Latest update: May 7th, 2014
I was on my way to speak when a woman stopped me and asked, “Aren’t you Rebbetzin Jungreis?” She then told me she had a complaint about something I’d written.
“We women have enough to do before Pesach with cleaning our houses, packing away the chametz, bringing out the Pesach dishes, and placing them in the proper cabinets,” she said. “And then just when we think we are finally done and the house is Pesachdik, you tell us to dust off the windows. Now I ask you, is that fair, Rebbetzin?”
I looked at her uncomprehendingly and tried to understand what on earth she was talking about. “Rebbetzin, don’t you remember what you wrote in your column last week?” she asked. I still didn’t get it.
“Rebbetzin, you told us, ‘Dust off your windows!’ That was even the title of the column! You wrote that we should clean the windows in order to see the purpose of our lives.”
Obviously the woman was joking, but behind every joke there is truth. Behind each of our Yom Tovim is a message, but we choose to ignore it. We could see those messages through our windows but we have no desire to look for them even as the dust continues to accumulate. We leave the windows as they are and congratulate ourselves on our committed lives.
While our Yom Tovim are wonderful, behind the joy there is always the message. But the dust has blinded our vision throughout the centuries. As the Haggadah states, In every generation they rise up to destroy us but Hashem saves us from their hands. But why should that be? Why should the nations of the world want to annihilate us in every generation? It just doesn’t make sense.
We have been loyal citizens of every country to which Hashem’s compass has directed us. We invariably build up the economy of those countries, helping to create wealth and prosperity. We become innovators of science and technology. We become pillars of culture. We discover life-saving medicines. We build hospitals and schools, museums and concert halls. We are valorous on the battlefield if and when allowed.
Yet eventually the tides turn against us. The Heavens become dark and our host countries come to despise us. Persecution and oppression become our daily fare until we are expelled and our blood is spilled. Hashem averts our complete destruction, but untold numbers of individual Jews are called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.
I am a survivor of Bergen Belsen and even in my most nightmarish moments I knew beyond any doubt that the Jewish people would live. Though I was a little girl, this knowledge had been embedded in my soul and engraved upon my heart by my saintly father and mother – and of course by our Torah.
So, yes, while I knew our Jewish people would once again see the sunshine, I did not know who (if anyone) from our family would survive. Of course, never in my wildest imagination could I have envisioned that six million – six million! – of our people would be slaughtered. How can we explain it all?
We Jews could easily blend in with the nations of the world. There’s nothing that would identify us and scream “That is a Jew.” The yarmulke, the tzitzis, the whole gear, can be discarded. The Jewish name can be changed or altogether dropped. In no time at all a Jew can renounce his faith and become any “John Doe” in any country and just disappear – which, unfortunately, has frequently been the case in our long and tragic history.
Just consider the Jewish world today. Intermarriage tops 70 percent among non-Orthodox Jews in America and is even higher in other parts of the world. Parents no longer even attempt to stop these marriages. “As long as my children are happy – that’s all that matters.” Even most of those who are not intermarried have little if any Jewish commitment.
One might think this high rate of assimilation would have neutralized Jew hatred in our generation but, paradoxically, the opposite has occurred. The statement of the Haggadah – In every generation they rise up to destroy us – continues to hold true. The greater the assimilation the greater the escalation of anti-Semitism, and yet we continue on our destructive path. We do not stop to dust off the windows of our Jewish history. We do not stop to ask why.
Yet the answer is right there in the windows. It speaks to us loud and clear. We have windows of history. We have windows of Yom Tovim but the dust continues to obscure our vision.
Hashem chose us for the responsibility of carrying His Light – the Torah – to illuminate the darkness of humanity. Hashem will never allow us to disappear – that is our covenant. As is written in the book of Isaiah, These words I shall place upon your lips shall never depart from your lips, nor from the lips of your children or your children’s children, says Hashem…
Thus Hashem has no option but to remind us of our mission if we choose to forget and abandon Him. The Pharaohs, the Hamans, the Hitlers all come forth to attack us. “We don’t want you Jews,” they shout. “Get out! We will feed you to the fires, the gallows, the sword, the bayonet, the gas chambers.”
Yes they plague us in every generation and still we don’t want to realize that we cannot disappear no matter how much we try to look and sound and conduct ourselves as non-Jews.
I distinctly remember that when the Nazis deported us in their deadly cattle cars, a woman from our city who had converted to Christianity loudly protested, “But I am not Jewish, I am not Jewish.” The Nazis just laughed in her face.
We Jewish people have to acknowledge that our Heavenly Father is the only guarantor of our lives. We have no permanent friends in this world. If, however, our relationship with Hashem is to be sustained, our love for Him must continue uncompromisingly. This message is all in the window.
Every Yom Tov has its own tragic background. Our celebrations do not come out of the blue. If we could only see the message it would explain it all to us, but we choose to remain behind dusty windows that keep out the sunlight.
So we continue to make merry and the darkness remains. What is the message of Purim and Pesach that substantiates this?
To be continuedRebbetzin Esther Jungreis
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