Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wherever You May Find Yourself.....

by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

I have had much experience in bikur cholim - visiting the sick. Even at the age of six I would accompany my saintly father on his rounds to slave labor camps where young Jewish men were incarcerated by the Hungarians prior to the Nazi occupation.

The place where I was born and where my father was the chief Orthodox rabbi was located on the banks of the Tisza River. It was called Szeged (not to be mistaken for Szigit), the second largest city in Hungary. It was from Szeged that Jewish boys were shipped off to Yugoslavia and forced into torturous labor.

Every week my father would visit them and try to smuggle medication, letters, messages - and, most significantly, a concoction the Jewish physicians in our community invented under my father's guidance. This concoction was designed to simulate an illness that appeared to be infectious but in reality was totally benign. The symptoms induced by this potion were sufficiently frightening to prevent the Hungarian Gestapo from shipping the boys to the slave mines.

As the Nazi occupation became more imminent my father's visits became more hazardous. The Hungarian Zsandars took control of the camp; if they were to catch my father smuggling medication or anything else it would have meant certain death.

What to do? My parents came up with an idea. My mother, the great tzaddekes of blessed memory, sewed the formula into the lining of my coat. I would accompany my father, and when no one looked I slipped the medication to the boys.

Because I was a little girl, no one bothered to search me, and that was how I was initiated into the meaning of bikur cholim. My parents outlined to me the mission and the purpose very clearly: Whether the one you visit is in bondage or lying in a hospital bed, your mission is to help.

Many years have passed since those nightmarish days, but my parents' example is permanently etched in my heart. So I make a concerted effort to do my bikur cholim even if it's 2 a.m. after a long night of teaching Torah classes at Hineni and meeting with numerous people for private consultations. I try to bear in mind my parents' teachings - save lives, give a kind word, comfort your fellow man, touch a life, and bring hope and strength to a sick one lying in a hospital bed as well as family members who stand vigil trembling and praying at their bedside.

Since the middle of Pesach, as I explained in my previous two columns, I have found myself in a different position - a position that, baruch Hashem, I had never been forced to endure. Outside of joyous experiences such as giving birth, G-d had never tried me with the test of being confined to a hospital bed. So now it was I who was dependent on nurses' kindness. It was I who was waiting for a doctor. It was I who had to ring the bell and summon someone for help with the most elementary things, such as getting off the bed and even just sitting up.

Every moment was a challenge. I wondered how I would have the strength to get through all of this and then I remembered the berachah my father gave me so many years ago: "Mine kind, zolst eemer kenen geyben un zolst keinmol nisht haften beyten" - "My child, may G-d grant you the privilege of always being able to give and never having to ask." And now here I was, having to ask assistance for the most basic human needs.

The Patriarch Yosef found himself enveloped in darkness, and what kept him going was d'yukno shel aviv - the image of his father. In my own darkness, I, too, clung to the image of my father. I recalled the months when he was a prisoner of his hospital bed. He would greet whoever came to see him - nurse, doctor, housekeeper - with a smile and would thank them profusely. He asked about their welfare and blessed them from his heart.

My path was clear. Now it was my turn to bless all those who came to my door - whether it was to inquire about my condition or to give me an injection or to take me for an X-ray. I thanked them from my heart and blessed each one of them with the words that from time immemorial have been the symbols of our people.

Not once, but many times, I would notice a shocked reaction. One of the nurses actually said, "In all my years of working in hospitals, no one ever blessed me; no one ever inquired about my family or my life."

My father imparted this wisdom to me that he learned from his father, who had learned it from his father, going all the way back to our Patriarchs whose mission was to give blessings to all mankind.

I do not think any of the staff members at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego had ever met an observant Jew. My father's voice whispered to me, "My child, my precious light, wherever you are and whatever you do, never forget you represent the Torah, and the way people will see you and judge you is how they will see and judge our people."

So on every occasion and with every encounter I spoke to people of our Torah and the wisdom of our people that was granted us at Sinai. And soon we had Torah classes - discussions and explanations. Teaching became part of my daily life at Scripps Memorial and suddenly the days were not so heavy. The hours went by quickly. I smiled for the sake of others and smiles came right back to me.

