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August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
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Two Little Words That Go So Far

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

We may not realize it but there are two little words – easy to pronounce, no college education required – that are awesomely powerful. They can gladden the heart more than the most expensive gift but are seldom spoken from our hearts.

The following letter expresses those two words loud and clear: Thank you. There is no time expiration, and even if spoken after many years they’re as potent as ever.

Next week I will, b’ezrat Hashem, try to explain why it is so difficult for so many of us to sincerely convey those words to others.

Dear Rebbetzin,

I don’t know if I ever personally thanked you so I wanted to do it now. I grew up in Westchester, New York, and never had any contact with Orthodox Jews. Fast forward to the year 2001: I was 37 years old and single and had been spending my time looking for love in bars in Manhattan and the Hamptons. One day I got a call from one of my oldest friends who told me she was pregnant with her second child. At that point it really hit me: all of my oldest friends were married with at least one child.

So I sat down and had a talk with my sister-in-law, my brother’s wife – a non-religious girl from Brooklyn. She asked me what I was looking for. I said a Jewish guy, of course, because I wanted my children to be Jewish. She suggested I try a Hineni singles event in Manhattan. Worried I’d feel out of place, I was inclined to dismiss the idea. But I realized that whatever I’d been doing hadn’t worked and it was worth taking a chance.

When I arrived at the event and entered the sanctuary, I was shocked at how packed it was. I had to stand in the back. I was impressed seeing so many well-dressed people. This, I thought, was where I needed to be. The odds of meeting someone appropriate here was far greater than the odds of meeting that person in any of the other places I’d been looking.

Of course I came the next week. I had a great time and met some nice people. When I went for a third time, I got there early enough to get a good seat. Feeling more comfortable with the surroundings, I was able to really focus on the woman speaking at the front of the room – you, of course.

I had never heard words like Chumash or parshah before. You started to read aloud in the Hebrew and then translated the words into English. I was blown away by your interpretation and delivery. I had tears in my eyes. I had never heard any of this before.

The more I realized how little I really knew, the more I wanted to learn. The more I attended your classes, the more I understood. I began to talk to my family about all the things I was learning. They thought I was a little crazy but I guess it was a change from hearing me talk about my latest trip to a party.

I started meeting people at your mingles who shared my thirst for learning the truth about who they are, why they are here, and what is expected of them. I felt so connected. They invited me to other baal teshuvah events in the city and over the course of a year my friends, my activities, and the focus of my time and thoughts drastically changed.

I felt part of something so big and was grateful for the privilege of being able to tap into a system that had been around for thousands of years.

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