Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Somehow the speech never changed. Despite the years, the message was always the same.

As we would approach the holy prayer of Yizkor, my Zayda, HaRav Avrahom haLevi Jungreis, zt”l, would stand on the bimah before the Aron haKodesh. He would look at his congregation and make eye contact with each person sitting before him. Then Zayda would say “Heint iz Yizkor. Today we will say Yizkor. If these neshamos could come back what do you think they would do? Where would they go? They would want to return to their mishpachas, to their loved ones, to their friends…to talk again, to have time together again. Today we have parents not talking to children and children not talking to parents. Brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, husbands and wives, all not talking. Mach Shalom! Mach Shalom!”

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One year my brother asked, “Zayda, why do you say the same speech every year?”

My zayda, who was the gentlest and most compassionate neshama, began to cry.

“Because,” Zayda replied, “every year it is the same thing. There is terrible machlokes. There are families and friends who are fighting. Before Yizkor, everyone must wake up and think. Life is too short to fight. We must mach shalom before it is too late.”

Years have passed. My zayda has returned his soul to the shamayim above. But his words ring true and hover till today.

We are in this dark galus because of the hatred between brothers. Most of the ‘Al Cheits’ we confess to on Yom Kippur are hurts caused by our mistreatment of other people. Slander. Scoffing. Lashon hara. Gossip. Lying. Tale bearing. Misleading others. Stealing. We have brought pain into the hearts of others.

We all want to accomplish greatness in our lives. We do not have to cross oceans or raise millions of dollars to make a difference in this world. All we need to do is reach out to someone that we have hurt and ask for forgiveness. It is not easy. Indeed, it is a stretch. But if we wish to find ourselves in a place of merit and zechus before G-d, we must ask ourselves ‘in what zechus will I find myself inscribed in the Book of Life?’

Hashem reflects upon us and our actions. When we reach out and forgive others, when we make that uncomfortable call asking for forgiveness, we ignite the power of forgiveness from Above towards us in our own lives. After all, how could we beg for forgiveness from Hashem if we, ourselves hold onto grudges and anger?

One of the most difficult levayas I ever attended, was that of a woman I knew. She was a young wife and mother to many young children. Her husband rose to speak in front of the packed room. His words to his wife spoke of pain and deep regret.

“I did not give you proper honor. I did not understand you. I did not hear you or listen enough. I am so sorry. So, so sorry. Please, I ask you before everyone here today, please, forgive me.” He cried as he spoke. But louder than his words were the wails of his children that still echo in my mind.

Mach shalom.

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Slovie Jungreis Wolff is a noted teacher, author, relationships and lecturer. She is the leader of Hineni Couples and the author of “Raising A Child With Soul.” She gives weekly classes and has lectured throughout the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. She can be reached at sloviehineni@gmail.com.