web analytics
September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Putting Ideals Into Action (II)

If you are a blessing to others, life takes on a different meaning.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

For the past few weeks I have been writing about tzedakah and chesed. In my last column I published a letter from a mother who sought guidance on making tzedakah more meaningful and real in her children’s lives.

Baruch Hashem, the American Jewish community has been blessed with great wealth, and the tzedakah that has been forthcoming from America boggles the imagination. Consider the myriads of causes, institutions, groups and organizations here, in Israel, and throughout the world that have been built and founded by American Jewry.

This willingness to give is part of our Jewish DNA. Hashem Himself endowed us with it: “Veheyei berachah – you shall be a blessing,” G-d told our father Avraham. The charge of G-d is not “Be blessed” but “Be a blessing.”

There is a fine difference between the two, and given the choice we would all probably opt to be blessed. There are so many yearnings in our hearts, so many hopes, so many fears. We go for a berachah and we have so many problems that we don’t know where to begin: health, shalom bayis, parnassah, shidduchim, children, then good children – and before you know it, we add grandchildren to the list. Bottom line: it’s never over.

We all want to be blessed. Yet Hashem anointed our Patriarch with the immortal words “Be a blessing.” My saintly father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, would put it in laymen’s language. Often he would say to me, “Mein lichtig kind, zolst eemer kennen geiben; zolst kein mol nisht darfen beaten – My precious light, you should always be able to give; you should never have to ask.”

Throughout our long, painful saga, we Jews have always been givers, and I believe that has helped us to survive the savage onslaught of the nations, the ravages of poverty, and all the other suffering we’ve experienced throughout the millennia.

It’s quite simple. If you are a blessing to others, life takes on a different meaning. Even if your heart aches, you know you have to try to help someone else. Even if your body is fatigued and you don’t have the strength to move, somehow you find the energy to get up because you know that others are dependent on you.

I learned what that means early on in my childhood. As a little girl of five, I would go to play with someone who today would be called a “special needs child.” In Hungary we did not have such categorization. Special needs? To us, that meant we had to reach out to one another, because we all had needs that required help. Yes, even at that age we were imbued with the knowledge that we had to be a blessing to our friends and everyone else.

It was with this armor of “Be a blessing” that we responded to the barbarism of the concentration camps. I shall never forget my father’s instructions: “Try to smile, my precious child. And when adults will see a little girl smiling, they will find courage and hope. Be a blessing.”

When we came to America, my mandate to be a blessing gave me the strength to speak to my secular peers and invite them to our Shabbos table. That is how we learned to give tzedakah, and that is how we lived our lives. To us, tzedakah was not just writing a check; it was also giving with love and kindness. “Be a blessing” was emblazoned in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls.

And now to the paradox.

American Jews have certainly been a blessing to our brethren throughout the world. So how is it possible that this same community that has given so much, that has helped so many, that has been a blessing for those in need throughout the world, has also produced unbridled chutzpah, meanness, selfishness and self-centeredness? Where did we fail? What went wrong?

I know we tend to blame the new technological toys that dominate our culture – the iPods, the BlackBerries, the computers. But there must be something deeper than that. So once again I ask: How can two such diametrically different traits emerge from the same community? How can there be so much generosity and yet so much meanness?

Ask yourself: What do our children see at home? Who are their tzedakah role models? Let’s take a glimpse at what occurs in many of our homes.

Mom is in the kitchen preparing dinner. Eleven-year-old Benny’s cell phone rings. “OK, I’ll e-mail you the info right away,” Mom hears him say.

“Whom are you sending that e-mail to?” asks his mother. “What’s it all about?”

“Michael needs my notes to study for tomorrow’s exam,” responds Benny.

“Now wait a second,” his mother says. “Is this the same Michael who refused to help you when you asked? And now he has the nerve to ask you? Forget it! Don’t be a fool! Just tell him you don’t have it!”

As the years pass, the stakes get higher. Now it’s not just homework – it’s a job, a shidduch, a recommendation, a little help…but the seeds have been planted. Benny will always ask, “Why should I help? It’s tit for tat.”

