Events are unfolding so rapidly that before we can absorb them, another occurs. After a while, we become inured and no longer react. Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with our environment. Add to this the collapse of the giants of finance and industry. If this were not enough, we, the Jewish people have an additional menace with which to contend - the demonization of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism.
The land of Israel's holiness features four cities that are singled out as exceptionally holy, and which are imbued with special qualities. I have had the good fortune to visit all four - Hebron, Jerusalem, Tiberias and Safed - if only for a short time. Each of these cities is associated with a particular kind of holiness, corresponding to the four basic elements: Jerusalem - fire; Hebron - earth; Tiberias - water; and, my favorite, Safed - air.
In last week's column I published a letter from a 76-year-old widow concerned about her future. She wanted to know whether she should sell her house in Brooklyn and move in with her daughter in Queens. She felt lonely living alone, but was concerned about being a burden to her children, although both her daughter and son-in-law assured her that would not be the case.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Even the seemingly smallest of occurrences has a purpose. I recently had a doctor's appointment in Yerushalayim. Once finished, I decided to do some shopping in a nearby grocery store. This spur-of-the- moment decision led to an encounter with someone from my past, who was to teach me invaluable lessons in life.
This story was told by Mrs. T., a woman in her 60s who I've known for three years. Mrs. T. attends my synagogue and sisterhood functions. Over the years, Mrs. T. always appeared to be shy and tense. She rarely spoke and usually had worry lines between her eyes and around her mouth. When she and her family first moved to our neighborhood, her husband also attended synagogue. However, he suffered from a chronic illness that kept him home on many a Shabbat.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis, I don't know what to do, so I decided to seek your guidance. I am a 76-year old widow. For the past two years, my husband, my beloved partner in life, was in and out of hospitals, struggling with a devastating terminal illness - cancer of the colon. It was an agonizing experience for my family and me. His suffering was beyond words, and we tried everything. In addition to chemotherapy, we explored all the possibilities available in homeopathic and natural cures, but it was to no avail. My daughters read up on radical treatments available in Europe and researched every possible option. In short, we tried them all, but it was futile.
I have been on the road non-stop. Different countries, different languages... but in every place that Hashem grants me the privilege of speaking, it is to my people that I speak. A special language connects us that transcends all difficulties, overcomes all barriers - the language of the heart. That language is part of our Jewish DNA. Hashem Himself engraved it in our souls - it speaks more powerfully than any words and brings tears to even the most hardened, alienated eyes.
On December 31, 2009, my father was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, almost everyone will be touched by this horrible disease in one fashion or another. I have had many friends who have been affected by cancer, but they were younger and stronger than my dad, or Tatinke, who is 84.
Fifteen years ago, on a Shabbos Mevorchim leading up to a new month, my husband was leading the davening. I heard him intone, "Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av will be on..." But it wasn't the month of Av, as the upcoming month was Mar Cheshvan. An audible gasp swept through the shul, and he immediately corrected himself.
We know that there are no random happenings.... everything is orchestrated from above. From the minor to the most major, nothing escapes Hashem's attention. Our sages teach us that a man does not stub his toe without Hashem being aware of it. Behind every incident there is a wake-up call. Every morning, we recite the brachah, "HaMeichin mitzadei gaver," and thank G-d for "guiding our footsteps."
I arrived in Paris on a Monday and over 1,500 people were waiting. I do not speak French, but no matter, for there is a language that transcends all difficulties and barriers, and that is the language of our people - the language of the heart based on our timeless truths: "Words that emanate from the heart must enter into another's heart," and that is at the root of our "Jewish Law of Gravity." It is a law that never fails and its veracity has been proven in every generation, in every century. I saw it unfold a thousand and one times ... Most recently, I witnessed it in France, Hungary and Israel, and I never cease marveling at its power.
I was walking down Coney Island Ave. when I saw an old acquaintance eating in a non-kosher restaurant. I wanted to approach him and ask him if he would be interested in putting on tefillin. But I felt hesitant, and wrestled internally to overcome my embarrassment. Finally I gathered enough confidence to enter the restaurant and approach my friend. Greeting him warmly, I gently asked if he would like to put on tefillin. He politely refused and, after a brief conversation, I was on my way.
I write this column during the month of Nissan, the month when we usher in the awesome Yom Tov of Pesach, and once again, I find myself on a plane en route to New York from Eretz Yisrael. This time, I am returning from an extended trip that encompassed programs in two large cities in France - Paris and Marseilles, then a hop over to Budapest, and from there to Yerushalayim, where I spoke in Binyanei HaUmah, as well as to a group of beautiful young people...students and professionals.
There are many things in our lives for which we pray to Hashem. These include health, shalom bayit, nachat from our children, and parnassah. In Israel, we have been praying for rain for a while. Israel has been suffering from a dearth of rainfall for a number of years. The waterline in the Kinneret is visibly dropping, and the government has been scrambling for ways to conserve our dwindling water supply.
A young man and 12 of his friends went to Kever Rachel to daven for his very sick mother. She had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. The mother's family was tested to see if someone was a match. One relative's marrow matched with 9 out of 10 factors. This was good, but the optimum was 10 out of 10 factors.
I have received much e-mail from my readers in response to my series on "Why Can't I Get Married?" There is one common denominator that unites them - finding a marriage partner has become one of the most challenging problems of our generation, and the older one gets, the more formidable this simple quest becomes.
As promised, I will now try to offer some recommendations on how to find "Mr./Ms. Right." Some years ago, an attractive young non-observant woman whom I shall refer to as "Kelly" came to consult me regarding a shidduch.
Something beautiful happened last summer while I was visiting my daughter and her family in Toronto. I was shopping at Sears and did not realize that I had accidentally dropped my wallet on the floor. I only realized what had happened after returning home. It was upsetting when upon returning to the store to inquire, no one had turned it in. But I then had to return home to Montreal.
"Pesach is just around the corner," was Mrs. Adler's motto. She began planning right after Tu B'Shevat, started cleaning after Purim, and limited food to the kitchen from Rosh Chodesh Nisan.
Some weeks ago I published a letter from a secular Jewish woman in her mid-thirties. To all appearances, she had everything going for her - a successful career, good health, dynamic personality, many boyfriends and relationships. She wrote, however, that it all had no meaning. More than anything, she yearned to build a home and start a family, but marriage kept eluding her.
This is a story about my father-in-law. On the 12th of Tevet, the yahrzeit of his father, Yaakov Eliezer ben Yosef Dov, took place. Rav Yaakov passed away 44 years ago. That night, my wife hosted a yahrzeit seudah (meal) in our home. My father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Lazarus, told stories about his father, accompanied by divrei Torah.
We were very excited about attending our dear nephew's aufruf (ceremony in shul the Shabbos preceding a wedding). We didn't know where we were being put up, but somehow the address sounded familiar. When we got to the house, I recognized it immediately. It was the Brooklyn office of the Hebron community in Israel. The bar mitzvah of my son, of blessed memory, had been Parshas Chayei Sarah, the Torah portion that describes how Abraham buried his wife Sarah in Hebron. His bar mitzvah theme had been "Hebron."
In my last column I posed a simple question: Why has that short walk down the aisle become such a long arduous trek and so painfully difficult for so many?
It is unsettling to be locked out of your home. My nine-year-old daughter recently locked us out of our home twice in one evening. Not having been raised in Jewish observance, I did not know about Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence) - the personal involvement that God had in my life. In this discovery, I found the very key to my life.