Today, the 19th of Av, is the yartzheit of one of Hashem’s gentle yet mighty warriors, a woman lived before the Holocaust, lived through the Holocaust, and was here after the Holocaust.
The way Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h gave blessings to people was a magical scene. She held their head in her hands with a love and warmth that is beyond words. She loved every single one of her people. Every single one of us. May the following reflection serve as an elevation for her exalted soul, and in her merit, may we have tremendous Heavenly assistance in connecting with, and loving our brothers and sisters in the most real way.
It was a Friday afternoon a few weeks back and I was waiting in line to pick something up from the Pharmacy.
After a few moments, a Jewish lady walked into the store.
“I’ve got the most awful toothache,” she announced to the pharmacist behind the counter. “The dentist has sent me in for some co-codamol.”
Seeing as she didn’t seem to be very shy about her condition, I looked over at this lady and said, “Refuah Sheleima! A toothache can be so painful!”
She turned her head and looked at me, somewhat taken aback, but with a glimmer of appreciation in her eye.
“Sorry…” She said, hesitantly. “Do I know you?”
I smiled behind my mask.
“I don’t think we know each other, no.”
– Other than our standing together at Har Sinai, our souls being part of a collective national spirit, our both having being created by the same G-d who we recognize as our Father, technically making us siblings… No. We have absolutely nothing to do with each other, whatsoever.
I felt like saying this, but I held back.
Instead, I introduced myself, she reciprocated, and we played some Jewish ‘mishpachology’, enjoying a friendly conversation.
By this point I had collected what I had come in for and I left, wishing her a good Shabbos as I exited – parting ways in a physical sense, but somehow reigniting a connection that hadn’t been there a few moments earlier.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi zy”a, the holy Baal HaTanya writes in Chapter 32;
בְּשֶׁגַּם שֶׁכּוּלָּן מַתְאִימוֹת, וְאָב אֶחָד לְכוּלָּנָה
Furthermore, they all have one father – one source, and within their source, they all comprise one entity.
וְלָכֵן נִקְרְאוּ כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל “אַחִים” מַמָּשׁ, מִצַּד שׁוֹרֶשׁ נַפְשָׁם בַּה’ אֶחָד
It is on account of this common root in the One G‑d that all of Israel are called “brothers”—in the full sense of the word, and not only figuratively, in the sense of “relatives” or “similar in appearance” and the like
רַק שֶׁהַגּוּפִים מְחוּלָּקִים
only the bodies are distinct from each other.
There’s nothing quite like that feeling of ‘randomly’ bumping into a fellow Jew when you’re least expecting it – meeting each other’s gaze. A smile, a friendly nod, a schmooze perhaps (depending on who you are and where you’re from!) and a surge of warmth fills the space between you, an inexplicable bond.
But what if we could tap into this foundational idea on a more frequent basis- when we’re in a kosher supermarket, in the office, the beis ha’medrash, or the park, wherever we see another fellow Jew?
It starts with a “Hello”, a “Good Shabbos”, or – if you’re not in the mood to communicate – simply a smile. (As Rebbetzin Jungreis’s husband Rav Meshulam zt’l once said, “If you don’t have a reason to smile, wear a smile on your face and Hashem will give you a reason for it to be there.”)
This concept of being brothers and sisters isn’t a just a nice idea. ‘Kol Yisrael achim, mamash’ – it’s a real thing! When we begin to walk around with this knowledge, we get that surge of warmth every time we see another yid. Granted, we all do things that grate one another, frustrate each other – and yes, sometimes there’s a place to say something. But even while our siblings or other family members get on our nerves from time to time, the bond remains.
We’re fam. Mamash. The whole package.
Friends, as the month of Av comes to an end, let the recognition of ‘Av Echad l’Kulanah’ – “We all have one Abba”, flow into our hearts and minds and to do its thing.
We didn’t make it this Tisha Ba’Av. But we must pick ourselves up and continue with courage, positivity, and with a clarity of vision that ahavas chinam, baseless love – is what will fix and build our world.
Let’s do this! We can, we must!
Liluy Nishmasah Ha’Rabanit Esther bas Ha’Rav Avraham Ha’Levi zt’l