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 continues to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.
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There is an old Yiddish saying, “Tracht gut vet zein gut – think good and it will be good.” My saintly father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, would add, “Es iz shoin gut – it is already good.”
That message gave life to our people throughout the long centuries of persecution and torture. No matter how dense the darkness may have been, no matter how agonizing the pain, our trust in G-d was always there to put a smile on our faces.
But does this work for our generation? Sadly, the answer is no. We pride ourselves on our education. We are too sophisticated to take such simple sayings seriously. So we smirk and with a wave of the hand dismiss it all.
How, then, do we deal with our life crises, with our agonies?
Some of us become depressed. The Torah tells us that ancient Egypt had forty-nine levels of contaminating impurities and Hashem wanted us out before the fiftieth would become viral and infect us with its deadly sting. What was this life-threatening fiftieth impurity? Depression.
That’s why when Hashem brought us forth from Egypt, He did so with speed and alacrity. We didn’t even have time for our bread to bake.
Depression overtakes you. You become immobile and have difficulty seeing even a ray of light. So we had to leave Egypt as quickly as possible. Tragically, in our generation too many have fallen victim to this virus and remain locked in their depression, trapped behind locked doors, and after a while are no longer capable of escaping.
Then there are those among us who become angry, cynical, and bitter. They alienate themselves from others. They become difficult marriage partners, parents, and work colleagues. And their lives descend further into darkness.
Those of you who read my columns and have heard me speak know I believe in only one solution to problems: Torah. Our sages teach us that while we all have to wrestle with our yetzer hara, our evil inclination, it is also true that G-d provided us with an antidote that can control if not altogether banish it from our hearts. It’s a simple medication, free and available to one and all.
Yes, Torah is an antibiotic that can immunize us from the virus of the yetzer hara.
So what does the Torah teach us about resolving the pain in our hearts? When Moshe Rabbeinu gathered the Jewish people and charged them with Hashem’s mitzvos, the words Moshe used were the very ones the people had spoken when they fashioned the golden calf and proclaimed, “This is your god, oh Israel.” Moshe spoke the same words to proclaim that these are the things Hashem commanded us to do.
What does that mean? It means that the same energy that was so destructive can be harnessed and converted into a blessing.
There is another teaching our sages bequeathed to us that can help us on our life journey: “What happened, happened.” Don’t dwell on the past. It’s over. Don’t flagellate yourself. It’s time to move on. Focus on rebuilding.
The very last mitzvah Moshe Rabbeinu entrusted us with prior to his death was “Kisvu lachem hashira hazos – write for yourselves this song – the song of Torah.”
Our Torah is one awesome, joyous, everlasting song. It has enabled us to triumph over all the tyrants of the world who schemed to annihilate us. What is the power of a song? Even if we momentarily forget the lyrics, the tune of the song will awaken us. We start to hum and soon the words come back. Now we sing with gusto. We remember who we are. We are Jews. Our lives have meaning. We take our children, grasp their hands, teach them to sing and dance.
We are Am Yisrael, the nation that can triumph over the all vicissitudes of life with a song – the song of Torah, the song of Hashem.