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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.

As I said, I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Hitler Europe. Once again the nations are bent on swallowing us, and, as always, there is no one to come to our aid, no one to even raise a voice on our behalf. Once again, we are reminded of the eternal words of our Torah: “They are a people that dwells alone and not reckoned among the nations.” We are like “one lamb surrounded by seventy wolves,” all to remind us that our salvation can come from only One source – our Heavenly Father.

Time and again G-d has impressed this Truth upon us. Not only did He engrave these words in our holy writ; not only did He send His prophets to remind us, but He constantly speaks to us loud and clear. And yet we fail to heed His messages, and that is what I fear. Our generation has seen darkness and light. We have seen the most painful, the most tragic, and also the most spectacular, the most miraculous.

I am not only referring to the Holocaust, but to the brutal designs of our neighbors who are united by only one purpose – to slaughter our people.  They surround our tiny state and encamp on its borders, but miraculously we have survived in this sea of murderers. But still we still fail to see the Hand of G-d; we refuse to hear His voice calling us.

Consider only the recent attack on Ashdod. On Shabbos afternoon as our people gathered to daven Minchah, Ashdod was hit by rockets. Such an onslaught could have resulted in catastrophe, but while there were some injuries, Ashdod held fast. Although a synagogue and a school suffered a direct hit, miraculously, the building was empty. This synagogue usually has a large minyan in one of the classrooms, but on that Shabbos, services did not take place. The gabbai was not feeling well and could not make the necessary preparations. Just think about it.

All those who came to see the site were awestruck. It was an open miracle. Had the gabbai not been ill, had services taken place, the tragedy would have been too painful to contemplate. And there was more. The place was covered with shattered glass and debris; everything in the room was damaged – but the Holy Ark and the Torah within remained untouched.

But there was still more. Just two hours later, another rocket hit a parking lot, setting cars afire, but the adjacent building escaped damage. Miraculously, the rocket exploded near a large gas tank. Had there been a direct hit, the result could have been catastrophic.

Coincidence or the Hand of G-d? Yet we fail to see it – we fail to understand.

Darkness and light in the very same breath, and once again, I ask, Coincidence or the Hand of G-d?

It is the blindness of our people that I fear.

When will we wake up? When will we don our priestly garments and fulfill our G-d-given destiny and be “a light unto all mankind?”

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