Hashem should grant that you, my dear friends, will never find yourselves in a hospital or in any other difficult circumstance. But if, G-d forbid, your destiny decrees that you have to pass this test, then rise to the challenge. Put a smile on your face and share your Torah wisdom. Remember the passage that is written so clearly and yet is so easily forgotten: "For this is your knowledge and your wisdom in the sight of the nations."

I now prepare for my journey home and I look forward to returning to my family. Staff members come to say goodbye, and as they do their eyes are moist with tears. They tell me things like, "You touched us all, you brought the light of G-d into our lives."

This light is the heritage of our people, bequeathed to us at Sinai. Every one of us can kindle it and light up the world. That is our mission and our purpose. Wherever we go, wherever our destiny takes us, this light is our torch.


Leah said...

Amen. Rebbetzen Jungreis is an amazement! She is a tzedeykas! May she live and be well to 120 years!

Anonymous said...

Such encouraging words of wisdom... Thank you!

Tali said...

One of the most beautiful and essential things we can pass on to our children is a sense of purpose and mission in this world. Rebbetzin Jungreis is so lucky to have had parents who did this for her so effectively, and we are all so lucky Rebbetzin Jungreis has embodied this value so powerfully!

Thank you, Devorah.

Gibbo said...

What a wonderful Jewess, certainly one to emulate. I try very hard to be nice to goyim and to care about their welfare. I have been told off for this and frowned upon. I always answer, look at the words of the Torah, we are to be a light among the nations!! THE NATIONS!! somewhere along the line we have lost the rules to our holy mission.

Anonymous said...

To Gibbo, Yes you all are a light to the rest of us. The world seems darkened now, please please, shine out your light.
I am Noahide, recently I contacted a Rabbi to learn Torah, as I sincerely wanted to convert, I was referred to someone far in another city. He turned me off rudely, well, I found it rude, as I was reaching out with sincerity. He just said I have to live near Jews. I live far from the any synagogue, being old, i cannot drive, infact never have. Live with my children. My childre are not against my conversion. But that Rabbi, far from my city, was rude. I had to call 3 times, before I got to talk to him. All I wanted was to study Torah with a Rabbi. Iwas told off rudely. My heart wept within me.
Shine your light, please. I love Gd's Chosen.
Pray for me and my grand children.
Thanks to all who do. Gd bless each of you.
Gd bless Israel.

a hurt Noahide.

Devorah said...

You can learn Torah at from Rabbi David Katz, who gives a special shiur there every week for Noahides.

Anonymous said...

Bless you Devorah.

I soounded like a whiner. I do hear a lot of Torah lectures from TorahAnytime And Torah Cafe. Will try oahides Nations again.
Bless you All.

Moriah said...

Rabbi's are required to reject the potential convert - 3 times in order to determine your sincerity. Not all do it but if someone is sincere they get over the rejection and move forward. If being a Jew is really what you want then nothing will stop you from becoming a Jew. Do a little research and you will see the tradition stems from Naomi pressing Ruth to leave three times. But Ruth would not leave and said some of the most moving words that brings a righteous convert to tears 20 years after.(Book of Ruth 1:16~17) Don't take it personally, but you cannot become a Jew unless you live in a Jewish community. It's not possible to live like a Jew, worship like a Jew and grow to love other Jews unless you live in a Jewish community. Good luck..

Anonymous said...

