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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘AI’

Shalom Bayis – Building A Family (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Special Note: For the past two weeks, my columns have focused on ways and means to establish shalom bayis in our homes and our families. The following is the third installment of this series.

Peace is a most precious gift. Our sages teach that in its absence all our attainments are of no avail.  If we do not have shalom, we have nothing and how well those who lack it know this. Even the most magnificent palace, even enormous wealth, cannot compensate for turmoil, animosity and abuse. Sadly, our generation is plagued by conflict and contention…. contention between husband and wife, contention between the generations, and contention in families and communities. All this despite a plethora of self-help programs including therapy, vast amounts of literature and programs dedicated to the subject. Can it be that there is something in our value system that contributes toward splintered relationships and fragmented families?

There is a saying In Yiddish, “Azoy vee es…. ” the way the non-Jewish world goes, so goes the Jewish world.” So let us, if ever so briefly, examine some of the most popular adages of our culture and determine whether they are in consonance with our Torah way of life.

1) “It’s my life ” I owe it to myself. It’s time for me to be selfish.” People bent upon breaking up their families often try to justify their actions with such rationalizations, but is this the Torah outlook? Is it really your life? Does the Torah endorse selfishness? These are popular adages that people parrot and have accepted as non-debatable truths, but do they conform to our Torah way of life?

Very often, when people tell me, “It’s my life,” I challenge them with “Really? What part of your life did you create? Your eyes? Your ears? Which organ? Which limb? Moreover, did you will yourself to be born? Did you choose to be a child of the family that gave you life, or was it all the Hand of G-d?”

Our lives are gifts from Hashem for which we are eternally indebted to Him. Consequently we have a responsibility to safeguard and justify the gift of life that He gave us. In keeping with this idea, just before the conclusion of our prayers, we pronounce a most poignant prayer: “Please G-d, grant that I should not have labored in vain, and that I should not have been born for naught.”

No, our lives are not our own to do with as we wish. Our souls, our very bodies were given to us by our Creator to fulfill the special purpose for which He created us. So next time someone tells you “It’s my life, don’t just sit by silently, but remind him that one day he will have to give an accounting, not just of every day that G-d granted him, but of every minute… even every second, that he spent on this earth. So when, G-d forbid, someone abuses his/her family, it’s not one’s personal business. Rather, it is the business of the entire family and more -the entire nation, for with every splintered family, the fabric of the nation is weakened.

2) Scapegoating “It wasn’t my fault…. I’m just a victim”is yet another rationalization that people use to justify their aberrations and betrayals. There is nothing novel about this rationale. It is as old as man himself.

Adam, the first man, invoked the ire of G-d when he responded to G-d’s question of Ayeka – Where are you?” – that can also be read as “Eichah ” How?” (How did you do this?), with the infamous words: HaIshah – the woman that you gave me… she made me do it.” Thus, he was the first to shirk responsibility and scapegoat. The woman followed suit and pointed her finger at the nachash – the serpent. Both of their responses were unacceptable to Hashem. The Torah demands that, instead of accusing others for our shortcomings, we confront ourselves in all honesty, accept responsibility for our deeds, and make amends. Shifting blame gives license to continue the same hostile, sick behavior. On the other hand, confronting ourselves in truth and accepting responsibility for our deeds, is the path to teshuvah, which leads to new life, renewed commitment, and the fulfillment of our mission.

3) “Why? Why me? Life is unfair…what’s the use of it all?” Such “Why’s” can only lead to cynicism, bitterness, anger, or self-pity and depression. Instead of asking “Why?” I urge people to pose the same question in Lashon HaKodesh ” the holy tongue, for in Lashon HaKodesh, every word is definitive. Thus, while “why” evokes frustration, madua – the Hebrew version, leads to growth and development, for madua can be heard as, mah dei’ah – What can I learn from this? What wisdom can I glean from this?” or Lamah – l’ mah? To what end is this happening? How do I grow and become wiser and more mature from this?

Thus, the Torah teaches us to look upon our challenges and difficulties as opportunities for growth rather than as cause for cynicism and self-pity.

I recall a young couple coming to see me. She was determined to get a divorce while he was bent on saving the marriage. I asked to speak to her privately. Give me specifics,” I said.

Upon closer scrutiny, everything that she brought up turned out to be a non-issue certainly no reason for so drastic a step as divorce. I pointed out to her that when couples divorce, in the Beit HaMikdash of the Heavens above, the Mizbe’ach – the Altar, weeps.

Why the Mizbe’ach? Why not the Menorah or some other sacred item? The answer, our sages teach, is that the Altar weeps as if to say, “If only they had tried a little more…If only they had made a little more sacrifice.”

After offering further arguments, none of which showed justification for a divorce, she finally blurted out that her love had dried up and she no longer had feelings for him.  I’m still young,” she said, “and there is no reason for me to stay in a loveless marriage.

I told her that in Lashon HaKodesh, the word love ” ahavah comes from the root “hav” to give. Has it ever occurred to you,” I asked, that the reason why your love dried up is because you stopped giving? Take your cue from nature,” I advised, “When a nursing mother stops nursing, her milk dries up. And this is valid in every area. Start giving again, and your love will return.”

4. “I am entitled! You owe it to me.” We have created a “me” entitlement generation, best expressed in Yiddish with “Es kumt mir” It’s coming to me.” We are short on sacrifice but long on demand. We know how to take, but we don’t know how to give. We are all wrapped up in our own needs and fail to see the needs of others. We know how to cry for ourselves, but we are not good at crying for others. People who are in conflict never want to consider how destructive their actions are or the permanent scars their deeds will leave on those nearest and dearest. They parrot the popular catch phrases, “I owe it to myself” It’s my time to be selfish… It’s not my fault. The time has come for me to be good to myself,” never realizing that no man is an island unto himself and if he hurts others, it is not only his family and community that will suffer ” it is he who will suffer the most.

