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The Need To Change

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 will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.

The Need To Change

     We know the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam – unwarranted hatred between Jew and Jew. It’s been almost 2,000 years since that catastrophe but we have yet to be forgiven and redeemed from our long, dark galus. Why? Why doesn’t G-d redeem us?

     Tragically, the sin that cast us into Exile still plagues us. We have yet to do teshuvah and free ourselves of the ugly shackles of jealousy and hatred. Even after the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust we continued our animosity and bickering. Our communities and families are splintered, and instead of love and goodwill, factionalism and mean-spiritedness prevail.

     G-d keeps sending us wake-up calls but we remain obdurate. With each passing day our national predicament becomes more and more perilous.

     We are witness to an escalation of anti-Semitism throughout the world, but instead of unifying in love, instead of forgiving one another, we become more and more fragmented.

     You might protest, “We know all this, but there is nothing much we can do about it.  Each of us is just one little ‘I’ incapable of changing the course of history.”

     I’ll repeat a story I related here several weeks ago. A good man who was on a mission to foster chesed – loving-kindness – went to a rebbe for a berachah.

     “Give me a berachah,” he pleaded, “so that I might bring about real changes among our people.”

     The rebbe readily gave his blessing, but after a few weeks the man returned frustrated and upset.

     “Rebbe,” he complained. “No one listens to me, so I came to the conclusion that I may have been too ambitious. I should limit my outreach to my own community.

     The rebbe agreed and wished him well, but once again the man failed and returned to the rebbe. This time he decided to focus only on his own family. Sadly, he was unsuccessful with them. Ready to give up on his mission, he went back to the rebbe disappointed and dejected.

     “Has it ever occurred to you,” the rebbe asked, “that the best way to change the world is to start with yourself?”

 

     Taken by surprise, the man didn’t understand the meaning of the rebbe’s words.

 

     “Each and every one of us,” the rebbe explained, “has been charged with a unique mission – to ‘cling unto our G-d.’ But how can we finite beings cling unto the Infinite?

 

     “Our sages teach us that we cling unto G-d by emulating Him – ‘Even as He is compassionate, we must be compassionate; even as He imparts chesed, we must impart chesed; even as He is forgiving, we must be forgiving.’ If we do that, we will not only succeed in changing ourselves but also in changing the dynamics of our families, our synagogues, our communities – yes, even the world.”

 

     The moral of this story should guide us. The time has come for all of us to change, to become the people our Creator meant us to be. Instead of working on others, let us work on ourselves. If we do that, we will transform the world and create the environment in which Mashiach can come.    

 

     Last week’s column focused on the unmitigated chutzpah of the young toward their elders. Subsequently I received a large volume of e-mail and letters. Sadly, many families identify with the problem.

 

     Chutzpah is not just a social phenomenon but a disease that leads to family breakdown and, ultimately, community breakdown. So let’s take a good look at ourselves and our relationships and see what we can rectify.

 

     Chutzpah is just one of our problems. Instead of warmth, kindness, and compassion, the hallmarks of our people, too often we relate to one another with lack of consideration. This shouldn’t be. Maliciousness and ignoble behavior are not reflective of our character as a people.

 

     If we were to stop for just one moment and honestly and sincerely reflect on our actions, I am certain we would immediately change our ways. We would be horrified at our behavior and make the necessary changes.