It is the month of Tammuz, and in a matter of days, we will inaugurate the month of Av. This is a period that from the very genesis of our history has been marked by tragedy.
As has often happened in the past, I am writing this article on an El Al plane en route to New York. At least once a year, we have a Hineni tour to Eretz Yisrael. They are always amazing and life transforming. Every day is unique and has its own flavor; every day is miraculous and spiritually elevating -this year's tour was no exception. My granddaughter, Shaindy Wolff Eisenberg, who is in charge of our Hineni activities in Israel, suggested we make this tour a "Navi event, that we trace the paths of our patriarchs and prophets.
I was visiting a shul I formerly attended during my previous marriage. My former husband worked on Shabbos, and did what he could to pull my children away from Yiddishkeit.
From time-to-time, I share my personal semachos with my extended family, you, my dear readers of The Jewish Press. So it is my zechus (privilege) to publish, in this column, an article that my daughter, Slovie Jungreis Wolff (Hineni lecturer and author of Raising a Child With Soul) wrote for Aish.com, on the occasion of the Bat Mitzvah of her daughter Aliza.
We were making good time on Erev Pesach. The back of our car was packed with coolers filled with homemade foods for the Seder - savory Moroccan gefilte fish balls, sweet and sour turkey balls, and trays of delicious baked goods. My husband's white kittel lay atop our suitcases, together with the afikomen toys for our grandchildren. Everything felt just right. Then we heard the sound.
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.