Latest update: May 22nd, 2013
For many years now our Hineni organization has been privileged to hold High Holy Day services in Manhattan. We rent one of the hotels in the heart of the city and transform the ballroom into a magnificent shul. Our davening is always exhilarating. The sanctity of the day totally envelops us. The prayers just soar and everyone is spiritually elevated.
These services had their inception about 14 years ago, and among the many people who joined us then was a wonderful family with two sons, Yitzchok and Baruch. Raizel, their gracious mother, always had a warm smile on her face. She would sit in the first row of the women’s section, eager to absorb every word. The kindliness that radiated from her eyes spoke volumes, and soon we became fast friends.
I discovered that behind that beautiful smile, Raizel carried a very painful burden. She suffered from a devastating disease – cancer – but she never allowed it to mar her happy countenance. Surrounded by her loving husband and adoring sons, she courageously rose above her illness and imbued her family with strength. Raizel was anxious to make shidduchim for her boys so that she might experience the joy of taking them under the chuppah.
One year we honored the boys at our annual dinner. On that very same evening, we also paid tribute to Chaya, a lovely young woman. As I looked at her and Baruch it suddenly hit me that they would make a great match. And so it was that Raizel had the nachas of walking Baruch under the chuppah.
But it was not so easy with Yitzchok. I introduced him to many prospective candidates. He agreed that they were all very nice girls, but not quite what he was looking for. Meanwhile, the disease was taking its toll on Raizel, and she became weaker and weaker. When we honored her at our annual Hineni Women’s League Luncheon, it was from a wheelchair that she delivered her powerful, heart-rending message. And then came the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur when Raizel’s seat in our shul was empty. She was in the hospital.
As soon as the holy day passed, we made Havdalah and broke our fast. I rushed to the hospital. Raizel’s loving family was all there, surrounding her bedside. When she saw me, she immediately summoned all her energy and greeted me with her usual warm smile. “Rebbetzin,” she beseeched me, “please find a good Jewish girl for my Yitzchok.” And it was with that hope that she went to shamayim and returned her holy soul to her Maker. Raizel may have ascended on high, but her words remained engraved on my heart. No matter how I tried, however, I could not come up with the right girl for Yitzchok.
One evening, I was teaching at Hineni. Following my Torah classes, it is my custom to speak to people one-on-one. I noticed a very handsome young man waiting to see me and I automatically assumed that he was looking for a shidduch.
“How old are you?” I asked, as discreetly as possible.
His eyes brimmed with tears. “That is not why I’m here,” he said in a choked voice. “My family resides in _____ [he mentioned a community in the Midwest], and my mother is very ill. She discovered your book and it turned her life around. From her sickbed she has been sending your book to family and friends. I was wondering if I could ask you to give her a call. It would mean so much to her if she could speak to you.”
I was deeply touched by the pure love and concern of this young man, Tzvi Dov. Not every day does one see such devotion from a son, and I assured him that it would be my honor to call her.
So it was that his mother, whose name was Devorah, and I became close friends. We would speak several times a week and I would share with her teachings of Torah, which she eagerly absorbed. The cancer, however, was relentless and continued to eat away at her frail body. But Devorah’s heart and mind were vibrant and strong, and even in her most difficult moments she never forgot to make the one request: “Please Rebbetzin, please make sure that my children find Jewish soul mates [all of Devorah’s children were still single]. And then came the day when Tzvi Dov called me with the painful news – his mother’s holy neshamah had departed.
Time passed, but I never forgot the voices of Raizel and Devorah, two magnificent Jewish mothers, leaving this world with a prayer on their lips that their children find Jewish soul mates and build true Jewish homes.
Then one day Tzvi Dov approached me with another request. Could I make his sister Rachel my priority for a shidduch? I had been thinking about it all along and considered various candidates – and then it hit me. Devorah and Raizel would be wonderful mechutanim, and Yitzchok could be the perfect marriage partner for Rachel.
It took some cajoling, some strong persuasion, since there were geographic logistics to overcome. Rachel was not a New Yorker, and both she and Yitzchok had successful careers that made it difficult for them to take time off to travel. But I was not about to give up, and the day came when Rachel and Yitzchok met and, not surprisingly, there was an instant connection. As much as there was a connection however, American culture endorses long dating periods and “relationships” but our Torah way advocates a short dating period leading to marriage. And Baruch Hashem, our Torah way won, and we had a mazel tov.
The wedding was a true Jewish simcha. Rachel, in her magnificent white gown, Yitzchok in his white kittel, radiated a special light – a light that came from the Heavens above… for alongside them were the two mothers, Raizel and Devorah, whispering prayers, shedding tears of joy.
One of the blessings that we make under the chuppah is “Same’ach t’samach ” The word “same’ach” (joy) is repeated twice, and we have a teaching that when two worthy children marry and all is done in accordance with Torah, permission is granted in the Heavens above for the parents to descend and join the celebration below. It was that light of the two mothers that shone forth from that chuppah – it was a light that Devorah and Raizel brought with them from Gan Eden.
The story is not over. This Rosh Hashanah, the newlyweds, Yitzchok and Rochel, were with us. Their love is so powerful that it spills over to everyone who meets them, but perhaps the one who is the most joyous for them is Tzvi Dov, for it was his devotion, love and reverence for his beloved mother that prompted him to come to Hineni and ask that I call his mom. It was he who made this entire story possible. Just think about it – the love of a brother, the love of a son how wondrous are the ways of Hashem.
On Rosh Hashanah, I told Rochel, Yitzchok and Tzvi Dov that I know for sure that the two mothers in the Holy Sanctuary Above are sitting next to one another, shedding tears of happiness as they watch their children daven and lay the foundation for a new Jewish home. Yes, the two mothers are dancing in the Heavens above. Their joy transcends time and place. A new Jewish family has been born. Mazel Tov!Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
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