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