web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yosef Dov’

Gemilas Chassadim – Loving-Kindness: A Tested Formula

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I was planning to write this column on Gemilas Chassadim several weeks ago, but events unfolded that, with the passage of time, would have lost their immediacy, so this article was put on hold. But I guess it’s no coincidence that I am writing this column in the wake of Parshas Vaera and the yahrzeit of my beloved husband, HaRav Meshulem Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, for both the parshah and the exemplary life of my husband, provide us with insights on gemilas chassadim.

Our sages teach us, that even as we went forth from Egypt, so shall our final Redemption be. That lesson is of special significance to us since we are the generation that has been destined to experience the tribulations preceding the coming of Messiah, but if we emulate our forebears, we can evoke mercy from Above and be zocheh to Geulah Shelaimah – Redemption, speedily in our day.

When Hashem informed Moshe Rabbeinu that the long-awaited time of our redemption had come, He did so by stating, “Gam Ani shamati…. I also heard the cry of the Jewish people” (Exodus, 6:5).

Our sages are puzzled by the expression, “I also heard.” “Who else would have heard?” they asked. In order to appreciate the answer, let us examine our 21st Century values and mores.

In our culture, if a man has a problem, it is understood and accepted that he cannot get involved in someone else’s difficulties. After all he has his own burdens to carry. So, if a man lost his job and has been out of work for the past year, you can hardly expect him to help. After all, he has his own tzarros, and this sort of reasoning holds true in every area, be it illness, shidduchim, etc. But is this rationale in consonance with our Torah way of life?

My dearly revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, would often say that our difficulties, problems, and sorrows should make us more sympathetic to the pain of our brethren. Instead of shutting down in times of stress, we should open up, reach out with more empathy, kindness and love for who, if not we, who have been tested by pain, should understand others who are in pain.

After Moshe Rabbeinu called upon Pharaoh to let our people go the Egyptian dictator went into a rage. “Obviously,” he ranted, “if these Jewish slaves can think about freedom, they have too much time on their hands. I will increase their workload. Henceforth, not only will they have to fill their regular quota, but they will have to produce their own raw materials to make their own bricks” – a humanly impossible task.

As a result our brethren’s agony intensified. If they failed to deliver their quota, they suffered beatings from the whips of their Egyptian taskmasters, and most terrifying of all, their children were substituted for the bricks and were actually bricked into the walls by the barbaric Egyptians. The agony and torment that each person suffered defied comprehension, and yet, when a Jew cried out, “I can’t take it anymore! I can’t go on!” the other, who was equally tortured, rushed to his aid and said, “Hang in there, my brother. Let me help you.”

When Hashem heard this, He proclaimed, “Gam Ani shamati – I also heard!” When one Jew hears the cry of his brother, even though he is consumed by his own pain, G-d also hears, for that is a true indication of chesed.

My husband, whose yahrzeit we commemorated this week, was such a person. “He also heard.” His chesed was woven into his character traits. I could share a thousand and one stories with you, all reflective of his phenomenal loving-kindness, but I will confine myself to just some of the events that transpired during his last, torturous days in the hospital.

My husband, Baruch Hashem, had always been, in good health. Then, as if from nowhere, tragedy struck. We had six nightmarish weeks at Sloan-Kettering, during which time he underwent several surgical procedures, the last of which left his stomach an open wound. His pain was beyond description, and yet, he never forgot the suffering of others. Slowly and painfully, attached to a trolley with IVs and drip bags, he made his way down the corridors of Sloan to give a brachah, chizuk- strength, and faith to his fellow patients on the floor.

One of these patients, an observant Jew with a large family, had had his legs amputated. My husband wept and davened for him and he asked me to organize some help for the family.

There was another patient on the floor, a Jew by the name of Philip, who had renounced his faith to become a Buddhist. My husband could not bear the thought of a Yiddisheh neshamah being lost, and as difficult as it was for him, he sought him out.

What is your Jewish name?” my husband asked in his sweet gentle voice.

“I’m not Jewish,” he answered. “I gave up Judaism some years ago, when I became a Buddhist.”

“Even so,” my husband assured him, “a Yiddisheh neshamah is a Yiddisheh neshamah, and remains so for eternity. Now tell me, what is your Jewish name?”

