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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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Our Jewish DNA


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

I’d like to share with you a story I believe is a wonderful gift we can present to Hashem now that the painful summer months of Tammuz and Av – months that saw the destruction of our holy Temple – are nearly upon us.

The story is an awesome testimony to the chesed of our people – a trait we inherited from Avraham Avinu and from all the Avos and Emahos of Am Yisrael. This chesed is part of our Jewish DNA and no cultural mores or societal pressures can erase it.

As regular readers know, I have written several columns regarding my recent hospitalization and surgery in San Diego for a broken hip. In one of those columns I described the painful experience of learning to walk again. Jeanette, my physical therapist, would ask daily, “Rebbetzin, level of pain – one to ten?”

I never quite knew how to evaluate “one to ten.” In my mind it was always a ten, but to please my kind, caring therapist I would choose a number and always add, “Baruch Hashem.”

“What are those words you always add to your numbers?” she asked.

“Baruch Hashem means ‘blessed be G-d,’ ” I told her, and then I proceeded to explain the full meaning of those two magical words that have been the hallmark of our people since days of yore. The hospital had a negligible Jewish presence, but whenever I come in contact with non-Jews I make a point of following the dictates of our Torah, which calls upon us to be mindful that it is the Divine words from Sinai that evoke respect among the nations.

As a result of that column I received a slew of letters and e-mails, a few of which I published. One of these letters came from a woman who described her ordeal after her husband, an attorney, lost his job because of the financial downturn. Several years had passed and he was still unemployed.

Additionally, she had to struggle with many new and painful issues. She wrote that while in the past she had always said “Baruch Hashem,” she could no longer utter those words. She felt alone, abandoned, enveloped in darkness. However, after she read my column she forced herself to place “Baruch Hashem” on her lips again.

After her letter appeared in The Jewish Press, the most beautiful phone call came to our Hineni office. It was from a gentleman who resides in Boro Park. “I would like to offer employment to that attorney,” he said. “Ask him to call me.” And he left his number.

In a climate where jobs are few and hard to find, to receive such a call is indeed a beautiful testimony to the chesed that was engraved on our hearts by our father Abraham and became part of our Jewish DNA.

Just stop and consider for a moment: Based on a letter in The Jewish Press, a man offers employment to a total stranger and leaves his telephone number. For all he knows, the man could be unstable and create problems in his office. Conventional wisdom dictates “Mind your own business; don’t get involved!” But this man chose to reject that and follow the ways of our Torah.

Now, the woman’s letter had been written anonymously. Most people who write of their personal problems are hesitant to reveal their names. I remembered, however, a very kind lady full of chesed telling me a similar story. After many years of service, her husband was let go and could not find employment. I had difficulty recalling her name. I meet countless people daily, and while I always remember their faces I have given up even attempting to remember their names. After some detective work, I did find a name and a number and made the call.

The woman who answered was overwhelmed by the news but – and here comes the big but – while the facts matched (her husband was an attorney and he had been searching for work for several years), she was not the woman who had written me the letter I published.

“I don’t know if I have the right to give this phone number to my husband,” she said, “since the Rebbetzin had someone else in mind. I would like to hear a decision from a rav as to whether my husband has the right to call this man for a position.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Most people, if they found themselves in a similar situation, would happily grab the job and run with it.

Her words left me nonplussed. Who but the children of Avraham Avinu would be capable of such chesed in our selfish “me”-centered world?

I called the gentleman from Boro Park to express appreciation and give him berachas. He assured me it was his zechus, merit, to do what he did, and if there was anyone to thank, it was his wife, who inspired him to make that call.

How many men in today’s world would credit their wives? But this too is part of our Jewish DNA. Was it not our father Abraham who gave the ultimate praise to our mother Sarah when he said to the angels, “Behold, she resides in the tent of Torah.”

As I was writing this column, my brother, Rabbi Yonoson Binyamin, called. He was checking on me and wanted to know my level of pain. As always, we spoke about our saintly parents and he recalled a beautiful d’var Torah from our revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l. In explaining why the Torah commences with the letter “beis” rather than “aleph,” our father taught that “beis” is two, and if you wish to have berachas, “hob in zeen” – bear in mind – the needs of the other.”

As the story I related above attests, the chesed of Am Yisrael endures and we have never forgotten d’ yukna shel aviv – the image of our saintly fathers.

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