I had a very great Zechut (privilege) to know Rebbetzin Jungries personally. Not for very long, and not so close, but enough to feel like I lost my grandmother.
I met her by chance. I know there're no coincidences, and all is orchestrated from above, but at the time it happened it felt totally random.
In the beginning of 2015, while sweating in physical therapy after a knee surgery, the back door opened, and there came into the room the Rebbetzin herself. I didn't notice at first how fragile she was, or how tiny and thin. All I saw was a very pretty woman with a huge smile on her face, and sparkling stars in her eyes.
I was immediately drawn to her. I recognized her from the picture on the back cover her book "Life is A Test" I recently finished reading.
"We cannot disclose other patient's names" was the reply I got when I asked if she is who I think she is.
I gathered my courage and went to play with the weights next to where she was slowly paddling on the stationary bike, smiling.
"Shalom", I started in Hebrew, and her eyes lit even more.
"Come, come" she signaled with her hand patting the bicycle's handlebar "stand next to me".
And this is how we started talking. She had lots of stories; looking back I deeply regret I did not memorialized immediately, because now I cannot remember all of them. What a miss.
"How shall I call you?" I asked, and she smiled even more and said: "Rebbetzin! Call me Rebbetzin! I am The Rebbetzin."
"Rebbetzin, you know" I kinda complained after a few minutes of conversation "I have to tell you, I cried while reading your book. You really made me cry."
"Well of course" she giggled and then became serious for a second "I cried when I wrote it" and smiled again.
And that was it. I was in love. Just like that.
The next week I noticed that the PT receptionist brings over to the Rebbetzin goods from the supermarket: a Challah bread in a plastic packing material, a few fruits or vegetables and maybe a couple of other knickknacks. The Challah bread shocked me. "How can it be that this holly lady eats a store bought Challah?" I was so sad about this.
The next time I came to the PT I brought with me a home baked Challah and asked her if she would honor me and receive the Challah from me. "Of course" she said "thanks you so much, you are so sweet."
The week after that we met at the PT again. As soon as she waltzed into the room she called me "Smadar, your Challah was so good. It's been years since I ate a Water Challah, and yours was really really good."
I was on cloud nine.
The next week I did not see her in PT. I asked about her, but of course no one would give me privileged information. Since she previously gave me her email - not just gave me her email, hovered over me and pointed with her finger to the letters I was typing to make sure I enter it correctly so there's: "no chance you might not be able to get in touch with me if you need me" - I emailed her to ask her if it'll be okay with her if I bring her my home backed Challah every week, and where to.
She emailed me back:
Thank you so much. I enjoyed your challah immensely . Please G-D I will be back at physical therapy soon. In the interim, if you could write a note with the challah this is for the Rebbetzin and no one else
and email me when you drop it off, someone will pick it up for me.
Shabbat Shalom and Chang Sameach
Much love and many Brachot,
This was last October during the Holidays, just after Rosh HaShana.
Her son, HaRav Israel Jungries, while giving his Hesped (eulogy) cried yesterday and said: "She wanted so much to hold and stay for this coming Rosh HaShana..." But she couldn't. HaShem had other plans. It seems like He is taking all the Tzadikim before He's bringing Mashiach.
And so it was. I made Hafrashat Challah every week, blessed on it for the Refua Shlema of my dearest Rebbetzin, and brought it over to the PT with a not: "This is for the Rebbetzin and no one else! Refua Shlema, much love and Shabbat Shalom, Smadar & family".
Yesterday, sitting in Agudaht Israel Shul in Far Rockaway, listening to the eulogies, I realized how little I knew the Rebbetzin.
I heard Rabbi Reisman, other great Rabbanim and her children and grandchildren, talking about her, saying their farewells with cracking voices, and bursts of sobbing.
They talked about her relentless fight with the American Holocaust, the assimilation; Fight that was always done with love.
She was propelled by pure love:
love for the every Jew,
love for the Torah,
love for her tradition, our people's tradition,
and love and utmost respect and inspiration drawn from her ancestors & the family Yichus (pedigree).
They talked about Her Kedusha (purity) that emerged from her deepest and sincere caring about others.
And they talked about her humbleness and humility that had no boundaries, but moved mountains and people.
She had so much love to each and every one.
And then it hit me.
I suddenly understood.
She did it for me.
She didn't really need my Challah.
She realized how happy she made me by accepting my Challah, and because she has so much love and caring for everyone, she just wanted to love me too. She wanted to make me happy. She did it for me.
HaRav Desler zt'l said that love is the outcome of giving. I felt it with all its might as my soul became tied with bounds of love to the Rebbetzin.
So what did I learn from this tiny giant?
I learned that love is also to know how to receive. Even if you do not need anything, or this specific thing.
Love is to know how to make the other person feel important and needed.
Love is to be very humble and to know to accept from anyone.
Love is to stay simple and accessible no matter how great you are.
Love is to greet everyone with a genuine warm smile even when you suffer pain.
The Rebbetzin taught me that Receiving is the outcome of Love.
I want to engrave this lesson on my heart, and by that to continue her legacy and keep spreading the light she shined on me. I am a very giving person, and I know this is not going to be easy for me. I hope I have the Rebbitzen blessing from above, and I hope that with it I'll be able to pass this Life's Test.
I miss her presence. Nafshi Keshura BeNafsha.
May she rest in peace, and may her Zechuyot protect us.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
Tehe Nishmata Eden Tzerura BiTzror HaChaim.
[© Smadar Prager, CGP]
Smadar Prager, CGP is an Israeli Certified Group Psychotherapist since 1998 with a home based private practice located in South Valley Stream (Five Towns area, Long Island). She focuses on individual’s relationships with self, in the Family, Parenthood, Couplehood, and Body and Eating Disorders.