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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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From One Tragedy To Another – When Will We Learn?

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The tragedy of Mumbai was still fresh in our hearts. The cry of little Moishele, “Ima, Ima – Mommy. Where is Mommy?” kept reverberating in our minds. The heart-wrenching hespedim – eulogies for the kedoshim, holy martyrs, tore us apart. Indeed, these holy souls “were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions, to serve their Creator.” All of Israel was cast into deep mourning and the families were still sitting Shiva, when another tragedy befell us. A tragedy that hit us hard, very hard – Chevron, and this despite the fact that the Holtzberg family had pleaded with the Israeli Government not to disturb this time of Shiva and sow conflict in Israel.

I’m not ashamed to share with you that I have cried and continue to cry. The tears just keep flowing from my eyes. My loving children and friends tell me to get hold of myself, but I can’t stop weeping. “Al Eleh Ani Bochiyah – For these do I weep.”

As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have personally tasted the bitter sting, the savage cruelty, the torture and the murderous acts of those whose aim and purpose is only one – to annihilate us, the Jewish people. But despite it all, that which occurred in Mumbai tore me apart. Somehow, as much as I know, I live with the hope that such satanic brutality will never be repeated, for otherwise, it is just too painful to go on.

But, despite all hope, we are once again confronted by insane carnage. This time, it’s from Yishmael. Yes, I am familiar with the prophecies regarding the savagery of Yishmael during the period that will precede the coming of Messiah. I spelled it all out in my book, Life Is A Test. But even if you never heard of these prophecies, you need only open your eyes to see them unfold.

It’s one thing however, when bnei Yishmael – Islamic terrorists – are the attackers, but it’s an entirely different matter when the attacks emanate from our own people in our own land, when our own police and our own soldiers are ordered to forcibly evict their own brethren from their homes and mercilessly cast them out. “No” you say, that cannot be. You must have it all wrong – that cannot happen in Eretz Yisrael!

But it did, and it happened in Chevron while the families of the victims of Mumbai were still sitting shiva. The Jews of Chevron who lived humble lives in Beit Shalom at great sacrifice were suddenly evicted from their homes. They were guarding the holy city, the resting place of our patriarchs and matriarchs.

Oh, I am familiar with all the disputes regarding Beit Shalom and for that matter, all of Chevron, Judea, and Samaria, but those rationalizations have no meaning. After Yerushalayim, Chevron is our second holiest city, given to us by Hashem Himself. Chevron is the city that guarantees blessing and protection for all of Israel.

It is written that when the meraglim – spies, came to scout out the land, they were overwhelmed by the inhabitants who were all giants and powerful. Calev, it is written, was not intimidated, because he went to Chevron and prayed at the gravesites of our patriarchs and matriarchs, and he knew that in their merit, no power, no force in the world would be able to defeat the Jews. The others, however, who did not pray in Chevron, were terrified and saw themselves as “grasshoppers” next to the local residents. It was through our patriarchs that Hashem made the promise that Eretz Yisrael would be our eternal inheritance, and it is in their merit that we have returned there today.

While our brethren were being forced from their homes, the Arabs were gleefully applauding and throwing stones, and our police, our soldiers, did nothing! To be sure, there are those who will argue that our Jewish youth who came to Chevron to stand strong with their brethren responded in kind. Well, we are in Eretz Yisrael, not in pre-Hitler Europe where Jews were attacked with impunity and had to take the beatings and the epithets silently.

Baruch Hashem that we still have youth who have the guts, courage and faith to stand up for their embattled brethren and cry out in defense of Chevron! Baruch Hashem we still have youth who love Chevron and understand the kedushah, the sanctity of that ancient city.

The operation was swiftly carried out by our police and by our soldiers. The residents of Beit Shalom were no match for them, and I’m afraid that, chas v’shalom, Heaven forbid, this is just the beginning, that Beit Shalom was just a test case; that G-d forbid, there will be more to come.

One would have thought that our people would have learned something from Gush Katif and from all the other places from which the Israeli Government forcibly evacuated them. All of these places have now have become launching pads for even more terror. But no, the Israeli Government has learned nothing. As a matter of fact, the lame-duck Israeli prime minister, along with his cohorts, has made it known that they are willing to give away most of Yehuda and Shomron and parts of Yerushalayim.

