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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Over the past several weeks I’ve shared some tragic stories of family disintegration. Some of you might protest that “tragic” is a rather extreme word and that “sad” or “painful” would be more appropriate, but once again I emphasize tragic.
To other nations, splintered families are sad, but to us they are of tragic – of catastrophic dimensions.
Other nations were created through conquest and an amalgamation of peoples. We, the Jewish people, were born in the cradle of family – Abraham and Sarah, our Patriarch and Matriarch, created our very first home. They entrusted their son, Isaac, with preserving it and Isaac passed the responsibility on to his son Jacob. It was Jacob, Rachel, and Leah who brought the family to its zenith. They were the parents of the twelve sons who became the Tribal Patriarchs of our people. It was Jacob who struggled with the evil of this world and triumphed, thus earning the title Yisrael. And we B’nei Yisrael, sons of Jacob, were launched on our journey to be a light of Torah, truth, compassion, justice, and blessing to all of mankind
Family continued and continues to shape our lives. Just consider the Pesach Seder, the holy Sabbath, and much, much more, all celebrated within the confines of our homes. The Jewish home is sacrosanct – a mikdash m’at, a sanctuary in miniature. We are a nation of families entrusted with a mission to live by G-d’s Word and impart its teachings to the world. It is through our example that the words of the prophets, the language of prayer, and the soul-lifting Psalms have become available to mankind.
If our families crumble and disintegrate, it is more than just individuals who suffer – it is the very foundation of our nation that is jeopardized.
How, then, can we protect ourselves and reverse the tide?
Even as vaccines for dangerous, life-threatening diseases must be given during a child’s infancy, so we must discover a perfect formula to immunize and protect our sons and daughters from our 21st century cultural disease. To be sure, this disease is relentless and does not recognize any boundaries. It strikes mercilessly and destroys everything in its wake.
The name of this deadly virus is “Me! Me! Me!” This virus has become so common, so widespread, that most people regard it as the norm and see no reason to be alarmed by it. We, the Jewish people, must immunize ourselves and our children from its poisonous sting.
But do we have such a vaccine? We certainly do. The formula is here, free, and available to all of us. We need only seize it. When applied, it is so potent that it protects not only us but future generations as well.
The name of this perfect vaccine should be obvious. It’s our perfect Torah.
Psychologists tell us a child’s education should begin from the time a baby is born. Our Torah formula is different. It requires that this process begin even prior to conception. If it forgotten or neglected, the formula remains potent, and whenever and wherever it is applied it miraculously reverses the disease. The second-stage application is the ba’al teshuvah vaccine and remains as powerful as ever,
In contrast to medications that have expiration dates, the Torah formula remains forever fresh. It does not require refrigeration. On the contrary, it must be kept out and exposed to human contact. The more it is used, the more healing is its effect – specifically the commandment of Kibbud Av V’Em – honoring one’s father and mother.
This vaccine is most powerful when the child is given the infusion from his or her infancy on. For the vaccine to be most effective it should be administered in the proper environment. When children see parents living harmoniously and serving as role models of respect, love, and commitment, they are fortified and remain immune to the many seductive forces of their environment.
It was that which enabled Joseph to survive the degeneracy, idolatry, and barbaric cruelty of ancient Egypt. In every crisis, in every painful moment, in every struggle, the image of his saintly father was there to protect him. It was powerfully engraved on his heart. This image of Jacob, Isaac and Abraham is so great that even in the absence of role-model parents it cannot be erased.
Today we may not have fathers like Jacob, but his image is eternal, as are the images of Isaac and Abraham, embedded in our souls and etched in our hearts and minds. You need only yearn for it, search for it, and they will be there to lead you on the bumpy journey of life.
But how are we to inspire our children and ourselves to yearn and search for that image of our Patriarchs?
(To be continued)