I have been living in Israel for many years, yet there are still special moments that catch me by surprise. A series of such moments occurred recently, reminding me of how very lucky I am to call Yerushalayim my home.
Last week I wrote that we are now at a very critical juncture in our long history. We have entered the period of ikvesie d'Mashiach - a time of travail when the footsteps of the Messiah can be discerned. We are receiving wake-up call after wake-up call, and they come in many shapes and forms. Hashemis sounding the alarm, but we remain deaf to its implications.
Note to readers: When I heard the words, "You give us seven minutes and we'll give you the world" on the radio at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, July 13, I never thought that what I was about to hear would shake me to the core and change my world forever. I could not come to myself - and I'm sure most of klal Yisraelcouldn't either. So I sat down and the following poem spilled forth. Because it is written in a simple style, simple enough for any child to understand, I hope it does not seem to trivialize what happened; it is just my humble reaction to an earth-shattering event.
"Not again!" you may say. To which I respond, "Yes, again!" I say this as I write once again about the most heinous tragedy that could have befallen us, so even though it may not be popular - even though your reaction may be, "We heard it already" - I am nevertheless writing because I fear we have returned to business as usual.
In my last column I wrote about Leiby Kletzky and what I experienced when I made a shiva call to his family. My plan was to continue writing about this tragedy and focus on what we must learn from it and do. In the interim, I received a letter from a non-Jewish reader and felt I should share it.
I am just a small-town girl whose aspirations never included the notion of traveling to exotic places. I dreamed of getting married, raising a family, and living near my parents and in-laws.
Our Jewish world has been shocked, shaken to the core. We are all speechless in face of the tragic, monstrous, inhuman act perpetrated against a sweet, precious, innocent, holy little boy lovingly called Leiby.
Dear Rebbetzin: I am a 62-year-old Conservative Jew, recently retired from teaching and planning to relocate to Florida. My three children are all married and living in different parts of the world: a daughter in Jerusalem, one son in Toronto, another son in California. Those living in Jerusalem and Toronto have become very Orthodox, while the son living in California is totally uninterested in religion. As a matter of fact, he is married to a non-Jewish woman. As you can see, there is no happy medium in my family, but I cannot interfere in the lifestyle choices of my children.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: My mother lives with me and needs a great deal of attention, as do my four children. It seems as if everyone is pulling at me at once, and I don't know in which direction to turn first. All this stress has definitely affected my mental and physical health. I suffer from backaches and stomach trouble and lack the patience necessary to be a good wife and mother.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am writing you regarding a situation I have come to realize is much more common among couples than people realize. The subject is infertility. My husband and I have been married fifteen years and have had serious medical problems having children from the start of our marriage.
Some years ago, I came across a Polish-Jewish newspaper published in the early thirties. It was a time when the winds of anti-Semitism were blowing throughout Europe, with particular force in Poland. I searched through every page of the paper and was appalled to find not even a hint of the tragedy that was looming for the Jewish people.
The world has again become a barbaric jungle. Ferocious beasts are ready to pounce on Israel. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have for a long time now smelled the same noxious fumes that engulfed pre-Holocaust Europe, but no one wants to pay heed. It is always easier to dismiss such warnings as unfounded paranoia or products of the scarred minds of those who survived that hell on earth.
Back when we established Hineni, kiruv - outreach - was practically a foreign concept. The observant community had no confidence in these "newcomers" to Torah. "They will never last," people warned me. "For a brief while," they conceded, "it may work, but they have no real commitment, and their involvement is fleeting." As for secular Jews, their attitudes ranged from hostility to outright suspicion and fear.
Some years after the Six-Day War, I was invited to address the IDF as well as various communities in Israel. In the euphoria that followed the spectacular victory of the Six-Day War, gratitude to Hashem, proclaiming His guiding hand, was blatantly missing.
I've often written and said that we are living in remarkable but dangerous times in which we can hear (provided we know how to listen) the footsteps of the Messiah. Ours, however, is a generation that has difficulty hearing.
Those of you who have heard me speak or who read my columns and books know that whenever I opine on a subject I try to base what I say or write on our Torah and the teachings of our sages. There are so many things taking place so rapidly in front of our eyes that before we can absorb one event, another one unfolds. This rapid succession is so overwhelming that it allows us no time to think.
My father of blessed memory, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, would tell me that when I speak or teach I should always ask myself what message the listener will take home that will infuse him with strength and help him cope throughout the year.
Many moons ago, when I was a young Rebbetzin, I had a vision - to awaken American Jews and bring them back to Am Yisrael. In those days, Israel Bonds would hold an annual celebration for contributors at Madison Square Garden. If you bought a bond for "x" number of dollars, you were entitled to a free ticket and could participate in what was called a "Spectacular" at which Hollywood stars entertained.
In last week's column I began my response to the woman who wrote expressing her fears regarding the escalation of anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel throughout the world. I explained that our Sages and Prophets predicted it; they tell us that what we are witnessing today isikvesi d'Mashiach - a period in which we can hear the footsteps of the Messiah and experience the birth pangs that will precede the coming of that great day.
Several weeks ago I published a letter from an elderly Holocaust survivor who expressed her fear regarding the world situation, specifically the hatred of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism that is reminiscent of pre-Holocaust Europe. Her letter provoked a torrent of e-mails from young and old readers, several of which I published, but I had not responded to her directly. B'ezrat Hashem, I will do so now.