On Thursday evening, December 23, Chazaq hosted an event at Congregation Bet-El in Jamaica Estates with Rebbetzin Slovie Jungreis Wolff, author, lecturer, and daughter of the famous Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h, on how to deal with pain and loss through the power of emunah. The shiur was given in memory of Liel Dinah bas Efrayim, a very special young lady who was tragically killed recently in a car accident.
Rebbetzin Slovie Jungreis Wolff began by stating, “What can we say?” She lamented that there are so many tragedies: Meron, COVID, and more. “We find chizuk and solace in the Torah. My mother taught me to turn the pages, turn the pages. Everything’s in the Torah.” She added, “The question for us is how do we respond?”
She then told the audience to journey back with her to Yaakov Avinu, who went through tremendous pain and anguish. He was told that his son was devoured by a wild beast. He went through trials with Lavan and his brother Eisav and more. Yaakov said that this sorrow of losing Yosef he would carry in his heart to the grave.
Later, when Yaakov encounters Yosef, we see that Yosef falls on his father’s neck and Yaakov is reciting Shema. How is it possible that he is praying now? What happened to all the emotion and heartbreak? In that moment, what did he think? For us, his Bais Yaakov daughters, what did he want to teach us?
In that moment, Yaakov felt pain and joy, sorrow, grief all at the same time, and all the emotions collided. He saw judgment, hardship, pain, compassion – and goodness and chesed. Instead of falling into that emotion and trauma, he took that feeling and called out Sh’ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad. Rebbetzin Wolff explained that Hashem’s name “Hashem” stands for his attribute of mercy and kindness, and His name “Elokeinu” symbolizes Hashem’s attribute of judgment. When he called out the first line of the Sh’ma, he was stating Hashem’s attribute of kindness and judgment is all one.
She elaborated: “Sometimes I don’t see the plan. My heart is full. My soul is breaking. I say I accept the kingship of Hashem. I accept the responsibility of living and dying as a Jew with complete faith.” She taught that we have to live with faith, knowing Hashem is our G-d and He is One and we know this with all our heart. Yaakov is teaching us that when your heart is breaking, don’t just leave it at tears. Righteous women brought us out of Egypt and righteous women will bring us out of this galus. We daven. We use our tears to break through the barrier of Shamayim. “Your tears are the sweat of your soul.”
She added, “Hashem, there are times of joy and sorrow, but I know it all comes from Hashem echad. This has been the mission statement of am Yisrael for thousands of years. This is who we are.”
She shared that she is named for her grandmother, Rebbetzin Slova Chanah, who was killed in Auschwitz. Her grandmother’s last words as she held her grandchildren in the gas chamber were the Sh’ma.
Rebbetzin Slovie Jungreis Wolff continued. “There will be pain and hardship. We don’t understand, but we say Sh’ma because we have emunah. She added that on her deathbed, her mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, kept repeating, “The world is on fire. Get the Jewish people to say Sh’ma.”
One of the final text messages that Liel sent to a friend was asking her to remind her to say Sh’ma. For Liel’s holy neshamah, we should take it upon ourselves to say Sh’ma twice a day, and if we already recite it twice a day, we should take a moment before saying it to say, “I take on the yoke of Heaven with complete faith and I take on the responsibility to be a Jew.”
She added that we are so blessed because we have an incredible legacy. We recite Sh’ma in the morning and at night. Morning represents when things are going well, and night, darkness, represents when there are troubles. We recite Sh’ma during both times. This is the koach of am Yisrael.
She noted that Yaakov Avinu was frightened about going down to Egypt because he knew he was going into galus. In a sefer Torah, when it says that Yisrael was going to Egypt, there are seven crowns over his name Yisrael. The Baal HaTurim says that Yaakov went through seven hardships. Seven times a tzadik falls and he gets up. He created crowns from these hardships. “From the darkness comes the lights. When I sit in darkness, Hashem is my light.”
Hashem promised all of us when he told Yaakov, “Don’t be afraid; I’m going to go down with you and I’m going up with you.” She taught that when your heart is breaking, Hashem’s heart is breaking. Galus hurts. Death hurts. Any pain we experience hurts Hashem, too.
When Yaakov was dying, he called to his children, and this includes us. He told them to come together. He was saying that we shouldn’t look at each other’s differences. Hashem hid the date of Mashiach coming because it’s not about the date. Hashem wants us to find n’chamah for each other.
May Liel’s family be comforted with the mourners of Tzion. Thank you, Rebbetzin Slovie Jungreis Wolff, for this beautiful, inspiring shiur.
By Susie Garber