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August 2, 2015 / 17 Av, 5775
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Two Magic Words


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Last week I mentioned that I’d received numerous reader responses to my series of columns detailing my experiences in a San Diego hospital following surgery for a broken hip. I shared one such note with you last week. Here is another.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

Your articles speak to each and every person and always touch a sensitive chord in the heart. The letter in last week’s column was a case in point. The writer found strength and courage for herself and her ailing mother in your story of the prima ballerina.

The column that spoke to me most powerfully was “Our Calling Card: ‘Baruch Hashem,’ ” in the May 11 issue.

I have been married for thirty years. We have five children, and that is a “Baruch Hashem.” We have never been wealthy but have always been able to make our mortgage on time, pay school tuition, send our children to camp and take a family vacation now and then – and for all that, I can once again say, “Baruch Hashem.”

Last year our oldest daughter got married. An acquaintance recommended the young man, telling us he was wonderful on every level. All our inquiries substantiated this. From his rebbes, his friends, and his relatives we heard only good reports, so it was with great joy that we took our daughter under the chuppah and said “Baruch Hashem.”

And then, as if from nowhere, all my Baruch Hashems vanished and I could no longer utter those words.

Three years ago my husband had lost his job. No reasons were given. He had been working in that same position for nine years, but like many businesses his firm was impacted by the sluggish economy and many people were let go, my husband among them. Three years later, he has yet to find employment.

My husband is an attorney. He was employed by a prestigious New York law firm, but that made no difference. For a full year he tried to find another position, and when that didn’t work he was prepared to take any job, no matter how menial, as long as he was paid a salary.

Then calamity struck. He suffered a heart attack. We had thought things couldn’t get worse, but now they became intolerable. The one bright spot in the darkness was that Hashem had given us the wisdom to keep up the payments on his medical insurance. At least we had coverage.

And then came another shock. That “wonderful young man” my daughter had married suddenly decided he’d had enough – he wanted out. My daughter came home expecting her first baby. I didn’t know which way to turn.

“Baruch Hashem,” which I always said with such gratitude, was no longer on my lips. My younger children became very sad. Where yesterday our home was full of joy, now there was hardly any laughter. The question kept gnawing at me – What do I do?

I recalled one of your articles in which you recommended that when families find themselves in crisis, everyone needs to push up his or her sleeves and get to work in any way possible.

But I’d never had training in any profession. I was nineteen when we were married and soon after our marriage we received the good news that our first child was on the way. Any plans for a career were put on the back burner and I left school to become a full-time mommy.

We had received loans from gemachts and help from Tomchei Shabbos, Additionally, there is a wonderful tzedakah in our community that helps families in similar situations meet their monthly mortgage payments. While I was grateful for all that, I still couldn’t say “Baruch Hashem.”

In your May 11 column you wrote about your father, a tzaddik who, despite all his suffering, never forgot to say “Baruch Hashem.” Even when he could no longer speak, there were two words he managed to mouth: “Baruch Hashem.” And you wrote of your cousin, a rebbe who lost his rebbetzin and all children in the concentration camps. When he came to the United States, he remarried and hoped to start a new life. And then, once again, tragedy struck. His rebbetzin became mentally ill and had to be institutionalized, and his little children all became casualties. And yet whenever you called him, he always responded with “Baruch Hashem.”

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