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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
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I’m Afraid


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Yes, I’m afraid. When I say these words, most people do not understand, and they attribute my fears to the fact that I am a survivor and live in the shadow of my Holocaust experiences. Still others attribute my fears to “overreaction” and assure themselves there is nothing to worry about.  Fear, they rationalize, is a Jewish neurosis, identified with past generations, when our people lived in the darkness of the ghetto.

But today, things are different. Today we live in the United States, a free, democratic country, in which all people have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  And more – for the very first time in almost two thousand years, we have our own state and because of that, there is nothing to fear.

I wish I could be as confident as they claim to be, but I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Holocaust Europe, and so I write and speak wherever I can.

It is not Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or Ahmadinejad that I fear. Nor do I fear the United Nations, an institution notorious for its hypocrisy and anti-Israel bias. I do not fear the sophisticated intellectuals who camouflage their hatred of Jews behind politically correct pseudonyms that mislead all too willing ears.

What I do fear is our own people – yes, our own people who have forgotten who we are, who no longer remember that we stood at Sinai, that we heard the voice of G-d, that we belong to a priestly kingdom, a holy nation and that everything that befalls us is choreographed by Hashem and is a reflection of our own deeds, our own hands.

To be sure, there is nothing new about all this. It is a Truth that is a very pillar of our faith and is inscribed for all eternity in the Torah. The warning screams out to us from almost every portion, yet we refuse to heed it. How can it be that we are so blind? How can it be that after thousands of years we still fail to understand?

Our history is constant replay – again and again, tragedies befall us, yet we refuse to comprehend. It could all be so simple if we would be willing to understand. But no matter how unbearable our pain, how agonizing our suffering, we continue to reject it.  Every day, a Bas Kol, a Heavenly Voice, calls us, but we choose to remain deaf. We have shed our priestly garments and no longer recognize ourselves.

Time and again G-d sends His prophets to remind us that our destiny is different from that of all other nations, that our very existence is directly linked to our adherence to G-d’s commandments. Hashem has guaranteed our eternity, for we, the Jewish people, have been chosen to be His witnesses. Tragically, though, we fail to see the glory of our calling, and that is the painful reality of our long, tormented exile. We have seen mighty nation rise – only to fall even as we have endured and triumphed. Still we remain obdurate.

Even as a young child in Bergen-Belsen, I was aware of this Truth. My saintly father, HaRav Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, embedded it in my heart and soul. But I could never have imagined that before I would see the dawn, six million of our people would be consumed in the flames.

Despite it all however, by the grace of G-d not only are we here, we have reinvented ourselves. We have given new life to the great academies of Torah that once shone so brightly throughout the shtetlach of Europe, and we have returned to and rebuilt our ancient land. We have brought new life to the barren wasteland. We have planted gardens and forests, despite the constant barrage of missiles and rockets. Yes, miraculously we did it all and yet we still failed to see G-d’s guiding Hand.

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