Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.
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A young lady once came to see me with a devastating problem. When, among other things, I recommended that she turn to Hashem and follow the formula of teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah, she smiled indulgently and said, “Rebbetzin, I need real help, real solutions.”
For a moment, I was astonished. She was an observant woman – how could she have made such a statement? “Can there be any more real solution than the help of G-d?” I challenged.
To what extent do we really believe that Hashem can intercede and resolve our problems? How deep is our faith?
We are beset by so many difficulties, trials, and tribulations, be they personal or national. Our problems are huge, but we are short on faith.
So many of us are struggling financially and have difficulty just putting bread on the table.
So many of us are combating debilitating illness. The Malach HaMaves, the Angel of Death, does not discriminate. He makes his visits unannounced and the young and the elderly are equally vulnerable.
Our families are suffering from internal strife. Children are estranged from their parents and parents from their children, husbands from their wives and wives from their husbands and siblings from one another. Who is not familiar with such tragic stories?
As if that is not enough, we have to struggle with the shidduch crisis in our community– singles who just can’t marry. Sadly, I met some of these singles twenty and thirty years ago and today they are still single, still looking.
Who is not aware of all this? Who does not know the pain? Yet inexplicably, we don’t seem to get it.
When things are going well, when Hashem relates to us through His attribute of mercy and His blessings abound, we must be ever on guard not to take His gifts for granted, not to delude ourselves into believing that it is “Our might, our strength, our cunning, that is responsible for our success.”
On the other hand, when G-d speaks to us through His attribute of Justice, when we experience His disciplinary rod, we must remember the passage “And you shall know with your heart that, even as a father admonishes his children, so G-d, your Father, admonishes you.”
We are like children at the dinner table who “act out” and are reprimanded by their parents and ordered to their rooms. So too does our Father order us to our rooms.
There are two reactions children have under such circumstances.
There are those who will go to their rooms sulking, angrily muttering to themselves, “I don’t care. I hate you all! I’ll run away.” They slam the door, kick the furniture, and become destructive. To be sure, they may cry, but their tears are tears of indignation rather than contrition for they are convinced they have been treated unfairly.
When they do eventually emerge from isolation and are asked if they’re sorry, they’ll grudgingly say, “Okay, I’m sorry.” But their voices, their manner, make it quite clear that they are not sorry at all, and their words are mere lip service, meant to mollify the parent.
On the other hand, when a child, after being sent to his room, emerges and sincerely begs forgiveness, he will be embraced with love, seated at the table, and served his favorite dishes.
This illustration demonstrates our contemporary dilemma. How do we react when our Heavenly Father sends us away from the table? Do we respond like petulant children or do we return to our Father’s table with contrite, loving hearts? When difficult days befall us, do we feel self-righteous indignation and anger? Do we feel we have been treated unjustly, or do we return to our Heavenly Father in humility, prayer, and love?
Overwhelming problems can be analogous to boiling water. When you place a carrot into boiling water, it disintegrates into mush. When you do the same with an egg, it becomes hard and tough. But when you place coffee or tea into boiling water, it is transformed into a delicious drink.
This, then, is the option we all have: we can collapse and disintegrate like the carrot; we can become hard and tough like the egg, or we can take our boiling water and convert it into something positive – a delicious drink.
That is the option that stands before us. When confronted by overwhelming problems, when the water is boiling, we can fall apart like the carrot and become depressed – but that will not benefit anyone. Worse, it will consume and destroy us.
We can become tough like hard-boiled eggs; cynical, bitter, and angry like those petulant children. Once again, a self-destructive response that will only alienate us from others and from our true selves.
Or we can become like coffee or tea and convert our boiling hot water into something that can be tasty and nourishing for us as well as for others. We can look upon our problems as challenges, as opportunities for growth, and convert our negatives into positives, our liabilities into assets, and our shortcomings into strengths.
Yes, if we know how to listen, we can realize our full potential as Jews and return to our Heavenly Father and our Torah way of life. Our history demonstrates that there is no difficulty, no obstacle, we cannot overcome when we become one with our G-d. We need only allow the light of Hashem to lead us.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis