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November 25, 2015 / 13 Kislev, 5776
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The Power Of A Grateful Heart

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

For several weeks now we’ve been discussing lack of gratitude – one of the most destructive forces in our society. When people think everything is coming to them, they become selfish, angry individuals. They do not know how to reciprocate. They do not know how to be grateful and, worse still, they become bitter and destructive elements in society. They make miserable sons, daughters and marriage partners. They have no regard for parents, grandparents, Torah teachers and the elderly.

They tell their parents, “I didn’t ask to be born – it’s your responsibility to take care of me.” Sadly, mom and dad fall into that trap. They try to cater to their children and are apologetic if they can’t quite meet their expectations. The children quickly discover they do not have to give or produce. They just have to whine and their desire for more and more will be satisfied.

On the other hand, those who grow up in the cradle of faith with a Torah attitude toward life respond much differently. No matter how agonizing the situation in which they find themselves, they summon fortitude. They do not become angry, nor do they crumble. For those who have faith, that flicker of light from Sinai keeps them going and gives them strength to go on even when they hit bottom.

I will now share an amazing story that will leave you with strength and hope. Place it in your heart and tell it to your children.

Many years ago Hashem granted me the privilege of launching Hineni – at Madison Square Garden, a first for the ba’al teshuvah movement. Among the thousands present that night was Shlomo Levin, the Israeli consul. Following the event he invited me to his office to meet with him.

“Rebbetzin,” Shlomo said, “I think our troops in Israel would greatly benefit from your message.”

I was taken aback. I should speak to the Israeli army about Torah? As much as I would have loved to do so, I couldn’t see myself in that position, so I demurred.

Unbeknownst to me, Shlomo had sent a publicity shot of me, microphone in hand, taken at the Garden, to the Israeli Army Entertainment Corps, and they mistakenly thought I was a singer. Some weeks later I received a call from army headquarters in Tel Aviv asking how many performances I was prepared to do. I did not know that they had no idea what I was all about. I was so moved by the fact that they had invited me that I had difficulty finding words. In a voice choked with tears, I accepted. However, after the initial excitement passed and reality set in, I realized I had many hurdles to overcome.

Prior to my speech at the Garden, there was a half hour of Jewish music and song to create a warm ambience. I wondered what kind of musical accompaniment I would have in Israel. And then, as if to show me that G-d had heard my thoughts, I received a call from a lawyer in Miami I had met when I spoke there and had the privilege of bringing back to the Torah way of life.

“Rebbetzin,” he said, “I hear you’re going to Israel. My sons and I would love to join you. Our hobby is jazz, but we’ll practice and pick up some Jewish songs. We would feel so honored to play for the soldiers.”

I would have much preferred a band proficient in Jewish music, but having no other options I convinced myself it might work and accepted their offer.

My first program was in Ramat David, one of the largest air force bases in Israel, and I must admit I was nervous. I had heard that Israeli audiences were tough.

The band was a great hit and they couldn’t wait for me, the “singer,” to begin my act. I froze in terror and wondered how I had ever allowed myself to get into this. I tried to keep my father’s blessing in mind: “Angels of mercy go with you, my precious child. May G-d give you the words to reach every heart.”

I heard my name announced and I wanted to run, but it was too late. I had no choice but to go on. “You are a Jew,” I told them in Hebrew. I began to relate the story of our people, of our covenant, of the Torah, or our long and painful saga, of our hopes and dreams, and of our return to the land of Israel after two thousand years in exile. As I looked out over the audience, I realized they were in shock. At first they didn’t know what to make of me, but then I noticed tears in many eyes. The spark from Sinai may have been dormant, but it never left their hearts.

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2 Responses to “The Power Of A Grateful Heart”

  1. Aryeh Sax says:

    She is a amazing person.

  2. Aryeh Sax says:

    This amazing person has survived hell in a death camp and inspired all who have heard her speak.

Comments are closed.

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