to a hurt noahide. i am also a noahide. where i live, there are no jews, no syngagoue, and we have no diplomatic ties with israel. yet i am still a noahide. i left xtianity with my two sons, and myself, before the internet came to where i live which was only 6 years later. and then my son told me, the internet is a bordless world, we can contact the jews and find out what actually did G-d tell them and what is meant for us. from then on i studied with the orthodox rabbis and sites. only thro the internet since 1995. my friend jim dollard who is in a rehab center in irving, texas, was many years a noahide and was a close friend of vendyl jones. a rabbi spat at him. great sages have been spat at, and humiliated b y our gentile brothers and sisters. if you feel hurt by a small incident, i could actually call it minute, by one jew showing to you, what we gentiles have been doing to them since creation, it really does not make sense to me. one thing i know is, which i learnt from the jews. one must never give up. the great chofetz chaim wrote that when someone insulted him, two scales fall before his eyes. on one scale is the insult of the person and on the other scale his own sins. he wrote, his own sins always outweighted the other and he walks away. if he , such a great torah scholar can do that, dont you think we should atleast try to emulate his way. everything that happens to us is from Hashem. at some time in your live, present or past birth, you must have done something similar to someone else, and it has come to you now for rectification. accept it and get alone with your life. my friend devorah in calif. converted with her husband, her only daughter is a noahide. she had to go three times before the sages and they did all they could to dissuade her, she stood her ground and converted in the orthodox way. before you can enter the first round you are already heart broken. even as a noahide there is alot we can do. as long as we attach ourselves to the jewish people. my long time friend, dr. michael schulman has a noahide site. you can write to him, and if you went to rabbi lazer or lazer beams on the breslov site there is also a noahide site. and the famed HaRav Ginsburgh has a site just for noahides.
in fact he has written a book called Kabbalah and meditations for the nations which is a hit among my noahide friends. and in his site too he covers the noahides. the other wonderful site is r avraham greenbaum of every week he has parashats for the jews and one for the nations. the same torah lesson, but he separates it on which is meant for us, and for the jews, and which we can take on volunatrily. Hashem has opened for us a whole world of torah via the net. take your share of it.
Each person Hashem guides according to his or her situation. count your blessings. your are not living in a country where you are NOT allowed to interact with jews. my friend in melbourne, frances, a noahide who has been running a noahide site for years under the name of rachav,has faced insurmountable problems and she is still running it. i have been a noahide without meeting a single jew and i have studied alot under the circumstances, because of the kindness of the jews who no matter how busy they are, still taught me indiviudally because i never gave up. at first it was short emails, then when i persevered they realised how sincere i was, and now they are helping my sons. things dont happen overnight. we have to prove we are sincere because there are many gentiles who come pretending to want to study and have caused havoc among the noahides. we have to take a step at a time. G-d will lead you. we dont lead G-d.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a long detail. The problem is most of what you took the time out and trouble to write, (for which I deeplly thank you), I know already. Yes, Hashem is the one who leads, decides, and that is true. But I am afraid, I did not really write indepth, of how this your Rabbi acted. The way of rudeness, is exactly what Rebettin Esther Jungries wrote for here, (May Hashem heal her completly), is what prompted me to write. forgive me anyone, if I have indirectly hurt you. That was not my motive. My motive was to tell how I was spoken too, something uncalled for.
I also do believe that in the end, the Chosen too can fail, after all they are human. I also believe, that they are the light, and according to some Rabbi;s Gd uses us 'goyim' to wake them from slumber and do what they are supposed to do.
Not an easy task at all. I also believe that as a Goyim, Hashem will judge me from my iner thoughts and not what is outwardly that the world may see.
In the end, we are all human. We are all accountable.
I live far from any synagogue, and ould never afford the travel or luxury of a taxi. So be it.
I am grateful, to this site, and for the many places anyone can go to and learn.
The problem is, when one hears something in a lecture broadcast, one wants to ask a question, because like it or not, I like the Jews, have plenty of questions too, but one cannot by this means get an answer.
The world as it is today, I know not anyone has much time to give away. I bear this in mind too.
Some Rabbi's I know in the Us of a, would answer, but just knowing how busy they are with so many things and with their own people, prompts me to stand back. So its sites like these that sometime help.
To Devorah, I am grateful for the site, and for the fact that we can voice our opinions.
Dear Noahide, thank you. Hashem, in the end, leads us all. We ask, He answers, even, albeit, at times it seems for us mortals, a long time.
Gd bless each and all of you.
A Goyim/

Anonymous said...

Dear Moriah,
Yes, this I understand. I know the life of a Jew is a hard task. Nevertheless, the Jew is the privedled one, for he/she, has been chosen by Hashem.
Why I love you guys, I don't know. I just do. No... correction, I do know why I love the Jews. knowing their history, and what they have endured, thats something only the chosen could do.
Also, in reply a bit to the Noahide, who worte so sweetly, there are others who are not Jews, who suffered at the hands of the same people you describe. We must be fair, so many for no good reason, are being subjected to horrid tortures, even today. What ever be the reason Jew or non Jew, these are things to be abhorred at. Any way,
thanks again to you Moriah, and Hashem bless you.