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Crises In Faith – Two Letters (Part I)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I was referred to speak with you by Rebbetzin _________________, wife of the late Rabbi ________________________ of ___________. The rabbi, zt’l, was my spiritual mentor and good friend, and prior to his unfortunate passing at a young age, I found solace and comfort in his wisdom and advice.

Since his passing however, our community has been without a rabbi, and I have had no one to turn to for advice on Jewish matters. Rebbetzin Jungreis, I have a question that has plagued me and is seriously hampering my religious growth. I do not feel capable of moving forward
and find myself slipping backwards because this question so much affects my belief in Hashem.

We are taught that Hashem is kind, loving, just and benevolent, and it is He who created the world and continues to play an active role. The book, ‘The Jewish Theory of Everything’ outlines this quite clearly and makes a clear and lucid argument for Hashem’s continuing role in the world. However, if HaShem is so kind, caring just, loving and benevolent, why does He allow children to suffer? Why are innocent helpless children abused, raped, left to starve to death, neglected, left to suffocate in locked cars, etc.”

You would think if Hashem was indeed involved in the world then he would take pains that innocent children do not suffer. I can grasp the concept that adults are capable of making choices between good and evil, but children are incapable of making that choice, nor should they be forced to suffer because some foolish adult chose evil over good.

I am beginning to believe that perhaps Hashem created the world and then turned around and walked away (figuratively speaking, of course). As a new mother, this question is on my mind constantly and I am concerned that it is starting to affect my entire belief system. I feel as if I am on a downward spiral and I would like to resolve this conflict so that I can raise my son as a good frum Jew with complete faith in Hashem.

I have read both ‘The Committed Life’ and ‘The Committed Marriage’ and found them both to be inspirational and applicable to my life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail and I look forward to your advice.

Letter # 2: ‘Where Do My Prayers Go?’

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I don’t know if you can help me. I really don’t know why I am writing, but I feel so full of pain and sorrow that I just feel that I have to share my thoughts with someone – and you, Rebbetzin, are the person who came to mind.

I have attended your classes at K.J. on Tuesday nights and also on Thursday nights on West End Avenue. I read your book - you touched and inspired me, but now I feel empty. My loneliness is unbearable. I am 44, never married, an only child of Holocaust survivors. I have no aunts or uncles. My parents’ families all perished in Auschwitz, so I’m truly alone. Five years ago, my father died, and now, my mother has been taken from me. In this entire world, I have no one. If I die tomorrow, no one will cry … no one will miss me, no one will even take note. Perhaps at my workplace, I’ll be missed, but they will quickly replace me, and in a few days, I’ll be forgotten.

All that I can handle - I guess that that’s my lot in life. I never married and never had the privilege of having children - and now it’s too late. Please don’t think that I am one of those feminists who intentionally refrained from marriage in order to focus on a career. That was not the case at all. I just didn’t have mazel…but it is what it is. I realize that I can’t turn the clock back, and I accept it, but what I cannot accept is the death of my mother. I always loved her deeply, but to tell the truth, for many years, we weren’t that close. She was a Holocaust survivor, and was overly-cautious and controlling, which I found very difficult to take. She wanted me to live at home until such time as I married, but we were always in conflict, so I felt it would be healthier for me to move out and take my own place, but unfortunately, that decision created an even greater rift between us.

Six months ago, she had a coronary followed by a stroke which left her totally incapacitated.. I realized then how precious she was to me and how deeply I loved her, so I closed up my apartment and moved back home. I prayed like never before that G-d give her years. I felt so close to her - we bonded in such a special way. For the first time, there was no tension between us. On days when she felt better, she would share stories of the Holocaust with me. In the past, she never spoke about her concentration camp experiences. Our relationship took on a new life.

My mother was never observant. Like many of her friends - other Holocaust survivors, she gave up on religion. But in those last few months of her life, her attitude changed. I would play your Torah tapes for her and she loved them. I even asked her if she would pray with me - something I had never seen her do. Amazingly, she agreed and she would repeat the prayers that I recited.

The doctors were satisfied with her progress, and I was really hoping that G-d had accepted our prayers and would perform a miracle, but then, He took her away. So I ask you, Rebbetzin, where did all those prayers go? What’s the point of praying? For the first time, we were close. I wanted so much to have more time with her, and it wasn’t given to me.

Since my mother died, I cannot pray and I haven’t attended any classes. I just can’t believe any more. I guess you’d call it a crisis in faith. Do you have any answers? Can you help me?

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