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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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‘I Celebrate Your Holy Name’


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

I am postponing the follow-up to my previous column – “Technology, Yom Kippur, Ahmadinejad” – so that I might share with you a very personal experience.

As most of you know, in the final days of Pesach, while speaking in San Diego, I sustained a severe hip injury that required immediate surgery. While three of my fractures healed, the fourth did not. Every time I took a step (despite my constant companion, the cane), I was in pain.

To be sure, I continued with my normal schedule of speaking and teaching. My trips abroad, however, had to be put on hold.

For example, I had been scheduled to speak in France where I was especially anxious to address the Jewish community of Toulouse, the site of that horrific massacre of a rabbi and three children by a Muslim fanatic. We had planned to have a mass gathering of the Jewish community during which I was to present the widow of the rabbi with a Hineni medallion symbolizing that her pain was the pain of Am Yisrael.

From Toulouse I was scheduled to go to Marseille, Lyon, Paris, and Budapest, but all those events had to be rescheduled.

As the weeks and months flew by, it became apparent that more surgery would be required. The operation was to take place on October 10and I asked one and all to pray for me. In our computerized world, the Internet makes such requests an instant happening. I received calls, letters and e-mails for a refuah sheleimah from every part of the globe. I felt blessed and strengthened in the knowledge that my brethren were praying for me and wishing me well.

There were those who asked why I shared such private concerns with the public. My answer was simple: “The Power Of Prayer.”

Yes, I have witnessed the power of prayer many times. With my own eyes I have seen that when all else fails, when the skeptics declare the situation is irredeemable, the miracle of prayer turns everything around. We, the Jewish people, never give up. Our strength, our might, is in the voice of Jacob, the voice of prayer. That still small voice can vanquish all. With words that emanate from our inner hearts, we storm the Heavens and open gates that even the best locksmiths cannot open.

That is why I went public.

Though all was in place and I was scheduled for surgery, in my inner heart I was hoping for a miracle.

Even as I write this, I must tell you I fully realize that everything in life is miraculous. To undergo surgery and emerge in good health is itself an awesome miracle. I recall witnessing a car accident some years ago while walking to shul. It was a frightening sight and I davened for the man’s refuah sheleimah. A bystander, visibly shaken, said to me in Yiddish: “Rebbetzin, people think you have to go to a rebbe for a berachah to find a shidduch, parnassah, and so on, but truth be told, you have to go for a berachah simply to go forth from your home and return in one piece!”

So yes, everything is a miracle. Everything is under the guidance of Hashem.

In our morning prayers, when we bless G-d Who resurrects the dead, in that very same berachah we also praise His name for the miracle of rain. At first glance, this is difficult to understand. Can resurrection be compared to rainfall? Of course it can! Our sages juxtapose the two blessings so that we may forever bear in mind that one miracle is the same as the other, the only difference being our perception of the events. Rain is common – we witness it regularly, so we do not see anything unusual or miraculous about it. Resurrection, on the other hand, is something we never experience and therefore the whole concept is miraculous.

As I mentioned above, I am very much aware that all is miraculous, including successful surgery. Just the same, I beseeched G-d for a miracle that all would see and identify with the power of prayer. I was yearning to continue reaching out with the teachings of our Torah to our people in all the lands of our dispersion. I asked G-d that He heal me naturally, without human intervention.

“Hashem,” I pleaded, “please accept the prayers of our people and my own as well. Please perform a miracle that will be obvious to everyone and reveal Your Divine merciful hand. Let there be a sanctification of Your Holy Name. Let everyone see that You listen to prayers and bring about that which to the human eye appears impossible.”

Bear in mind that my Cat Scan and X-rays indicated surgery was in order. Against all logic, however, I prayed for the miracle of healing. When asked what time my surgery was scheduled, I would respond with an “if” – “if” it takes place. People looked at me in puzzlement. To which I responded, “I am hoping for a last-minute healing that no human hands can perform.”

I made a promise that if, in His infinite mercy, G-d granted me that miracle, I would, b’ezrat Hashem, share it with all our people. So I asked for yet another Cat Scan and hoped against all reason that it would validate my faith. I waited with bated breath as the surgeon examined the results.

He turned toward me with a big a smile. “Rebbetzin,” he said, “the healing process has commenced. You don’t have to come for surgery next week.”

My eyes became moist with tears of joy. I opened my book of Psalms and with a heart full of gratitude I thanked G-d.

To be sure, I am not out of the woods yet and have to return in a month to see if the healing process is continuing, but that does not diminish my joy. Anyone who walks the difficult journey of life knows no man is ever out of the woods. We are in constant need of G-d’s intervention and His guiding Hand.

My spirits buoyed, I called my children and informed my hosts in France, Hungary, Montreal, and wherever else I had been scheduled to speak. “We are on!” I say joyously. With the help of G-d I will once again have the privilege of teaching His Torah and disseminating His Holy Word.

During Sukkos this past week, the words in Hallel jumped out at me, saturating my heart and soul:

Keli Atoh” – “You are my G-d and I thank You, my G-d; I will celebrate Your holy Name. Give thanks to Hashem for He is good. His kindness endures forever.”

With profound gratitude,

Esther bas Miriam

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