Parshas Ki Tavo has come and gone. The tochacha - the curses - were read in our synagogues, but who was listening? Who heard them? If you were among those who did listen, the words had to have a chilling, eerie effect. Alas, they were not far-fetched predictions, but had an all-too familiar ring. We are the generation that can vividly recall the Holocaust. We are the generation that lives with the constant nightmare of yet more carnage. It is with trepidation that we tune into the news from Israel. Who and what will be next?
Special Note: In last week's column, I published a letter from a ba'alas teshuva of Russian descent. She wrote that her parents, having been raised in a communist totalitarian society, were atheists. In Russia, her parents were professionals, but here in the United States, they were unable to find employment in their given fields. This made them very bitter, and was the cause of much anger in her home.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I discovered your book, The Committed Life and I must tell you that it changed my own life. I come from an atheistic background and never gave Judaism a second thought until a Christian friend bought me your book as a gift. Since reading it, I have embarked on a quest to find out more. I guess I'm still not totally observant, but I am definitely heading in that direction. Most recently, I read your new book, The Committed Marriage, and that was an amazing experience. I only wish that I lived in New York City so that I could come to your classes and study with you. In any event, thank you for writing and sharing so much wisdom with us.
A basic tenet of our faith is that there are no random occurrences. The Hebrew word "mikreh" - something that happens coincidentally, also spells the words "karah me'HaShem" - happened by the will of G-d. To be sure, we never know definitive reasons for occurrences - they are beyond the scope of our human minds. But one thing is certain - nothing, but nothing, happens capriciously. It therefore behooves us to at least make an attempt to listen and try to discern the meaning of the messages that HaShem is sending us.
In last week's column, I published letters from two women who complained that they were experiencing crises in faith. One, a single woman in her early forties, an only child of Holocaust survivors, was devastated by the illness and subsequent death of her mother (her father had passed away some years earlier). 'What happened to all my prayers?' she asked.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I was referred to speak with you by Rebbetzin _________________, wife of the late Rabbi ________________________ of ___________. The rabbi, zt'l, was my spiritual mentor and good friend, and prior to his unfortunate passing at a young age, I found solace and comfort in his wisdom and advice.
Those of you who have been following my columns will recall that, time and again, I have pointed out that one can always find a correlation between the parsha and events that unfold before our very eyes. And this past week, Abu Mazen's visit to the White House was no exception.
A few weeks ago, I published a story entitled "Will Your Grandchildren Remain Jewish?" In that article I reported on a TV program that focused on intermarriage. As offensive as that situation was, nothing quite compared to an article that came to my attention through the good offices of Mr. Andrew Friedman, who is a prominent attorney and a leader of the Los Angeles Jewish community.
Dear Rebbetzin: Thank you for publicizing the very difficult issues facing our young teenage girls. While the at-risk behavior of boys has leveled off somewhat, there has been a dramatic increase in the at-risk behavior of girls. I have some insights into the problem that may be of interest to your readers.
Sometimes, messages come to us from the most unexpected sources. While, Baruch HaShem, there is currently a substantial upsurge in commitment to Torah and mitzvos, and statistics demonstrate that the Orthodox community is experiencing an unprecedented resurgence, sadly, there is also a flip side to this story.
As I write this column, it is motzei Shabbos, parshas Shelach, and the parsha demands that I address a subject which I have of late refrained from writing about.
Our first letter writer established a gemach for simcha gowns which she runs from her home. She has undertaken this mitzva with dedication and love, and gives of herself with a full heart. However, in order for a gemach to operate successfully, it is important that they be well stocked with quality merchandise... and here is where our letter writer has met with frustration.
Special Note: Several weeks ago, I received two letters regarding gemach problems. For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with the term, gemachs are organizations found in every Torah community to help families who are in financial straits. Interestingly enough, the two letters that I received describe gemach problems from different perspectives - one speaks about the responsibilities of the donors, and the other about the responsibilities of the recipients. They each make valid points that should be addressed.
For the past several weeks, I have published letters that focus on the problems of children and teenagers who, despite the fact that they are yeshiva students and come from good Torah homes, are nevertheless deprived.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:I am a 14-year-old teenager. I read your column regularly, as do all the members of my family. The letter that you published from "A Concerned Mother" who described the goings-on amongst teenagers struck a sensitive chord. Unfortunately, she was right on target.
Special Note: For the past few weeks, we have been discussing the sad state of little children who are abandoned to the care of maids.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I have a feeling that you will be inundated with endless letters and stories relating to those shared in your article entitled "Where Are The Moms And Dads?" I am compelled to share two of my own experiences with you.
Special Note: In last week's column, I published two letters expressing concern at the sight of parents dumping their children on caretakers so that they might better enjoy their Pesach vacation.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:I spent Pesach in what would appear to be idyllic surroundings. We stayed at a beautiful hotel, where we were served sumptuous meals and were entertained every evening of Chol Hamoed. Even the weather conformed. Our rooms were perfectly and strategically locatedoverlooking a spacious garden and in close proximity to the dining room. As such, I had ample opportunities to observe the children who played in this garden.
Special Note: I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to the many people who have written to express their good wishes for hatzlacha upon the publication of my new book, "The Committed Marriage." These letters are very meaningful to me and have given me much chizuk. Please forgive me if I cannot respond to each letter individually, but during the coming months I am scheduled to speak throughout the United States and I look forward to greeting you and personally signing your copy of my book.
As Jews and Americans, we have a special obligation to show our gratitude to Hashem. This obligation takes on special significance this year. Baruch Hashem, we have been witness to yeshuos Hashem - the salvation of G-d. While we could have expected terrible calamities to befall our brethren in Eretz Yisrael as the war was raging in Iraq, HaShem protected them.
Dear Friends: Before responding to your specific concerns, I would like to make some disclaimers: 1) Please bear in mind that whatever reasons I advance in response to your questions will not be definitive. 2) My column is not a forum for halachic discussion - that is in the purview of our rabbis.
I was recently invited to speak to our Jewish brethren in Australia. Prior to my arrival in Sydney, I received a phone call from a local resident asking if I could find a few minutes during my stay to visit her elderly, ailing father. She went on to explain that as a young man, her father had been in a slave labor camp in Szeged, the city of my birth in Hungary, where myfather, Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt'l, was the Chief Orthodox Rabbi. Prior to our deportation to the concentration camps, the Hungarians conscripted all the Jewish young men for slave labor, and our city, Szeged, was one of the major gathering places in which they were assembled prior to being shipped out.
Special Note: In last week's column I shared with you the first part of a letter from an American gentile who lives in Munich, Germany, describing the covert and overt anti-Semitism that continues to plague that country, and for that matter, the world. The letter once again reinforces the old truth, we remain "one lamb among 70 wolves" and those wolves stand ready to pounce upon us and devour us. We dare not forget that we have only One Friend, and that is Avinu She'Bashamayim, our Heavenly Father.
Special Note: A Kollel young man, while recuperating from illness read my book, The Committed Life, and with great chesed and hakoras hatov, took the time to write an in-depth letter (which will appear in two parts) to explain his views on the book and how it impacted on his life. I am pleased to share with you his analysis and insights. He is right on the mark! I wish him a refuah shleima and mazal and bracha and thank him for the chizuk that he imparted.