For the past couple of weeks I’ve been writing about my beloved saintly husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l. Every once in a while I receive powerful “regards” from him as I do from my revered holy father, HaRav HaGoan Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, and from my beloved mother, the eishes chayil Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a”h.
These “regards” always buoy me. They enter my heart and evoke tears – not tears of sadness but tears of inspiration, of hope and strength. They lead me back along the road these holy ones blazed for me, as well as for my siblings, my children, and all of Am Yisrael.
I am writing this column on an El Al flight to Eretz Yisrael. As I made myself comfortable in my seat the idea came to me to write about “regards from the heavens above” – from our parents, our spouses, all the great ones who preceded us.
I got up from my seat and went to wash. As I made my way back, a kindly gentleman with smiling eyes and a white beard stopped me and said, “Rebbetzin Jungreis, all of Am Yisrael is indebted to you,” and he proceeded to enumerate many of my activities in bringing people back to Torah and lighting up their hearts with the spark of faith.
He went on to tell me that he knew my father, “the tzaddik.” He experienced firsthand his love, warmth, boundless kindness and wisdom. I couldn’t believe it. Just a few minutes before I’d been thinking I should write about “regards” from our loved ones. Now I receive “regards” and I feel empowered. Coincidence? No. I do not believe in coincidences.
The Hebrew word for coincidence is mikreh. It comes from “karah min Hashem – it happened from G-d.” Every day in our morning blessings we recite “Hameichin mitzadei gaver – G-d arranges our footsteps.” You must only learn how to listen.
Amazingly, there was yet another gentleman on that flight who gave me “regards.” This time it was from my saintly mom, whom everyone affectionately called “Mamma.”
Rebbetzin,” this man said, I grew up in Brooklyn, in Canarsie, where I went to the yeshiva your father built.”
Immediately my mind was filled with images of that yeshiva. As soon as we arrived in America in 1947 my father saw that Judaism in this country was in danger. The winds of assimilation threatened to blow our Jewish faith away.
So my father worked day and night. He knocked on every door to build a yeshiva where children could study Torah and reclaim their heritage. With the help of G-d the yeshiva was established. This fellow passenger on the plane to Israel remembered it vividly.
And then he said something about my mother: “Rebbetzin, above all else your mother was a true ‘Mamma’ to everyone.”
Every morning my mommy would get up at the crack of dawn and cook a fresh lunch and bake delicious cookies for all the kinderlach – the precious children of Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel.
Mamma stood by the door waiting for them and would greet each one with a cookie and a request: “Make me a berachah out loud so I should be able to say oomain.”
The world has changed. The “Mammas” are gone. Today we don’t have time to stop for a moment, give a cookie, ask for an “oomain” and wish the children hatzalachah in their learning as they embark upon a new day. Today there’s no one at the doors of our schools to greet our children and encourage them in their studies.
Have you ever received “regards” from the Heavens? Blessings and a hug? I’m certain you have, but you may not have been listening. You’re too busy for such nonsense. You’re on the run and never stop to think where it is you’re running to. I’ll tell you the blunt truth. You’re running nowhere.
I’m still on the plane trying to digest it all. Two “regards” – one from Mommy and one from Tatty – on the same flight. Can that be possible? Yes, if one is flying to Eretz Yisrael, the land of our legacy.
There are some more “regards” I will share with you. For that I will go back to my beloved husband, the “gentle giant.”
To be continuedRebbetzin Esther Jungreis
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