In vain do Benny’s parents give tzedakah. The image that remains in Benny’s mind has rendered his parents’ checks meaningless, and the legacy of being a blessing is lost on him. He never saw it or experienced it.

Or take another example.

“Is that Jonathan kid still in your class?” Benny’s mother asks.

“Yeah,” Benny replies.

Muttering under her breath, his mother reaches for the phone. “I told them a hundred times,” she mumbles, “that kid does not belong in that class. He’s slow, he’s weird. I don’t want my Benny to associate with him.”

“Mr. Adler,” she says, annoyance seeping out of her voice. “How many times have I called you? How many times did I ask you to remove that kid? My Benny is an excellent student, and I have a right to demand that equally excellent students should be in his class! He just doesn’t belong there!”

Exasperated, she hangs up and instructs Benny not to play with “that kid” or invite him over.

Benny’s mother is known in the community for volunteer work. But all her volunteering will get her nowhere because she’s never taught Benny to be a blessing.

What it all amounts to is simple, and if we are to make it as Jews we must engrave this teaching of chesed upon our own hearts and the hearts of our children.

Every day when we recite the Shemoneh Esrei, we commence our prayers with “G-d of Avraham, G-d of Yitzchak, and G-d of Yaakov.” But we conclude the berachah with “Magen Avraham – Shield of Avraham.” Now, what is that shield? Yes, we have a Magen David – the Shield of David – but did anyone ever see the Shield of Avraham? The answer is a resounding yes. That shield of Avraham is the shield of chesed.

How well are we doing? Are we carrying the Shield of Avraham?

I would recommend that our sons and daughters see us, their parents, extend tzedakah with warmth and love. Let them see for themselves how to give with chesed, and let them learn it from us.

Be a blessing. It’s not a concept; it’s our very life. Once we teach this to our children, they will be fortified and not collapse as the fierce winds blow and threaten their lives.

Be a blessing!

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Putting Ideals Into Action (II)”

  1. Matityahu Ben-David says:

    Guess my family wasn't" blessed" because we had no cash – which has made it increasingly more difficult to date Jewish women who have "expectations".

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Dozens of children were traumatized but escaped injury Sunday morning when Arabs in eastern Jerusalem attacked their bus.
‘Benign Neglect’ May Be Setting Up Eastern Jerusalem Jews for Expulsion
Latest Judaism Stories
Hertzberg-092614

Perhaps the most important leadership lesson Elkana taught us is to never underestimate the difference a single person can make.

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

“he’s my rabbi” the Black painter said with pride, pulling out a photo of the Rebbe from his wallet

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

The Torah notes that even when we are dispersed God will return us to Him.

Rabbi Sacks

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

Our understanding of what is and what is not possible creates imagined ceilings of opportunity for us.

This young, innocent child gave me a powerful, warm surge of energy and strength.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that there are two forms of teshuvah; teshuvah m’ahava and teshuvah m’yirah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

A Role Reversal
‘Return, O Wayward Sons…’
(Chagigah 15a)

When the Kleins returned, however, they were dismayed to see that the renters did a poor job cleaning up after themselves.

In Parshas Re’eh the Torah tells us about the bechira to adhere to the commandments of Hashem and refrain from sin. In Parshas Nitzavim, the Torah tells us that we have the choice to repent after we have sinned.

As Moshe is about to die, why does God tell him about how the Israelites will ruin everything?

Jonah objected to God accepting repentance based on ulterior motives and likely for short duration.

This week’s parsha offers a new covenant; a covenant that speaks to national life unlike any other

More Articles from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

“There is nothing new under the sun” is as valid today as it was yesterday.

The time immediately preceding Mashiach’s arrival is likened to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.

If we regard pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Gratitude=Great Attitude. Appreciation is always appropriate.

The two words “thank you” have no time expiration; even if spoken after many years they’re as potent as ever.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/putting-ideals-into-action-ii/2013/10/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: