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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Shopping For Priestly Garments


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

I receive letters and e-mails every day from all parts of the world. Sadly, there is no shortage of problems. Pain and suffering abound. How to navigate the turbulent waters of the world we live in is a challenge for everyone.

Every once in a while, however, I receive a letter that seems so outlandish I suspect it’s fictitious – someone playing a prank. Such was the case with the following e-mail.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I am so confused and troubled. I am scheduled to get married in two weeks. Two months ago, my father announced he had to go to Paris for a very important business deal. My mother loved the thought of going to Paris and decided to accompany him. Although we hadn’t finished our shopping for the wedding, we scrambled to find the right gown and while we couldn’t decide which one to take, we did settle on a certain designer.

“Anything that you choose there,” my mother assured me, “will be stunning.” As for Mom, she decided to get her gown in Paris.

When my parents returned, my mother took a look at my dress and thought it was awful. I had already paid most of the money – a huge sum – and they refused to give a refund. It’s now two weeks before the wedding, and it’s doubtful whether they can have a new gown in time. I am miserable. I have nightmares about looking ridiculous at my own wedding.

As I mentioned, my mother bought her gown in Paris and, frankly, it is embarrassingly tasteless. My mom and I have been fighting. We keep blaming one another. So what do we do?

I’m curious as to how many readers think the letter is authentic. Well, the fact is – I made it up. Why did I do it? Sometimes, in order to drive home a point, you have to draw a graphic illustration. We, you and I, we are the kallah and the mishpachah. The greatest day of our lives, the ultimate wedding, is quickly approaching, and to our chagrin we are unprepared.

You and I went to a couturier for a specially designed dress. We spent a small fortune on it only to discover we won’t be able to wear the dress on which we lavished so much money. At the end of the day, G-d forbid, we will stand like schnorrers begging for entree to a great wedding hall.

We, the children of the 21st century, are victims of an obsession with money. We idolize the latest in fashion and turn to Paris, Milano, and Madison Avenue for guidance. We will discover too late, G-d forbid, that what we dedicated our lives to is an abominable waste. The wedding is just around the corner, and we are totally unprepared.

We are in the midst of the Three Weeks, which signal the destruction of Yerushalayim that culminated in the tragedy of Tisha B’Av, when our Temple was reduced to ashes.

The Talmud teaches us that when the great sage Rabbi Akiva saw the site of the destruction, with wild animals roaming the holy grounds, he smiled and comforted us: “Even as this prophecy of destruction has come to pass, so too, shall we behold the prophecy of redemption and rebirth fulfilled. Messiah will come and the Temple shall once again glow in all its splendor and majesty, illuminating the entire world with the Word of Hashem.

Many centuries have passed. Our blood has flowed freely over the face of the earth, and it was not only sword and fire that consumed us but assimilation as well, swallowing up our children in the melting pot of the nations. And now we have entered a time in our history when the footsteps of Messiah are audible – that is, if we know how to listen. Soon we will have to go to that “great wedding” and, as in my fictitious letter, we will be mortified. Our garments will be ridiculously inappropriate.

So let us stop for a moment and ask ourselves how will we feel at that wedding when we meet the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. How will stand before our King, our Heavenly Father? Will we say we had to attend to our business or that we were searching for haute couture and therefore forgot the proper dress code? Will such rationalizations fly? How will we explain it all?

We wasted our money, our energy, our days and years – our very lives. We indulged in despicable language, we fought over stupidities, we hurt our dear ones.

Every morning in the Shacharis service we beseech G-d “to help us so that we might not have labored in vein and not have been born for naught…”

Alas, the vast majority of our people never utter these words. They are unaware they even exist, and those among us who do pray most likely say them by rote and never give a thought to their deeper meaning. But time relentlessly passes and the wedding is fast approaching. So let us ask ourselves, “Are we prepared? Do we have the proper attire or will we, G-d forbid, look ridiculous?”

Every leil Shabbos, as we welcome the Sabbath Queen, we sing a song of love in which in which we are called on to “rejuvenate ourselves,” shake off our dust and don our priestly garments. We can still go shopping for those garments, so let’s not fritter away our time as that great and awesome day draws ever closer.

Many years ago, I envisioned an outreach program that would go beyond anything known at the time. I even dreamed I would be able to gather huge crowds at Madison Square Garden for a great Jewish awakening.

I was determined to make that dream happen. I knew, however, that before anything else I would have to have the blessings of great Torah sages. I asked my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, to take me to those spiritual giants. Baruch Hashem, they all gave me their blessings and I felt fortified.

When we visited the zaken hador, HaRav HaGaon Henken, zt”l, he was very ill, blind in both eyes and hooked up to a number of IVs.

My father informed him of my mission and he gave me his berachah but he also imparted an amazing message that speaks to every one of us. He spoke in Yiddish and pointed to his eyes: “Tzvei shtick fleish – two pieces of meat. Men darf lernen vee lang dee tzvei shtik fleisch kenen noch zayen – we have to learn Torah while the two pieces of meat can still see. Tell this to every Yid.”

And then he sat down at the table with my father, reached for a sefer, opened it, and started to learn. I shall never forget that awesome scene. Two Torah giants learning the word of G-d. One of them had blind eyes but, amazingly, those two pieces of meat could pierce the densest darkness with words of Torah – words that give more than mere sight; they give vision.

Should we not absorb that lesson? Should we not go shopping? Should we not shake off our dust? Should we not don our priestly garments? Should we not be preparing for that awesome day when Tisha B’Av will become a joyous celebration, when the wedding of weddings will take place?

May we behold that day, our total redemption, speedily in our time, and may we all stand in our priestly garments.

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