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Seize The Moment

     Some time ago a man approached me asking if l could help his daughter get into a certain graduate program. Although, at the moment, I had no idea how I could be of use, I replied that I would look into it and see what I could do. In retrospect, little did I know that my small effort would be a tremendous help. 


     A month later, I was honored to speak at the banquet for my son's school, during which I talked about the importance of being grateful as parents to the teachers of our children. One day the following week, after I concluded davening the afternoon Mincha prayers, a man walked over to me. "I just wanted to tell you, Rabbi Jungreis, that I really enjoyed your speech at the dinner the other week." Thanking the gentleman, I had never met before for his kind and complimentary remark, I was pleased to learn just exactly who he was.


     He was none other than the dean of the graduate program the girl was trying to get into.


     "If you could help me," I excitedly told him, "I know a girl who has been trying to get into your school. Do you think you can do something for her?" My enthusiasm, unfortunately, was short-lived. "It's impossible," he said. "We receive thousands of applications and only accept a handful of students. However, if you would like, I can give you the phone number of one of the other head administrators, who may be able to figure something out for you. You never know, but you can try."


     Without hesitation, I politely asked if he could relay that information. I then began jotting down the name and number of the head administrator, only to pause in the middle and catch my breath. I knew who it was. She was a friend of my sister. Very happy to hear this, I immediately put in a call.


     "This is Rabbi Jungreis,"I began, "you may remember me from many years ago. I am calling because there is a student of mine who has applied to your program and is really hoping to be accepted. Is there anything you can do to help her along in this process?" I hoped that I would meet greater success this time around with this administrator, and I was right.


     "Rabbi Jungreis, I should tell you that we have received countless applications and the waitlist is already very long. However, the fact that you tell me this girl studies Torah and you are calling on her behalf, I am led to believe that she may be someone special we should consider for our program. We will plan on giving her an interview." As I was told this, I wasn't sure if I was hearing everything correctly, but indeed I was.
     Emailing back the girl, I informed her of the progress I made and congratulated her on the upcoming interview she was soon to receive. She was of course thrilled and appreciative of all the effort I expended on her behalf But one month and then two months and then three went by and she still never heard back from the school.


     Until, one Monday night, when she attended my class and approached me. "Rabbi Jungreis," she said, "guess what? I was accepted into the graduate program!" ''And what do you have to say about all this?" I asked her. It was an entire two words. "Baruch Hashem," she said. And she was right. That said it all.


    Looking back at this incident, I remind myself of three important life lessons. For one, a person must never give up davening and placing his or her trust in Hashem that matters will work out and one's dreams will come true. The circumstances may seem bleak and nil, yet there is nothing which is too hopeless or far off for Hashem to intervene.


     Secondly, never stop studying Torah. As the head administrator rightfully recognized, the merit and value of Torah study is unparalleled. It not only bespeaks of our character and commitment to growth, but connects us to our life source of Hashem and spirituality.


   And last, but not least, as Hillel teaches (Avos 1:14), we must always remind ourselves, "If not now, when?" When we are given the opportunity to extend ourselves and help another, we should not push it off. We oftentimes doubt just how much we can accomplish with very little. If we have an idea or project we would like to accomplish, now is the best time to begin. Life offers us many opportunities, yet we must grab them before they pass and do not return. Seize the moment and make the most of it.


     But that is not all. Sometimes, our efforts do more than help another get into a graduate program. They actually save someone's life. 


     One friend of mine is known to be an extremely warm and congenial man. Going out of his way to be friendly to everyone he encounters, he makes a special effort to welcome guests and newcomers to the synagogue he attends. And in fact, on one occasion, his effort did more than evolve a happy response in kind.


    One Shabbos, as he took note of a man sitting in the back of the shul, he figured that he would go over and wish him a 'Good Shabbos.' The man was known to be reserved and not talk to many people, and it would certainly be a nice gesture to approach him and see how he was doing. 


     Walking over to the fellow, he wished him a 'Good Shabbos' and inquired as to how everything was going. The fellow, who remained seated, extended his left hand as if to shake, though my friend was visibly caught off guard by the unusual manner of greeting. "Is everything alright with your right hand?" my friend asked. "Well," replied the gentleman, "I don't think it's a big deal, but I accidently cut it the other day and it has started to feel and look a little bit abnormal. But, I'm pretty sure it's nothing, and it will go away within a few days."


     My friend, apprehensive that it was something more serious than a mere cut, called over another man in the shul who was a doctor. "What do you think about this hand?" he asked, prompting the man to extend it and allow the doctor to examine it. Without much hesitation, the doctor had his concerns. "I think you should go to the hospital now. I don't like the way it looks." Not wishing to brush aside the doctor's advice and orders, the man left shul and headed for the hospital.


     After arriving at the hospital and being attended to, the doctors rather quickly returned with a report. Sir, you are a lucky man. If you would not have come in to the hospital today, you may have been endangering your life. Somehow, you got blood poisoning and your hand got infected. This could have progressed further and gotten more dangerous. But now, we can take care of it and you will be fine.


     As my friend later reminded me, we can never know the far reaching ramifications of simply greeting another person. It may not happen every week that wishing someone 'Good Shabbos' will save their life, but seeing it happen even once is more than enough. My friend was certainly glad that he approached that other gentlemen, and the gentleman will certainly be forever grateful for that one small gesture.