I've often written and said that we are living in remarkable but dangerous times in which we can hear (provided we know how to listen) the footsteps of the Messiah. Ours, however, is a generation that has difficulty hearing.
Those of you who have heard me speak or who read my columns and books know that whenever I opine on a subject I try to base what I say or write on our Torah and the teachings of our sages. There are so many things taking place so rapidly in front of our eyes that before we can absorb one event, another one unfolds. This rapid succession is so overwhelming that it allows us no time to think.
My father of blessed memory, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, would tell me that when I speak or teach I should always ask myself what message the listener will take home that will infuse him with strength and help him cope throughout the year.
Many moons ago, when I was a young Rebbetzin, I had a vision - to awaken American Jews and bring them back to Am Yisrael. In those days, Israel Bonds would hold an annual celebration for contributors at Madison Square Garden. If you bought a bond for "x" number of dollars, you were entitled to a free ticket and could participate in what was called a "Spectacular" at which Hollywood stars entertained.
In last week's column I began my response to the woman who wrote expressing her fears regarding the escalation of anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel throughout the world. I explained that our Sages and Prophets predicted it; they tell us that what we are witnessing today isikvesi d'Mashiach - a period in which we can hear the footsteps of the Messiah and experience the birth pangs that will precede the coming of that great day.
Several weeks ago I published a letter from an elderly Holocaust survivor who expressed her fear regarding the world situation, specifically the hatred of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism that is reminiscent of pre-Holocaust Europe. Her letter provoked a torrent of e-mails from young and old readers, several of which I published, but I had not responded to her directly. B'ezrat Hashem, I will do so now.
For the past several weeks we have been discussing the anti-Semitism that plagues our generation and the horrific consequences that, G-d forbid, this might portend for our people.
Several weeks ago I published a letter from a woman who expressed fear and trepidation at the escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world and the possibility of yet another Holocaust, G-d forbid. Her letter evoked much comment. I was deluged with e-mails, several of which I published. Among those letters was one, written by a Jewish student at UCLA, that left many Jewish Press readers appalled. Among other things, he condemned the older Jewish generation, which, he wrote, is obsessed with the Holocaust.
I had planned to respond this week to the letter from the UCLA student (which appeared in the March 11 issue in response to a letter the week before from an elderly Holocaust survivor), but so many e-mails have reached my desk that I decided to devote yet one more column to reader reaction.
In my March 4 column, "What's Happening in the World? - I'm Afraid," I featured letters from two women who wrote of their fear at what is going on in the world. The second letter, from a Holocaust survivor, was particularly descriptive, as the woman decried the escalation of anti-Semitism, the savage terror attacks in every country, and the barbaric, murderous attacks on our people in Eretz Yisrael.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am not Orthodox, nor am I actively involved in Jewish life. My background is Reform. My family attends High Holiday services; we are not kosher, but my parents have a seder on Passover - though we don't strictly observe the law of not eating bread during the entire holiday. My parents would never consider bringing really non-kosher food like ham or bacon into the house, though they do eat everything in restaurants. They are devoted to the land of Israel and they raised us with good Jewish values, and I visited Israel with our Temple youth group.
Special Note: I would like to thank the many people who have written expressing their appreciation for my series of columns titled "When Children Fall Through the Cracks." I am most grateful for the overwhelming response and I hope everyone who wrote will understand that while I would have liked to publish all the letters, for the time being I am closing the discussion to focus on the many other subjects that have reached my desk.
For several weeks now I have been running a series on the plight of parents whose children who have "fallen through the cracks" and the painful ramifications both suffer. I hope to conclude the discussion with this column.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis, As a regular follower of your columns, I am aware you are writing about your recent journeys that took you throughout the world on a mission to bring Torah to our people. I truly appreciate the importance of your work and have personally met many people who have become Jewishly committed after hearing you speak or reading your book. Nevertheless, may I be so presumptuous as to ask you to interrupt your series and respond to my letter, which is critically urgent?
In last week's column I described some of the nerve-wracking aggravation inherent to travel. Going to Eretz Yisrael, however, is different. There, everything is different, because Eretz Yisrael is our land. Hashem gave it to us to be our eternal inheritance. So no matter how long we may have been away from her, the land remains as close to us as it was thousands of years ago. We have a teaching, "Whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign for us, their children. In other words, everything is replay.
For the past month I've been on the road, crossing continents and addressing Jewish communities wherever they are. I go from the airport to the local synagogue or some other venue where people gather. Invariably I am asked, "Rebbetzin, how do you do it? People younger than you cannot keep up with such a schedule. Travel is so difficult. Don't you find it exhausting?"
In last week's column I published two letters regarding simchas (joyous occasions). One was from a grandmother and the other from a gentleman who had just made his daughter's wedding - the first simcha in his family.
We live in a very chaotic world. If we stop to consider what is happening around us - all the things that are out of our control - it can be frustrating and frightening, so most of us try to bypass these situations by pretending we do not see them.
I was in Brazil, speaking to the Jewish community of Sao Paulo, when the sad news of the petira of Irene Klass reached me. Many memories, many scenes, many conversations and experiences flashed through my mind. With Irene's passing, a whole era - a whole way of thinking, of values, of goals, of idealism - disappeared. Irene had a sense of mission and never allowed politics, petty jealousies or territorial considerations to influence her.
I've received an inordinate amount of mail in response to the letters I published two weeks ago regarding onas devarim - painful and abusive language. It seems this problem is prevalent in many circles, among children as well as adults, indicating this is a societal condition that is unfortunately reflective of our culture.
In last week's column I published letters from two women who wrote about the terrible ordeal from which many of our people suffer. In the Torah, such an affliction is called "onas devarim" - verbal abuse. While we are all familiar with the prohibitions regarding lashon hara (gossip), the prohibitions regarding onas devarim are less known. In fact, most people are not even aware of them. The following is my response:
Dear Rebbetzin: I am not sure whether this is the right forum in which to discuss my concern, but I am hopeful that your widely read column can be used as an arena to air this issue.
For the past two weeks my column has been devoted to the plight of seniors who find themselves incapacitated and in the unfortunate situation of being placed against their will in nursing homes. For various reasons, their children are unable to care for them or engage proper help to safeguard their well being.
In last week's column I wrote about the sincere Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur resolutions that we make year after year - the commitments we make to change, to become better, kinder, people, and the promises we make to become more devoted Jews, more loyal to Torah and mitzvos.
The High Holy Days are over. It was an awesome spiritual time - when we probed or souls, asked profound questions and tried to determine what our lives are all about. We made resolutions - each in our own personal way - committed to being better Jews. We promised to become better ambassadors of Hashem, more meticulous with mitzvot, more devoted and zealous in doing acts of loving kindness, and in general, become more dedicated to our Torah and all that that implies. And now comes the big question: Are we still determined to make that change?