“I don’t remember,” he replied, his voice tinged with annoyance.

“Do you remember your Bubbie? …. What did she call you? ” my husband asked.

At the mention of his Bubbie, tears gathered in his eyes and in a choked voice, he whispered, “Feivel.”

My husband reached out to put his arms around him – no easy feat when you are attached to IVs.

“Feivel,” he repeated, “how can a Feivel be a Buddhist?”

And that’s how the friendship between my husband and Feivel commenced, and that’s how Feivel embarked upon his journey home to his faith.

Feivel was a veteran of many surgical procedures. Then one day he received the news that the doctors had exhausted all their resources. There was nothing further that they could do, and he would now have to be transferred to a hospice. The news hit Feivel hard, and when my husband heard about it, he broke down and wept. Although his own condition was rapidly deteriorating, with agonizing difficulty with my grandson Yosef Dov and a nurse at his side, he once again made his way to Feivel’s room.

My husband asked Yosef Dov to go back and see if I was okay and if any visitors had come. Yosef Dov didn’t want to leave him, but he quickly realized that his Abba Zeide wanted to speak to Feivel alone. (Abba-Zeide was the loving name by which our grandchildren referred to my husband).

From the doorway, Yosef Dov saw Feivel crying on his Abba Zeide’s shoulder, while his Abba Zeide hugged, comforted and prayed with him. As Yosef Dov watched, he had difficulty holding back his tears.

Only a man like Abba Zeide could comfort someone else in the midst of his own suffering,” Yosef Dov later told me. “Abba Zeide taught me that no matter how difficult or unbearable our personal situation might be, we must always remain sensitive to the needs of others and feel for them.” And then he added, “It occurred to me that if I hadn’t been there, none of us would have known this story, and who knows how many more stories there are about Abba Zeide that we will never know.”

How right Yosef Dov was! The stories about my husband are legion. Until the very last moment of his life, he felt the pain of every person. And more – with his very last ounce of strength, he continued to serve Hashem. It was in my husband’s merit that, before he died, Philip reclaimed his Jewish heritage and was able to return his Yiddisheh neshamah to his Creator in faith and sanctity. Neither my husband’s hospital bed, nor his wounds, his IV or his constant pain, could inhibit him from reaching out to his brethren and fulfilling G-d’s Will.

What was my husband’s secret? His neshamah was saturated with chesed…. He was truly an embodiment of “Gam Ani shamati – I also heard.”

As I said, I could have related many stories about my husband, but I chose to focus on his last days at Sloan, for if anyone had a legitimate excuse to say, “I have my own pain, my own suffering, to deal with,” it was surely he. And yet, he transcended his personal situation so that he might help another. May my husband’s holy neshamah be a melitz yosher – a mighty supplicant for all of us.

In these very difficult days that our people are confronting throughout the world, especially in Eretz Yisrael, we must do no less than what our ancestors did in Egypt, and what my husband did in his own life. We must sensitize ourselves to hear the silent cry of another’s heart, and if we can learn to do that, then Hashem shall surely proclaim, “Gam Ani shamati – I have also heard!” And that is the meaning of La’asok b’Gemilas Chassadim.

May we behold our redemption soon in our own day.

Have We Turned Into Wood?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

Parshas Ki Tavo has come and gone. The tochacha – the curses – were read in our synagogues, but who was listening? Who heard them? If you were among those who did listen, the words had to have a chilling, eerie effect. Alas, they were not far-fetched predictions, but had an all-too familiar ring. We are the generation that can vividly recall the Holocaust. We are the generation that lives with the constant nightmare of yet more carnage. It is with trepidation that we tune into the news from Israel. Who and what will be next?

In his eulogy, the grandfather of Nava Appelbaum said that whenever he heard or read of one of these attacks, in the back of his mind he wondered how it would be if, G-d forbid, it was his family. And now, it was his family.

The tragedies that are befalling us are just too pat to be random happenings. How can the celebration of a father toasting his daughter’s wedding become an orgy of blood? How can a bride’s wedding day turn into her funeral? Is it not written that before our nation goes to battle, the Kohen has to address the soldiers and announce: ‘If there is a man who had betrothed a woman and not married her, let him go and return to his home’ (Deuteronomy 27).

