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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘tzedakah’

Two Magic Words

Friday, June 1st, 2012

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.”

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Money? I’m Giving it Away!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=85

I thought this would be one of the hardest mitzvot of all.

Years ago, I was taught by secular Jewish friend that giving away money was disrespectful to money. It devalued money to give it away.

And, for years, I agreed. Until I tried it.

There’s a special outreach newspaper that homeless people sell, and they get to keep all the money they raise. When the paper was launched, I was one of its most vocal champions: “finally a way for these people to earn an honest buck, instead of putting out their hands and just begging for it.” But then I promptly forgot about it.

Until a few weeks ago.

I had just spent more money on a single piece of sushi-grade tuna than most homeless newspaper vendors will make in a day, when I emerged from the store and saw…him. My body instinctively tried to carry me away from him. But my new-found Jewish teachings kicked in and stopped me.

I turned, looked him in the eye, and did something I normally avoided like…well…like homeless people on the street. I treated him like a human being. I struck up a conversation. And, while we were talking, I put all of the change in my pocket into his hat. He offered me a paper, and my old instincts kicked back in. “That’s all right,” I said, “I won’t have time to read it.” And he said, with a smile, “Take it. It’s got a good crossword.”

Now, let’s break this down. 1) He already had my money. All of it. Easily tripling what was already in his hat. 2) He had a limited number of newspapers in his hand. Which meant that, if he had kept my newspaper, he could “sell” it again, and make even more money. 3) He smiled and looked into my eyes, long after I had given him my money.

That brief experience was such a blessing to me that it broke my nearly 20-year habit of walking past beggars on the street, not making eye contact, and not giving them money.

He helped me to become a better Jew.

Giving away money may devalue money. But it adds value to my life as a prospective Jew, and to the life of the person I give to.

Is there a more valuable use for money than that?

Not a Jew -> Jew

Lost And Found

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

My son lost his backpack when traveling back to his base. He had put it in the hold of the bus in which he was traveling. He would need to replace his wallet, tefillin, clothes, books, phone charger and all of his documentation. Of course the tefillin was the most important item of all. It was a bar mitzvah gift from his grandparents and specially written for him, and we all know how expensive tefillin are. But obviously the sentimental value was irreplaceable.

We were both very upset. It was certainly possible that someone had mistakenly taken it and would call. But what if it had fallen out of the bus? What if someone had purposely taken it (though I’ve never heard of this happening)? My son went to the lost and found department at the Egged Central Bus Station (the terminus of the bus) in Ashkelon. Not holding out too much hope that the backpack would be recovered, I searched on the web for the prayer attributed to the Tanna, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, that one says for lost objects. I’m not usually one for segulos, but I felt that a miracle was needed in this situation. I gave 10 shekels to tzedakah and said the prayer three times. The very second I finished my son called to tell me that someone who took the bag by accident returned it. Baruch Hashem, I’m a believer!

Wanting to publicize the miracle, I wrote to a few people telling them what had happened. One wrote back, saying that a lady she knows has a secular son living in the South Pacific who is slowly mellowing to Yiddishkeit. He had lost his glasses and hadn’t been able to replace them for a month. It suddenly occurred to her that she should say the prayer for finding lost objects. The very same day she said the prayer, he called her to report that the glasses had been found!

On 14 Iyar, Pesach Sheini, the Yom Hilula of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness takes place. When a Jew is in trouble there is a longstanding custom to give money l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. But it is most popularly used as a segulah for finding lost objects. The money should specifically go toward helping the poor in Eretz Yisrael because Rabbi Meir Baal Haness said he would help those that gave to Eretz Yisrael’s poor – for the sake of his soul.

The source for this custom is the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 18a-b) where we learn that Rebbi Meir bribed a guard to release the imprisoned sister of his wife Bruriah, who had been dispatched by the Romans to a brothel as punishment for her parents teaching Torah. The guard asked what would happen if he’d be caught. Rebbi Meir told him to say the words, “Eloka d’Meir, aneini – God of Meir, answer me” three times and he would be saved. The guard secured the release of Rebbi Meir’s unharmed sister-in-law, and the guard was miraculously saved when he uttered the words Rebbi Meir had instructed him to say.

The first part of the prayer that begins with “Amar Rabbi Binyamin” derives from Bereishit Rabbah 53:14, referring to Hagar having her eyes opened and being able to see the well from which she could draw water to save herself and her son. The lesson: Something might be right under your nose, but you need God’s enlightenment to see it. This is often the case when we lose something.

Especially on the Tanna’s yahrzeit, it is very meritorious to give charity or light a candle l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and to say “Eloka d’Meir, aneini” three times.

As ultimate redemption, of course, comes from God, we shouldn’t attribute the miracle to the Tanna; we are, after all, calling out to Hashem. But it is in the merit of tzaddikim that we can ask for a little more help from Above. Apparently we can get it – if we’re not at a loss for words.

Rosally Saltsman

Hashgachah Pratis: Readers Respond (Continued from Last Week)

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

For the past several weeks I have been focusing on hashgachah pratis – personal, individual and national guidance that comes from heaven. Sadly, in our secular, high pressured, very often decadent society, many voices assail us and we have difficulty hearing the still small voice of G-d leading and prodding us.

I have shared the personal stories of readers who testify to hashgachah pratis. Earlier stories focused on health and shidduch problems. This week we will deal with the economic crunch so many people have to struggle with. But no matter the problem, Hashem is always there. We need only attune our ears and open our eyes to see G-d’s Hand leading us on our path.

If we are sensitive, we can hear even a stone speaking to us. Consider the story of Rabbi Akiva. He was forty years old, an illiterate shepherd in the employ of Kalba Savua, the wealthiest man in Jerusalem. Kalba Savua’s beautiful 18-year-old daughter Rachel detected greatness in Akiva. She saw he could become a great Torah luminary, shedding light not only for his generation but for all generations to come. She challenged him to study Torah, saying if he would do so she would marry him.

The marriage part was very enticing, but how, he wondered, could a man of forty study together with little children? The challenge seemed insurmountable, the task impossible. Perplexed and conflicted, he decided to take a walk in the forest, hoping to gain some clarity. Lo and behold, G-d gave him a message! No, he didn’t hear voices. No, he didn’t see flames coming down from the heavens above. No, he had no visitation from angels.

He simply fell upon a large stone next to a brook. He studied the shape of the stone and realized it had been impacted by drops of water falling upon it day and night. And then it occurred to him – if G-d had made him stumble on this rock in the brook, it must be for a reason. Surely there was a message there. Suddenly he had the clarification he was seeking.

If, he reasoned, a stone can be penetrated by drops of water, “surely, I will be able to receive drops of Torah in my mind and heart and thus be reshaped.” And that is how Akiva the illiterate shepherd was launched on the path of becoming the greatest sage in Israel.

Obviously, not one of us in our generation is Rabbi Akiva. We would never find a message in a stone. Nevertheless, Hashem in His infinite mercy speaks to us on our level. But the noise and the chaos and degenerate voices of our 21st-century culture block our ears and blind our eyes. We see not and we hear not.

I will now share an amazing letter proving that Hashem never abandons us.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I have been following your articles on hashgachah pratis with great interest. My family also has a story to tell – a story that clearly demonstrates the Hand of Hashem. I asked my husband to write it and send it to you, but my husband just waved me off, saying, “That’s women’s stuff! You do it!”

I took him up on his challenge and am writing this letter so that others might benefit from it. Sadly, it is a story that befalls many.

My husband is in his middle years. He was an attorney all his working life, putting in many long hours at his firm. We are not wealthy but we always enjoyed a good lifestyle. We sent our children to camp, took vacations, gave tzedakah, live in a nice neighborhood and have a comfortable home on which we are still paying the mortgage.

Two years ago, out of the blue, my husband was given a pink slip. He was in total shock. He didn’t know how to break the news to me, but I saw something was drastically wrong. At first he didn’t want to tell me but I wouldn’t let go until he finally told me the shocking news. I became scared. We tried to reassure one another that it would be okay and that he would find a new position in no time. We decided not to tell the children. There was no sense worrying them. Thank G-d we had some savings to tide us over, and we were sure he would find new employment soon.

We soon discovered it wasn’t so simple. My husband went to headhunters, searched the help wanted ads, spoke to friends, relatives, casual acquaintances – all to no avail. The economic crunch that hit the firm at which he worked seemed to be prevalent everywhere, and soon the weeks turned into months and the months into a year. There was no job in the offing.

We couldn’t send the children to camp; we couldn’t go on our usual vacations. I had to think twice when I bought groceries – never mind new clothing. It was tough. We didn’t have to tell the children, because they figured it out for themselves. After a period of terrible frustration a friend advised my husband that, until such time as he would find a new position in a law firm, he should take any job that came along, even one in a bakery, supermarket, or restaurant.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Making Sense Of The Sin Offering

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Parshat Vayikra, which deals with a variety of sacrifices, devotes an extended section to the chatat, the sin offering, as brought by different individuals: first the high priest (Leviticus 4:3-12), then the community as a whole (4:13-21), then a leader (4:22-26), and finally an ordinary individual (4:27-35).

The whole passage sounds strange to modern ears, not only because sacrifices have not been offered for almost two millennia since the destruction of the Second Temple, but also because it is hard for us to understand the very concepts of sin and atonement as they are dealt with in the Torah.

The puzzle is that the sins for which an offering had to be brought were those committed inadvertently, be’shogeg. Either the sinner had forgotten the law, or some relevant fact. Here’s a contemporary example: suppose the phone rings on Shabbat and you answer it. You would only be liable for a sin offering if either you forgot the law that you may not answer a phone on Shabbat, or you forgot the fact that the day was Shabbat. For a moment you thought it was Friday or Sunday.

It’s just this kind of act that we don’t see as a sin at all. It was a mistake. You forgot. You did not mean to do anything wrong. And when you realize that inadvertently you have broken Shabbat, you are more likely to feel regret than remorse. You feel sorry but not guilty.

We think of a sin as something we did intentionally, yielding to temptation perhaps, or in a moment of rebellion. That is what Jewish law calls b’zadon in biblical Hebrew or b’mezid in rabbinic Hebrew. That is the kind of act we would have thought calls for a sin offering. But actually such an act cannot be atoned for by an offering at all. So how do we make sense of the sin offering?

The answer is that there are three dimensions of wrongdoing between us and God. The first is guilt and shame. When we sin deliberately and intentionally, we know inwardly that we have done wrong. Our conscience – the voice of God within the human heart – tells us that we have done wrong. That is what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they had sinned. They felt shame. They tried to hide. For that kind of deliberate, conscious, intentional sin, the only adequate moral response is teshuvah, repentance. This involves (a) remorse, charatah, (b) confession, vidui, and (c) kabbalat he’atid, a resolution never to commit the sin again. The result is selichah u’mechilah – leading, hopefully for God’s forgiveness. A mere sacrifice is not enough.

However, there is a second dimension. Regardless of guilt and responsibility, if we commit a sin we have objectively transgressed a boundary. The word chet means to miss the mark, to stray, to deviate from the proper path. We have committed an act that somehow disturbs the moral balance of the world. To take a secular example, imagine that your car has a faulty speedometer. You are caught driving at 50 miles per hour in a 30-mile-an-hour zone. You tell the policeman who stops you that you didn’t know. Your speedometer was only showing 30 miles per hour. He may sympathize, but you have still broken the law, transgressed the limit, and you will still have to pay the penalty.

That is what a sin offering is. According to Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch it is a penalty for carelessness. According to the Sefer HaChinuch it is an educational and preventive measure. Deeds, in Judaism, are the way we train the mind. The fact that you have had to pay the price by bringing a sacrifice will make you take greater care in the future.

Rabbi Isaac Arama (Spain, 15th century) says that the difference between an intentional and an unintentional sin is that in the former case, both the body and the soul were at fault. In the case of an unintentional sin only the body was at fault, not the soul. Therefore a physical sacrifice helps, since it was only the physical act of the body that was in the wrong. A physical sacrifice cannot atone for a deliberate sin, because it cannot rectify a wrong in the soul.

What the sacrifice achieves is kapparah, not forgiveness as such but a covering over, or obliteration, of the sin. Noah was told to “cover” (vechapharta) the surface of the ark with pitch (Genesis 6:14). The cover of the ark in the Tabernacle was called kaporet (Exodus 25:17). Once a sin has been symbolically covered over, it is forgiven, but as the Malbim points out, in such cases the verb for forgiveness – s-l-ch – is always in the passive (venislach: Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31). The forgiveness is not direct, as it is in the case of repentance, but indirect, a consequence of the sacrifice.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Where Are The Gedolim Today?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe’s request. – Shemos 38:21

Parshas Pikudei begins with a detailed accounting of all of the gold and silver that was collected for the Mishkan. A cursory reading would lead us to assume that while of course a man as great as Moshe was above question, he must have asked for this calculation because public leaders must remove any suspicion no matter how farfetched.

However, the Baalei Tosfos explain things a bit differently. It seems Moshe was in fact suspected of stealing money from the Mishkan. There were 16 Shekalim that were unaccounted for, and Moshe was suspected of having taken them. Therefore, Moshe asked for a formal accounting to remove the suspicion. At which point it was discovered that those 16 Shekalim were actually used in the construction of the hooks of the Mishkan.

The difficulty with this Baalei HaTosfos is understanding how anyone would suspect that Moshe Rabbeinu of stealing. The Mishkan was to be the dwelling place of Hashem on this earth. Monies that were separated for the Mishkan were consecrated and holy. How could anyone suspect Moshe of pilfering those monies? Even more perplexing is that these people knew who Moshe Rabbeinu was. They saw him go up to receive the Torah. They heard the sound of Hashem’s voice speaking through him. From the time he came down from Har Sinai his face shone like the sun. They understood him to be the greatest human ever created. How is it possible that they suspected him of petty thievery?

This question becomes even more difficult when we take into account the circumstances of those times. This was the generation of the midbar – all their daily needs were taken care of. They ate manna that fell from the heavens, drank water from a huge rock that followed them through the desert, etc. – in short, all their needs were taken care of. Their entire focus and occupation was to grow in learning and Yiras Shamayim. It was the ultimate kollel community. If so, what possible motivation would Moshe have to steal the Shekalim?

The answer to this question is based on perspective.

Appreciating Gedolim

The story is told that one day a poor man came to the Chofetz Chaim’s door asking for tzedakah. The Chofetz Chaim invited him in, and offered him a full meal. When the man was finished eating he left. As the Chofetz Chaim was cleaning up, he realized this man had stolen a spoon. The Chofetz Chaim ran into the street after him calling, “Wait, wait, don’t forget the spoon is fleishig.”

While this is a beautiful illustration of the giving nature of a tzaddik, there is as subtle message here: the man stole a spoon from the Chofetz Chaim. How was that possible? The Chofetz Chaim! The revered sage. The teacher of generations. Can we imagine anyone today being lowly enough to steal something from such a holy man?

The answer is that no one today would act that way to the Chofetz Chaim because we have an appreciation of who the man was. But in his generation they didn’t. That stature was something he acquired long after he died. For most of his life, he was viewed as a regular man – maybe a talmid chacham, but nothing extraordinary. And even when the world began hearing of the Chofetz Chaim, it wasn’t as some huge, towering, historic figure. A gadol maybe, but not someone who would shape history.

This seems to be a quirk in human nature. When we live in proximity to greatness it is hard to appreciate the size of the man and we tend to minimize the magnitude. It is far easier to lump him together with other people of the generation and assume he can’t be that much greater.

This seems to be the answer. While the people living at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu knew of his greatness, they still viewed him as a man of their generation. Granted, he went up to the heavens and received the Torah, but he was a human being like everyone else, so who is to say he didn’t just pocket some of the Shekalim? While later generations wouldn’t in their wildest dreams suspect such a man, to those living in the times, such historical perspective wasn’t there, and they couldn’t see him for the lofty giant he was.

This concept has particular relevance to us as we look at the leaders of our generation and say, “Where are the gedolim today”? But we aren’t the first to utter that cry; it has been expressed by every generation since Har Sinai, and will continue through the generations. What we see from the Baalei Tosfos is that this sentiment was expressed even with regard to Moshe.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Purim Afterthoughts

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Purim is the one Yom Tov all Jews can celebrate. Special knowledge is not required and the demands of its observance are easy enough.

There are no restrictions, no prohibitions; we are simply called upon to rejoice and listen to the megillah with its story of the miraculous salvation of our people despite the evil designs of Haman. We exchange gifts, give tzedakah to the poor, dress up in costumes and celebrate at a festive seudah. In short, on Purim, we can experience joy without bounds; we need only plunge into it.

On Purim, the front door to my house, normally closed, is wide open. It simply takes too much time to respond to each ringing of the doorbell. As in all Jewish neighborhoods, young b’nei Torah come collecting for their yeshivas and people of all ages and backgrounds come soliciting for their various tzedakahs.

When the yeshiva boys come to my house and announce which school they are collecting for, I make a demand of them. “Not so fast,” I say. “Make it freilich. Let me hear a good song. Let me see a good dance. Give me a little d’var Torah. Come to the table. I have some cake there so that you can make a berachah and I can say ‘Amen!’”

We talk. I inquire about their families, where they reside, etc. I learned this from my revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, who was never content with just greeting people but always engaged every person in conversation and gave him a berachah.

As a young rebbetzin with small babies, I spoke daily at the Pineview Hotel in the Catskills during the summer months. I had the great zechus to have my parents with me every Shabbos. I am not exaggerating when I say it would take us over an hour to make our exit from the dining room, as my father would stop at every table and speak with every individual, giving each a blessing. That awesome legacy left an indelible impression on my soul.

I love all my Yiddishe kinderlach. They are proof positive that Am Yisrael continues to live and thrive. These are Yiddishe neshamalach who devote this day not only to celebrations with their families and friends but to going door to door raising funds for Torah institutions.

Of course, one needs to be wary. This year, a Hispanic-looking man wearing a yarmulke came through my door and announced he was collecting money for himself and his family. He explained that they were in dire need of support.

As I mentioned, I always have a tray of cake on the table and invite all those who come in to make a berachah. On my counter I also happened to have some food I was preparing. Without asking, this man went to the counter and helped himself to the food.

“I didn’t hear you make a berachah,” I said. “I always like to say ‘Amen.’”

He ignored me and just went on eating. I became suspicious and doubted he was a Jew.

“Do you know how to say ‘hello’ in Hebrew?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Do you know what we do as we enter and depart from a house?”

This time he answered “yes,” placing his hand on his lips and making some kissing sounds in the direction of the door.

“What is this called?” I asked, pointing to the mezuzah.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t think you’re a Jew,” I said. You just want to collect money from Jews.”

Before sending the man on his way I told him, “I will give you a few dollars because it is Purim and we are a compassionate people. But please don’t try to take advantage of our goodness in this way again.”

May Hashem grant that next year we will all celebrate in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, where we will eternally celebrate Purim even when Mashiach comes. May we see him soon in our own day.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/purim-afterthoughts/2012/03/14/

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