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?
For many years now our Hineni organization has been privileged to hold High Holy Day services in Manhattan. We rent one of the hotels in the heart of the city and transform the ballroom into a magnificent shul. Our davening is always exhilarating. The sanctity of the day totally envelops us. The prayers just soar and everyone is spiritually elevated.
Every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur our Hineni organization is privileged to hold the most spectacular services. We take over one of Manhattan's grand hotels and convert the ballroom into a beautiful synagogue. The davening, the ambience, the entire atmosphere is something so awesome that there is no way that I could possibly describe it and do it justice.
It seems like almost yesterday when, after the Camp David accords initiated by President Carter, former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin, a"h, told me, "Rebbetzin, I have just returned from an American concentration camp. The pressure that President Carter exerted upon me was greater than anyone can imagine. And then, to top it off, he wanted to put Jerusalem on the bargaining table as well. When I vehemently objected, he tried to reassure me by telling me that we would not be negotiating, but merely 'discussing' Jerusalem." After all, the president added, 'There's no harm in discussing.'
In last week's column I related the story of a legendary city in which the harvest was poisoned and rendered people mad. The citizens were confronted by a hard choice -eat and become mad or die of starvation. After much deliberation, the king decided, "In order to live, we must eat, but we dare not forget that we have gone mad, so everyone must place a sign on his forehead reading, 'Don't forget, we are mad.' Thus, we will be able to gauge our actions and one day return to normalcy."
There's a legendary story about a kingdom, which was hit by tragedy one year. The entire harvest was poisoned and everyone who ate of it went crazy. The good citizens were at a loss, not knowing what to do. If they were to eat, they would become mad. On the other hand, if they refrained from eating, they would starve to death. What to do?
In last week's column, I published a letter from a divorced gentleman of 52 who took exception to an e-mail written by a single professional woman who wrote that she regretted wasting precious years building a career rather than focusing on a home and family. She complained that at this point in her life, the shidduch recommendations made to her are very often men who are incapable of earning a living. She stated that she couldn't possibly consider such individuals for a husband and referred to them as "losers." It is this term, "loser," that prompted the gentleman's letter and his vehement objection.
A few weeks ago I published a letter from a 45-year old single professional woman who expressed regret at having placed career before marriage. She bemoaned the years wasted and the opportunities lost for bringing children into the world and establishing a true Jewish home. In my response, I told her that it's never too late - that rather than agonizing over the past, she should concentrate on the here and now. I told her to bear in mind the many miraculous happenings of our past as well as the amazing stories of today of all the singles who, through the many mercies of Hashem and modern medicine, do marry and have children later in life.
There is so much tragedy, so much sham in the world, that people no longer know how to make a distinction between emes - truth, and blatant falsehood - and we Jews suffer from this plague more than others. Israel is constantly under attack, constantly demonized by a world that has become increasingly anti-Semitic, by a world that would secretly be happy to G-d forbid, see yet another Holocaust unfold.
In last week's column I published a letter from a woman in her late forties, a physician, who, despite her success, is very unhappy in her personal life. She is the child of a troubled family. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. The separation was traumatic and left much bad feeling in its wake. The young woman was determined to make a life for herself and, in doing so, somehow missed her opportunity to marry and build a family.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I just finished reading your book, The Committed Marriage. How I wish I had discovered this wonderful book years ago. How different my life could have been.
My daughter, Slovie Jungreis Wolff, author of, Raising a Child With Soul, conducts our Hineni parenting classes. A very painful situation befell one of the young couples that attend her seminars. Like a bolt out of the blue, their five-year-old little girl was struck by devastating illness - a brain tumor. Lily (Leah Chana), an adorable precious child, fought bravely throughout endless tests, procedures, and treatments. My daughter visited her and was awed by her faith and courage. Her story impacted on the entire class, and everyone committed to more mitzvos, prayer and tzedakah on her behalf.
It is the month of Tammuz, and in a matter of days, we will inaugurate the month of Av. This is a period that from the very genesis of our history has been marked by tragedy.
As has often happened in the past, I am writing this article on an El Al plane en route to New York. At least once a year, we have a Hineni tour to Eretz Yisrael. They are always amazing and life transforming. Every day is unique and has its own flavor; every day is miraculous and spiritually elevating -this year's tour was no exception. My granddaughter, Shaindy Wolff Eisenberg, who is in charge of our Hineni activities in Israel, suggested we make this tour a "Navi event, that we trace the paths of our patriarchs and prophets.
From time-to-time, I share my personal semachos with my extended family, you, my dear readers of The Jewish Press. So it is my zechus (privilege) to publish, in this column, an article that my daughter, Slovie Jungreis Wolff (Hineni lecturer and author of Raising a Child With Soul) wrote for Aish.com, on the occasion of the Bat Mitzvah of her daughter Aliza.
In last week's column I wrote about world condemnation of Israel and, once again, she is being ostracized. This time it's because of the Flotilla fiasco. She is even castigated by her loyal friends, including Jews, for her inept PR. Even if Israel had the most brilliant, eloquent, and articulate representatives speaking on her behalf, she would still be demonized.
I am interrupting the sequence of my articles regarding questions posed by widows and widowers. B'Ezrat Hashem, I will continue that discussion in future columns. But for now, I feel compelled to address the tragic events that have once again unfolded in Eretz Yisrael. I would also like to remind our readers to daven and say Tehillim for the valorous wounded Israeli soldiers who were so savagely attacked. I make a special point of this because shockingly, I have discovered how few of us stop to consider the pain of our brethren.