How could the bride be taken from her husband to be? How can it be that the ring meant for her finger is now placed in her coffin? How can it be that the bridal bouquet that she was to carry in her hands is now covering her grave? How can it be? How can it be that holy people, who went to the Kotel to pray with their babies and children became living torches? And there are so many more ‘how can it be’s.’ Mothers and fathers who witnessed their children set ablaze; children, who with their very eyes, saw the torturous deaths of their parents - there are so many orphans; so many widows and widowers, and so many parents whose lives are forever destroyed because their little ones have been murdered.

And then there are the wounded. We read and hear the announcements - 16….25….40 wounded, and we, who just hear those statistics heave a sigh of relief and whisper, ‘Thank G-d they weren’t killed.’

But have you stopped to consider what ‘wounded’ means? A baby who will now grow up without eyes, a young father whose legs were blown off, a mother without arms; men, women and children who are maimed by shrapnel and consigned to a lifetime of debility and pain. Who can comprehend it all? More than a hundred incidents of carnage in a few short years ? we echo the words of Jeremiah, ‘For these do I weep…’

Yet somehow, we go on. It’s almost as if we have become numb to our suffering, to our pain.

Allow me to relate some personal stories.

My maternal grandmother perished in the flames of Auschwitz, and my grandfather, the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Hirsh HaKohen, zt’l, remarried. His new rebbetzin was also a survivor who had lost most of her family in the camps. She had a one and only daughter who had a one and only son, Moishele, ‘Oh,’ a gifted, brilliant student. Tragedy struck - a few weeks before his bar mitzva, he died of leukemia.

I remember visiting the shiva house. My grandmother was sitting next to her daughter. As I entered the room, she beckoned to me and said in Hungarian: ‘Esterke, my child, come here. I want you to touch my arm and tell me whether you feel flesh or wood, because if I could survive all this, surely I must have turned into wood.’

As we are assailed by barrages of catastrophes, my grandmother’s words keep echoing in my mind: ‘If we have survived all this, surely, we must have turned into wood.’

My husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, also a survivor of the Holocaust, was the youngest in his family. My in-laws, HaRav Osher Anshil and Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Jungreis, HY”D, were blessed with magnificent sons who were affectionately referred to as ‘Arzei Levanon’ – ‘the Cedars of Lebanon.’ They were all great Torah scholars, embodiments of chesed and impeccable midos.

In the early years of the war, prior to the Nazi occupation and our deportation, the Hungarian anti-Semites conscripted Jewish young men into slave labor. My husband often recalled the agonizing day when they came to take away his brother, Yosef Dov, HY”D, who already had semicha and was awaiting the birth of his first child. From the moment he was loaded onto the truck and driven away, my mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Chaya Sora, refused to sleep in her bed.
When night fell, she would sit in her chair, recite tehillim (psalms) and, from time to time, doze off.

My husband, who at that time was still at home, would plead with her, ‘The Mama needs her rest. The Mama should lie down in bed.’

His mother would respond in a voice choked with tears, ‘Vee a zoy ken ich schloffen in ah bet oib Yosef Dov iz nisht du?’ ‘How can I sleep in a bed if Yosef Dov is not here?’

That story has always haunted me. No one expects us to refrain from lying down in our beds…but shouldn’t we feel a little bit more? Shouldn’t we pray a little bit more? Shouldn’t we beseech G-d a little bit more? Shouldn’t we do a little bit more? And shouldn’t we give of ourselves a little bit more? Shouldn’t we commit to Torah a little bit more? Are we not all responsible one for the other? Do we not all share the same destiny? Is this not what being a Jew is all about?

Our rabbonim have asked that we all recite the following three psalms on behalf of our people daily: 83, 130 and 142. Surely, that is the very least that we can do. Our Hineni organization is prepared to send you laminated Hebrew prayer cards with these three psalms free of charge upon receipt of a self addressed, stamped envelope. But whatever you do, wherever you are, don’t sleep while the blood of your people is spilled.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/have-we-turned-into-wood/2003/10/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: