Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
How do I effectively convey the passion and wisdom one feels and receives from Esther Jungreis when she speaks or writes? Born in Hungary, she is a survivor of the Holocaust and the daughter of a rabbi whose roots trace back to the lineage of King David. I share this because of the innate esteem one supposes from such history. Her life and that of her family confirms that honor. Her life and her message are awe-inspiring and life transforming.
Rebbetzin Jungreis is the Founder of Hineni (meaning “Here I am”), an organization she formed to combat the spiritual deprivation she saw in Jewish people around the world. I know from reading her books and from hearing her lecture that she lovingly encourages Jewish people around the world to define and know “where they are”.
In the very first story of the Torah, G-d calls out to Adam and asks, “Where are you?” Adam answers, “Hineni.” The learning beyond the actual tale asks why G-d would have to ask where Adam is. Doesn’t G-d already know? The answer lies in the intention behind G-d’s question. The question is still relevant today, and Esther Jungreis helps us respond.
No matter the Jewish movement you adhere to, you will find value in The Committed Life: Principles For Good Living From Our Timeless Past. I first read this book in 1999 and was so moved I paused on page five to write a letter to Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. Little did I know – this was just the beginning. She writes about the soul of Judaism, finding purpose in life, and the expression of values within Judaism.
Her own life story of family, memories, and teaching encourages the pursuit of meaning through Judaism. Jungreis states, “It (Torah) is not a book that can simply be read. It’s a lifetime pursuit.” Many have referred to the Torah as a blueprint for living. When you read the words of Esther Jungreis, you are not afraid to seek and explore the “rules”.
Chapters in The Committed Life address G-d, responsibility, charity, marriage, fear, and more. Each chapter is filled with personal stories and interactions Rebbetzin Jungreis has had with students from all over the world.
I am eager to share this book with you and am concerned that I am unable to express what a moving, life inspiring, good read this is. Esther Jungreis and her family put good into this world with their every action. Even the least religious of us will not be put off or afraid of her devotion.
When I reread this book for the third time in 2013, I was moved to tears by the time I reached page twelve. The wisdom the Rebbetzin shares with her readers through her stories and her passion is beyond any words I can share.
For example, when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, she writes that he comforted the doctor and thanked him for his kindness. The Rebbetzin had not been with her husband at that appointment because they did not really expect anything would be wrong. He left the appointment and went to teach students at their synagogue and then went for a visit with his grandchildren.
In another instance, a man attending one of Esther Jungreis’ classes asked her how old she was. A Rabbi Jungreis saved his father from deportation from a detention camp during the Holocaust. Not only did Rebbetzin Jungreis confirm that it was her father but she recognized the face of the man’s father in his and was able to call his father by name.
The Committed Life is a book about, ultimately, allowing G-d into your life and living a Jewish life. It is an experience of self-discovery and spirit. Rebbetzin Jungreis concludes the book with a traditional teaching: “Words that emanate from the heart must enter another heart.” Anyone who takes the time to read The Committed Life will experience words entering their heart.
I wrote this review on my own choosing. This book can be purchased at Amazon: