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Hashgachah Pratis: Readers Respond (Continued from Last Week)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

For the past several weeks I have been focusing on hashgachah pratis – personal, individual and national guidance that comes from heaven. Sadly, in our secular, high pressured, very often decadent society, many voices assail us and we have difficulty hearing the still small voice of G-d leading and prodding us.

I have shared the personal stories of readers who testify to hashgachah pratis. Earlier stories focused on health and shidduch problems. This week we will deal with the economic crunch so many people have to struggle with. But no matter the problem, Hashem is always there. We need only attune our ears and open our eyes to see G-d’s Hand leading us on our path.

If we are sensitive, we can hear even a stone speaking to us. Consider the story of Rabbi Akiva. He was forty years old, an illiterate shepherd in the employ of Kalba Savua, the wealthiest man in Jerusalem. Kalba Savua’s beautiful 18-year-old daughter Rachel detected greatness in Akiva. She saw he could become a great Torah luminary, shedding light not only for his generation but for all generations to come. She challenged him to study Torah, saying if he would do so she would marry him.

The marriage part was very enticing, but how, he wondered, could a man of forty study together with little children? The challenge seemed insurmountable, the task impossible. Perplexed and conflicted, he decided to take a walk in the forest, hoping to gain some clarity. Lo and behold, G-d gave him a message! No, he didn’t hear voices. No, he didn’t see flames coming down from the heavens above. No, he had no visitation from angels.

He simply fell upon a large stone next to a brook. He studied the shape of the stone and realized it had been impacted by drops of water falling upon it day and night. And then it occurred to him – if G-d had made him stumble on this rock in the brook, it must be for a reason. Surely there was a message there. Suddenly he had the clarification he was seeking.

If, he reasoned, a stone can be penetrated by drops of water, “surely, I will be able to receive drops of Torah in my mind and heart and thus be reshaped.” And that is how Akiva the illiterate shepherd was launched on the path of becoming the greatest sage in Israel.

Obviously, not one of us in our generation is Rabbi Akiva. We would never find a message in a stone. Nevertheless, Hashem in His infinite mercy speaks to us on our level. But the noise and the chaos and degenerate voices of our 21st-century culture block our ears and blind our eyes. We see not and we hear not.

I will now share an amazing letter proving that Hashem never abandons us.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I have been following your articles on hashgachah pratis with great interest. My family also has a story to tell – a story that clearly demonstrates the Hand of Hashem. I asked my husband to write it and send it to you, but my husband just waved me off, saying, “That’s women’s stuff! You do it!”

I took him up on his challenge and am writing this letter so that others might benefit from it. Sadly, it is a story that befalls many.

My husband is in his middle years. He was an attorney all his working life, putting in many long hours at his firm. We are not wealthy but we always enjoyed a good lifestyle. We sent our children to camp, took vacations, gave tzedakah, live in a nice neighborhood and have a comfortable home on which we are still paying the mortgage.

Two years ago, out of the blue, my husband was given a pink slip. He was in total shock. He didn’t know how to break the news to me, but I saw something was drastically wrong. At first he didn’t want to tell me but I wouldn’t let go until he finally told me the shocking news. I became scared. We tried to reassure one another that it would be okay and that he would find a new position in no time. We decided not to tell the children. There was no sense worrying them. Thank G-d we had some savings to tide us over, and we were sure he would find new employment soon.

We soon discovered it wasn’t so simple. My husband went to headhunters, searched the help wanted ads, spoke to friends, relatives, casual acquaintances – all to no avail. The economic crunch that hit the firm at which he worked seemed to be prevalent everywhere, and soon the weeks turned into months and the months into a year. There was no job in the offing.

We couldn’t send the children to camp; we couldn’t go on our usual vacations. I had to think twice when I bought groceries – never mind new clothing. It was tough. We didn’t have to tell the children, because they figured it out for themselves. After a period of terrible frustration a friend advised my husband that, until such time as he would find a new position in a law firm, he should take any job that came along, even one in a bakery, supermarket, or restaurant.

“Doing something, no matter what, is better than being at home,” the friend said. It was a bitter pill to swallow. My husband’s initial reaction was indignation combined with anger, but then one day he made that painful phone call. It wasn’t easy. Jobs were not available even there. We davened as we had never davened before.

In retrospect, our tears and our prayers united us. I emphasize this because I know that under similar circumstances many families fall apart. There are two ways people can react to misfortune. They can fight, destroying their shalom bayis – even to the point of divorce. Or they can unite in prayer, in their belief in Hashem, and support one another. We chose the latter, and I advise all families going through stress to do the same. If you are in crisis and the foundations of your house are shaky, don’t burn the house down; do everything to keep it from falling.

Do you know who gave me this advice? You, Rebbetzin. When I came to see you, I remember you took me in your arms, gave me a berachah and said it would be all right. You told me we should keep doing our hishtadlus, not leaving a stone unturned, and intensify our mitzvos. At the same time, you said, we should be m’chazek each other and love one another even more. If Hashem sees that, help will come.

(To Be Continued)

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