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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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The Most Precious Phrase

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Nachman and Raizy Glauber, a”h, were killed in a horrific automobile accident. Their unborn baby survived for a short time but then joined his parents in olam haba. The tragedy shocked us all.

Try to imagine for a moment their parents anxiously awaiting that joyous call – “Mazel Tov – it’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy – Mazel Tov!” The phone did ring but it was not a “Mazel Tov.” The words they heard were beyond human imagination – their son, their daughter gone, and the baby in critical condition. And then another call informing them the baby, too, was gone.

The stricken family was left with one treasure – a letter Nachman wrote the day he went under the chuppah. They read it again and again. The letter is drenched in tears. Two salient words emerge – that most precious phrase: “thank you.”

Hakoras hatov – gratitude, appreciation – is a pillar of our faith. It is the theme of “Dayeinu” – the song of thanksgiving we recite at the Seder with such gusto. But do we realize the meaning behind the words? Nachman Glauber did. On the day of his wedding, when a chassan and a kallah are busy preparing for that great moment, he took the time to write a thank you letter to his parents.

That letter is now balm for the shattered hearts of his parents. That letter will live on even though Nachman is no longer physically here. That letter should give us all pause and cause us ask ourselves a possibly painful question: when was the last time we really said thank you – not to the doorman or the sales clerk but to our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our teachers?

I invite you to read Nachman’s letter (translated from Yiddish) with me and then to read it again:

To my dear parents:

In these imminent joyous and highly spiritual moments of my life, when I’m heading to my chuppah to begin my own family, I feel a sting in my heart that I’m already leaving your warm home.

I feel an obligation to thank you for everything you did for me since I was a small child. You did not spare time, energy and money, whether it was when I needed a private tutor to learn or an eye doctor or general encouragement. Also, later on, you helped me to attain spiritual heights through my Torah study, you sent me to yeshiva to learn your values, religious and worldly, until I reached this current lucky moment.

Even though I’m leaving your home (actually, I’m not leaving, I am bringing in an additional family member) I want to tell you that all the education and values you taught me I’ll – with G-d’s help – take along with me in my new home, and continue to plant the same education in the hearts of the children G-d will grant me.

But…children do not grasp what parents are, and how much they do for them, and only when [they mature] and – with G-d’s help – have their own children, they…realize it. And unfortunately I may have caused you a lot of pain; I am asking you to please forgive me.

I’m asking you, I’m dependent on your prayers, pray for me and my bride and I will pray for you. I pray to G-d that Daddy and Mommy should see lots of pride and delight from me and my special bride, until the final redemption of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, bimheira b’yomeinu.

From your son who admires and thanks you and will always love you.

Nachman

Time has passed and the tragic story of Nachman and Raizy will soon fade from our minds. New catastrophes catch our attention. Almost every day there’s a new terrible story and the old one is buried in yesterday’s papers. We have become immune to the suffering of others. We don’t hear. We don’t see. Yes, we hear the story. Yes, we read the news. We tell ourselves and our friends, “that’s so awful” – but then we quickly move on.

We are a busy generation. Even when we are at leisure and sit down for a few minutes, our hands keep scrolling and we shut out everything else. We don’t have time to pay attention to – to see and hear – the pain of our brethren, here or in Israel. We shrug our shoulders and say there’s not much we can do.

But as Am Yisrael we must have a different attitude. We have to know that, yes, we are our brother’s keeper. We must realize that the best way to say thank you to our Heavenly Father is to reach out to all his children with a helping hand and loving words.

We just celebrated Pesach. We gathered around the Seder table. We recalled our bondage, our torture, our suffering. We told the story. We remembered. But did any of us really stop to think? Or did we say, “Let’s move on, enough already, stop with all the commentary and interpretations.” We were hungry. The delicious aromas from the kitchen assailed our nostrils. We wanted to eat.

Now we go back to our normal lives. Pesach is over. We can have bagels and pizza and all the other things we like. We get back on our merry-go-round and don’t realize we are going nowhere. The theme of the Seder is gratitude – saying thank you, Hashem; thank you, Daddy; thank you, Mommy; thank you, Zaidie; thank you, Bubbie; thank you, my husband; thank you, my wife…etc.

The letter of Nachman Glauber must not be forgotten with yesterday news. We need to internalize it and make gratitude and thanksgiving an essential part of our lives.

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