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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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Purim Afterthoughts

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Purim is the one Yom Tov all Jews can celebrate. Special knowledge is not required and the demands of its observance are easy enough.

There are no restrictions, no prohibitions; we are simply called upon to rejoice and listen to the megillah with its story of the miraculous salvation of our people despite the evil designs of Haman. We exchange gifts, give tzedakah to the poor, dress up in costumes and celebrate at a festive seudah. In short, on Purim, we can experience joy without bounds; we need only plunge into it.

On Purim, the front door to my house, normally closed, is wide open. It simply takes too much time to respond to each ringing of the doorbell. As in all Jewish neighborhoods, young b’nei Torah come collecting for their yeshivas and people of all ages and backgrounds come soliciting for their various tzedakahs.

When the yeshiva boys come to my house and announce which school they are collecting for, I make a demand of them. “Not so fast,” I say. “Make it freilich. Let me hear a good song. Let me see a good dance. Give me a little d’var Torah. Come to the table. I have some cake there so that you can make a berachah and I can say ‘Amen!’”

We talk. I inquire about their families, where they reside, etc. I learned this from my revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, who was never content with just greeting people but always engaged every person in conversation and gave him a berachah.

As a young rebbetzin with small babies, I spoke daily at the Pineview Hotel in the Catskills during the summer months. I had the great zechus to have my parents with me every Shabbos. I am not exaggerating when I say it would take us over an hour to make our exit from the dining room, as my father would stop at every table and speak with every individual, giving each a blessing. That awesome legacy left an indelible impression on my soul.

I love all my Yiddishe kinderlach. They are proof positive that Am Yisrael continues to live and thrive. These are Yiddishe neshamalach who devote this day not only to celebrations with their families and friends but to going door to door raising funds for Torah institutions.

Of course, one needs to be wary. This year, a Hispanic-looking man wearing a yarmulke came through my door and announced he was collecting money for himself and his family. He explained that they were in dire need of support.

As I mentioned, I always have a tray of cake on the table and invite all those who come in to make a berachah. On my counter I also happened to have some food I was preparing. Without asking, this man went to the counter and helped himself to the food.

“I didn’t hear you make a berachah,” I said. “I always like to say ‘Amen.’”

He ignored me and just went on eating. I became suspicious and doubted he was a Jew.

“Do you know how to say ‘hello’ in Hebrew?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Do you know what we do as we enter and depart from a house?”

This time he answered “yes,” placing his hand on his lips and making some kissing sounds in the direction of the door.

“What is this called?” I asked, pointing to the mezuzah.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t think you’re a Jew,” I said. You just want to collect money from Jews.”

Before sending the man on his way I told him, “I will give you a few dollars because it is Purim and we are a compassionate people. But please don’t try to take advantage of our goodness in this way again.”

May Hashem grant that next year we will all celebrate in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, where we will eternally celebrate Purim even when Mashiach comes. May we see him soon in our own day.

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