It is ironic that during the election debates here in the U.S., many of us were concerned about America pressuring Israel to give away her land. Well, we shouldn’t have worried – the Israeli government is doing it to itself. As the prophecy proclaims -Meharsayich u’machrivayich – Your destruction shall come from within…” If anyone harbored doubts that we are living in the days that will bring us into the messianic period, from the madness that we witness unfolding before our very eyes, we have to conclude that we have indeed entered that period, which is called “Chevlei Moshiach,” the painful birth pangs of the pre-Messianic era. And unfortunately, birth pangs can be very painful.

Those of you who have heard me speak and have been following my columns and those of you who have read my books, especially Life Is A Test, know that in the closing chapters, I spelled it all out.

Thirteen years ago, my husband, HaRav Meshulem Halevi Jungreis, zt’l, was called on high. He had always been strong and healthy, so when he fell ill, it struck us like a bolt of lightening, and our entire family was totally devastated.

I remember the day clearly – it was a Thursday. Thursdays are always heavy days for me. I teach several classes at Hineni, tape a Torah TV program and give private counseling…. and that particular Thursday was no exception. For the longest time, I had been due for a medical check-up, but I kept canceling because something always came up.

That particular Thursday, prior to going to our Hineni Center in Manhattan, I had booked an appointment with our doctor, and as usual, I realized that I wouldn’t make it, but frankly, I was too embarrassed to cancel once again, so I asked my husband to do me a favor and take my appointment himself. I convinced him that he needed a check-up as well, and as it was his kind nature to try to accommodate everyone, he agreed to go in my place. It was on that Thursday that the doctor discovered a tumor and advised him to see a surgical oncologist immediately. I was teaching and had no idea of what had transpired. In-between classes, I called home, but there was no answer (those were pre-cell-phone days), so I called my daughter to ask if she had heard from Abba.

“He’s right here,” she answered cheerfully, “learning with the children.”

I didn’t want to interrupt his teaching Torah, so I told my daughter to ask him to call me as soon as he got home – and it was only then that I heard the ominous news.

Early the next morning, we were at the office of a very kind surgeon who was also a good, loyal friend. He confirmed the devastating news and urged my husband to check into the hospital immediately.

“Let me go home for Shabbos,” my husband pleaded, “you won’t operate on Shabbos anyway, and B’Ezrat Hashem, I will check in Motzaei Shabbos.”

The surgeon agreed, provided that the Rabbi not eat so that he might be ready for immediate surgery.

I called my children and they all came with their little ones for Shabbos. I’m certain that you can imagine our Shabbos table – all of us trying to forget the pain and focus on the sanctity and joy of the holy day. Every few minutes however, someone left the table, ostensibly to use the washroom, but we all knew it was to shed tears, which we could not allow my husband to see.

No one in the congregation knew what was transpiring. My husband was determined that the peace of Shabbos not be marred. And so it was that we strengthened ourselves and when we went to shul, we greeted everyone with a warm Good Shabbos.

My husband was a very sensitive rabbi who loved every Jew and was filled with chesed -loving-kindness. Every Erev Shabbos, he would empty my freezer and take challahs and cake to those who were ill or widowed. His chesed knew no bounds, and it was with that chesed that he led his flock. He would never burden the congregation with long drashos – sermons, but tried to relay his message in seven to 10 minutes. But on that Shabbos, he spoke for almost half-an-hour and broke down and wept.

Would you like to know what he spoke about? Would you like to know the focus of his message? Chevron – Yes, Chevron!

“Rebbetzin,” people asked me, “why is the Rabbi so upset over Chevron?” I didn’t trust myself to speak. I choked up with tears. But to be honest with you, I myself didn’t fully understand why he was weeping over Chevron. Don’t forget, this was 13years ago, before Gush Katif, before all the madness that is tearing our people apart today. But it is said that those who are approaching their last days on this planet somehow have insights that others lack. Thirteen years ago, before entering the hospital with a life-threatening illness, my husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, wept over Chevron.

Now let me ask you, my dear readers, and don’t answer me, but let us answer the question in our hearts…Do we feel the pain of Chevron? Have we shed tears over what is happening before our very eyes? From Mumbai to Chevron in just one week.

So, what can we do? There is much that we can do. And I will spell it out, B’Ezrat Hashem, in my next column.

(To be continued)

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