Special Note: Subsequent to the publication of my article on the conflict between a young woman and her mother-in-law, I received an avalanche of mail. I feel very saddened to share with you that these letters all reflected anger, resentment, and most tragic of all, a deterioration of what used to be the beautiful cohesiveness of Jewish family life.
My Dear Friend Allow me to preface my remarks by recalling a story about two brothers who lived in the holy city of Jerusalem. Their houses were at opposite ends of the city, and they were separated by a great mountain.
Today, the impossible has become our reality. Events are transpiring so swiftly, that we have difficulty absorbing them. Our generation is sleeping, and we have failed to react to that which is befalling us. So I felt compelled to devote my columns of the past month to those events. Nevertheless, despite the critical world situation, personal problems – family, shalom bayis, children, illness, continue to assail us. I receive hundreds of e-mail requests for help weekly from every part of the globe, and while, in the past, I published many of these letters, for the past few weeks I have been responding to them personally. Some of these e-mails, however, do not lend themselves to personal responses, but require the public forum of my column since many people are reluctant to identify themselves and write anonymously, or the letter writer hopes to convey a message that will be read by people involved in his or her problem. So I now return to addressing family conflicts through my column.
In last week's column I published a letter from a young man who felt that he was treated unfairly in his quest for a shidduch.
Special Note: When I wrote my most recent book, I weighed and considered what the most appropriate title should be, and although I examined many options, the title that kept repeating in my mind was "Life Is A Test."
Special Note: I have received an unusual volume of mail in regard to my articles on the discovery of Ilan Ramon's diary and the Shabbos prayer he planned to recite which miraculously survived fire and a plunge through space at thirteen thousand miles per hour.
I am interrupting the sequence of my articles to share with you some of my experiences in Europe. During the past few days, I have had the privilege of addressing the members of the Jewish communities of Amsterdam, Budapest, Berlin and London. While each community has its own unique character, there is a common denominator that connects them all, and that is the "pintele Yid," that spark from Sinai that HaShem engraved on the heart of every Jew, which, if ignited, can become a glorious flame of Torah.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I believe that my desires are very basic - world peace and good health, a big fridge for Yom Tov and a Passover kitchen (which I feel is a must for every home). So why am I writing you this letter, Rebbetzin?
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I have long been an admirer who has followed your work for many years, but this past week, you really outdid yourself. You were right on the mark!
It is 30 years this month since I spoke in Madison Square Garden and had the zchus (merit) to launch Hineni, our Kiruv-Outreach organization. In those days, the Jewish world was very different. Kiruv - outreach was virtually unknown, so I knew that something different had to be done to awaken our people.
In last week's column I published a letter from a mother who was concerned about the school pressures with which her 14-year-old yeshiva student son had to contend.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am not a native New Yorker. I was born and raised in a small out-of-town community. We were the only shomer Shabbos family in the neighborhood, and I never had friends. My parents struggled to give us a Torah education - it wasn't easy. When it came time to attend high school, we were sent away, and that was tough. I always envied my classmates who were able to return home from school every night to be with their families.. How lucky they are, I would think, since I was able to go home only on Yom Tov and other special occasions. I would tell myself that one day, with G-d's help, when I married, I would make certain that my husband and I would live in a community that provided a good choice of yeshivot so that our children would not be deprived of living at home and the pleasure of having friends with whom to socialize.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am writing to you from Jerusalem. My family and I made aliyah 15 years ago. One of the reasons why we took this step was because we wanted our children to be raised and nurtured in the holy air of Jerusalem, in a Torah atmosphere, and above all, to share in the incredible return of our people to the land.
At the genesis of our history, we encountered the heathen prophet, Bilaam, who was bent upon cursing our people. But despite himself, G-d placed blessings on his lips, and to this very day, we repeat those blessings in our prayers. Many centuries have passed since Bilaam spoke, but alas, evil people remain - people who are determined to curse us. But like Bilaam of old, despite themselves, they sing our praises. So it was when Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, one of the third world's most popular statesmen, addressed the leaders of 57 Islamic nations at a conference that he was hosting.
Special Note: In last week's column I published two letters from disenchanted singles. They expressed their concern, their loneliness, their pain - but more significantly, they blamed family members and friends for lack of chizuk - sympathy, understanding and support. The female writer complained that at family simchas, her suffering intensifies because no one bothers to acknowledge her presence, and she becomes invisible.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis; I won't be seeing my husband and children this Shabbos. I won't see them next week either. As a matter of fact, I won't be seeing them next month either. That's because I don't have a husband or children yet.
This is a season when memories crowd my mind - so many memories that are bittersweet -bitter, because they are now only memories, and sweet, because just recalling them infuses me with strength. I rush to the cemetery - I pronounce a prayer, I spill out my heart, I wash the grave with my tears, and I depart with an ache in my soul. If only they could be here.... if only I could see their saintly faces and hear their wise gentle voices.
In my last column I wrote of the anguish and sorrow that fills the hearts of our brethren in Israel nowadays, and I wrote of the all-too-real curses that are enumerated in Parashat Ki Tavo. There is one curse however, that at first glance, may be difficult to understand, but if you take a moment to think about it, you will realize how poignantly it speaks to us: "And it shall be, if you will not hearken to the voice of the L-rd your G-d to observe and perform all His commandments and all His decrees that I command you today, then all His curses will come upon you and overtake you" (Deuteronomy 28:58).
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.