As we prepare for Kabbalat HaTorah, it’s time for all of us to return to the well-trodden, trusted path of our ancestors “the path of Torah” the path of Shalom.

Peace at Home And Among Our People (Part Two)

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Special Note: In my last column, I discussed the tragic consequences of  Sinas Chinam jealousy and hatred of the brothers toward Joseph that cast us into our first exile in Egypt, which continues to plague us to this very day. The following is a continuation of that column:

It is well known that the story of “Kamtza and Bar Kamtza” was pivotal to our exile but we have yet to learn the lesson of that shameful tragedy. The very title of the story is puzzling, since the controversy was not between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, but between Bar Kamtza and the anonymous host of the party. Why is Kamtza implicated?

To refresh our memories: A gentleman in Yerushalayim made a party. He had a best friend named Kamtza and an enemy whom he despised named Bar Kamtza. He sent his servant to invite Kamtza to his party, but his servant mistakenly delivered the invitation to his enemy, Bar Kamtza. Happily, Bar Kamtza came to the party only to be ordered to leave.

Mortified, he pleaded to be allowed to stay. He even offered to pay for the cost of the party, but his host remained adamant and had him thrown out. So, the question remains – why is Kamtza, the good friend, who never even made it to the party, implicated? Why is he named as a central player?

As a best friend, Kamtza had to be aware that his friend’s heart was filled with animosity and hatred. It would have been his responsibility to warn his friend not to allow such venom to overtake him. So too should the rabbis and all the other guests at the party have taken a strong stand and protested. But everyone remained silent and thereby countenanced this shameful act. Those same people would surely have protested had they seen their host serving treif, so how could they have remained impervious to his reprehensible behavior, which was a pure manifestation of sinas chinam – a treif manner of behavior?

We are all familiar with the teaching of Chazal that calls upon us to be among the disciples of Aharon, Kohen Gadol, and pursue peace among our fellow man. In Judaism, the pursuit of peace is so critical we are even permitted to bend the truth for its sake. When there is a conflict between emes and shalom, emes must take a back seat, for there is no greater good than shalom. So, it is that Aaron had no problem telling two warring parties that the other regretted his actions and wanted to make peace even though that may have been far from the truth.

We, however, not only fail to generate peace, but consciously or unconsciously, we often incite further discord. It behooves all of us to ask ourselves whether we are among the disciples of Aaron or those who attended the infamous party from which Bar Kamtza was ousted.

This question is all the more pertinent to us, for we are the generation that has been destined to live in this trying period of Chevlei Moshiach when, with every passing day, our trials and tribulations intensify. So the question remains B how can we spare ourselves this intense pain that is endemic to this period and speedily bring about the geulah?

But how do we go about making peace and fostering it among our family, our community and our people? Obviously, every conflict, every situation, is different, but the first step is to unlock the heart sealed by hatred. Experience has taught me that the best way to accomplish this is through Torah study and a story that has the power to reach the heart.

In one of my books, I tell the story of the Maggid of Kelm. On one occasion, he challenged his congregation and asked, If, chas v’shalom, Moshiach does not come in our lifetime and we are buried here in Kelm and then one day, we receive an invitation to arise from our graves and return to Kelm for half-an-hour, what would you do? Where would you go? And what would you say?”

Very often, I challenge my audiences with this very same question. What would you do? Where would you do? And what would you say? Would you check on your business, go shopping, to the gym? Would you visit your family? And if you did, what would you say?

On 9/11 we found out. For the very first time, something happened on that day that we had never encountered. Thousands of people were trapped in the Twin Towers. They knew that they were going to die, and somehow, they succeeded in sending out a last message. Tragically, there is nothing new about people being killed and dying, but this was the very first time that we had a recorded message from those facing death. Amazingly, they all got through on their cell phones.

Incredibly, they all left the same message B three little words, I love you…I love you Mom…I love you Dad…I love you, my husband…I love you, my wife…I love you, my children… I love you Grandma I love you Grandpa – I love you all so much!

I allow the people to digest the story and then I ask, Should we not say, “I love you” before it is too late? All the things that we fight about – money, kavod…Is it really worth it? In the end, when all is said and done, it’s all shtuot – nonsense. So once again I ask, Is it really worth it? Is it really worth destroying those who are nearest and dearest to you?” When these two preparatory steps are taken you can anticipate that you will succeed in making shalom. I learned this lesson long ago from my revered father, Harav HaGaon Rav Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l.

At the end of WWII we were taken to a DP camp in Switzerland. A group of Polish young men, all of whom had undergone horrific, torturous experiences in Auschwitz arrived at our camp. They were orphans, angry, bitter, and openly expressed their hostility toward Judaism and Hashem. No one had much to do with them, but my father could not bear to see Yiddisheh neshamos so affected. He didn’t argue with them or admonish them, nor did he give them mussar. Instead, every night, my father went to their dormitory and said the Shema with them. Then he would go to each bed, give each boy a brachah and a kiss. Thus, my father converted their anger, and bitterness into faith, commitment and love.

The lesson of my father has guided me in my efforts to make shalom and unify family members. But those lessons should guide all of us, for they belong to our people.

(To Be Continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/peace-at-home-and-among-our-people-part-two/2009/04/22/

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