In last week's column I wrote about world condemnation of Israel and, once again, she is being ostracized. This time it's because of the Flotilla fiasco. She is even castigated by her loyal friends, including Jews, for her inept PR. Even if Israel had the most brilliant, eloquent, and articulate representatives speaking on her behalf, she would still be demonized.
I am interrupting the sequence of my articles regarding questions posed by widows and widowers. B'Ezrat Hashem, I will continue that discussion in future columns. But for now, I feel compelled to address the tragic events that have once again unfolded in Eretz Yisrael. I would also like to remind our readers to daven and say Tehillim for the valorous wounded Israeli soldiers who were so savagely attacked. I make a special point of this because shockingly, I have discovered how few of us stop to consider the pain of our brethren.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: For the past few weeks I have followed your articles, which focused on the pain and trauma of widowhood. Only someone who has been there can understand the loneliness. Additionally, there is guilt that the widow or widower has to deal with. As your last letter-writer indicated, we who are left behind, tend to second-guess ourselves with three haunting words - could've, should've, would've. I know because I have been, and am, still there.
It was Erev Pesach, three hours before Yom Tov. I was at the checkout counter at the local supermarket. The gentleman in front of me was trying to pay his $48 bill. I noticed that he gave the clerk a credit card that was declined. He offered a second credit card, with the same result. The saleswoman then asked the young man how he planned to pay, to which he sheepishly replied, "May I write a check?"
In last week's column, I published a letter written by a tormented widow who agonized over what more she could or should have done for her terminally ill cancer-stricken husband. Her agonies were many: In retrospect she felt that, at the first sign of illness, she should have insisted that he consult with a specialist rather than with their local internist. She also felt guilty about the hospital she chose for his post-surgical treatment. In short, she questioned everything she did regarding his care.
I recently returned from a visit to Eretz Yisrael, where I go yearly for my father's yahrzeit. As always, my husband, and my sister and her family accompanied me. On the way to the cemetery, we were fortunate to hail a taxi driver who spoke fluent English. He had made aliyah many years before from East Flatbush, where my husband and I lived.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am overwhelmed by pain, have no peace and cannot sleep. Every night I lie in bed thinking, and all my thoughts cause me anguish. Please, Rebbetzin, I know how busy you are, and I apologize for the length of this letter, but in order for you to understand my suffering, I have to tell you my whole story.
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.