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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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For Everything A Time And A Season


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

King Solomon, who was the wisest of all men, grew up in Jerusalem, the wisest of all cities. He was the son of King David, whose wisdom and vision lives through the centuries and to this day guides us and comforts us in our daily lives through his immortal Tehillim – Psalms.

King Solomon imparted a teaching to us that should give us all chizuk – strength – and hope when we feel overwhelmed by our personal challenges. “For everything there is a season – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance….”

I have experienced healing in the wake of some of the most painful occurrences in my life thanks to the wonderful gift of time King Solomon advises us to bear in mind when we feel everything around us collapsing. Bit it is not magic. It requires effort, prayer, faith, and Torah administered by someone who knows how to impart it. Memories are etched so deeply in our hearts that no matter where we are, no matter what situation we are in, they keep speaking to us. They never quite fade.

One day my oldest daughter half jokingly said to me, “Ima, I was talking with one of my friends who is also the daughter of survivors and she shared with me that no matter what happens, her parents somehow always make a reference to the Holocaust.” For a moment I thought about it and then I realized that I too am one of those survivors who returns to those nightmarish days that are never erased from my heart. Still, the words of King Solomon give us hope and life.

King Solomon once gathered his wise men and commissioned them to make a ring that would remind a man never to lose faith and keep him on an even keel. The ring they designed had three Hebrew letters, gimmel, zayin and yud, the initials of “gam zeh ya’avor – this too shall pass.”

I’ve written about my traumatic fall last Pesach when I broke my hip and had to undergo major surgery. At that time I went through my own difficult struggle and this same daughter told me that I of all people had no right to give up.

I had, she reminded me, risen rose from the ashes and gave new life to a family that perished in the flames of Auschwitz. I had the zechus of founding Hineni, the first international outreach organization that has brought uncountable numbers of people throughout the world to Torah. I had been invited to the White House not once but numerous times and was appointed by President Bush to represent the United States at the dedication of the new Yad Vashem building.

How, my daughter asked me, could I allow myself to grow despondent?

The same feelings enveloped me when I had to face the painful deaths of my dear revered parents and husband, but the healing gift of time was balm on my deep scars. For such is the way of our lives, and it will be easier to travel the bumpy road of life if we bear in mind King Solomon’s wisdom that “For everything there is a season – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance….”

At this point I feel it’s only right that I share with you my most beautiful simcha – the wedding of my grandson. For grandparents to see their grandchildren under the chuppah is an awesome source of joy – but this happiness is multiplied a thousandfold when it occurs to Holocaust survivors, especially to one such as me.

I am the only one left from my entire immediate family who still remembers the past generations. I am the only one who can still tell that story, and at every simcha I remind my children and all my descendents of the words spoken by my saintly father, HaRav HaGoan HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l.

After our liberation my father discovered he was the ben yachid, the only surviving son, from the glorious Jungreis rabbinic dynasty. Slowly and painfully my father rose from his chair, tears streaming down his cheeks and into his beard that had just started to grow once again after the Nazis had brutally shaved it.

He raised his hands to the Heavens and in a trembling voice prayed; “Ribbonoh Shel Olam – Almighty G-d, Creator of the universe, I beg of You only one thing, only one thing – that all my children, all my descendants, should cling to Torah forever and ever.

I have never forgotten his voice. I hear it wherever I go. In the thickest darkness, in sunshine and joy, his voice speaks loud and clear. So at every simcha and family gathering I repeat them. I also recall it in my speeches and, b’ezrat Hashem, as long as I am here on this planet I will continue to do so.

Those words of my father must throb in every Jewish heart, especially today in our confused time when most of our people no longer know who they are. Those words give life to our people in every generation. Those words make us Jews.

And now I had the zechus to see my grandson under the chuppah with a lovely girl from a real Torah family. Can there be any greater joy than that? Having returned from an exhausting but rewarding European speaking tour, I was under the weather but there was no question in my mind that even if I’d been at the other end of the world I would have made it to the wedding.

“Tatty,” I call out, “your prayers were not in vain; the Torah lives in your descendants and, b’ezrat Hashem, will live so forever.”

As mentioned, wherever I go to speak I repeat my father’s words and remind my listeners that no matter where they came from, whatever country or background, they had a zeide, a grandfather, or a great- or great-great-grandfather, who cried out to Hashem with the very same prayer.

Those prayers of our grandfathers can never be erased. And no matter how assimilated the members of the audience may be, how far removed from Judaism, tears come to their eyes and they are left silent, for they know my words speak truth.

A Yiddishe simcha is always filled with memories of our past. The past is not only our history, it is our destiny, the roadmap by which we live. So it is that when the chassan and kallah break that glass under the chuppah, it’s not just a simple ceremony they follow; there is a very deep and profound meaning behind it.

In the midst of their greatest joy, the chassan and kallah are never to forget that their happiness can never be complete without remembering Jerusalem and the Beis HaMikdash.

Yes, I danced and yes, I laughed. My heart burst with happiness. But even as we dance and celebrate we are never to forgot we are Jews, and a newly established home for a bride and groom will now become a miniature Beis HaMikdash built in the shadow of the glorious Temple in Jerusalem.

Seeing my grandchildren under the chuppah and hearing their words and looking at the pure love in their eyes – a love not just for each other but for Torah and Am Yisrael – that is the meaning of a true Yiddishe simcha. I thank Hashem a thousand times over for granting me this zechus.

My berachah, my blessing, is that each and every one of you experience the same nachas when you accompany your children and grandchildren under the chuppah. May you have the joyous serenity to know that this is not just a wedding but a new link in the endless chain of Jewish history.

“ ‘This is My covenant with them,’ proclaims Hashem. ‘My spirit is upon you and My words that I have placed in your mouth shall never depart from your mouth, nor from the mouths of your offspring, nor from the mouths of your offspring’s offspring’….”

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