In the early 1970s, the organization known as Hineni was founded by the renowned Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, who saw the need for an outreach program to assist those in need of escaping the emotional vacuums of their lives. Her popular weekly classes, which focused on Torah teachings and the important things in life, attracted thousands each week.
A woman once came to her, bemoaning her plight. Her son had gotten involved with the wrong people and left home. He was living in Las Vegas and had nothing to do with his heritage. “Rebbetzin,” she said excitedly, “my son is in town now but I’m very nervous. I’m so afraid that he’ll slip back and disappear again. When can we come to see you?”
“My Torah class tonight at Hineni, and he’ll have a chance to meet my father, too. Sounds like he needs a blessing.”
That evening, mother and son were sitting in the front row. It wasn’t hard to pick him out, even had he not been sitting next to his mother, with his tall, dark, and sleek “cool” look. Despite the fact that it was night, he wore designer sunglasses.
Right after the lecture ended, his mother prodded him to the front. She was obviously very nervous. There was a lot at stake. Finally, slowly, almost painstakingly, he followed his mother to the front, and she introduced him to the Rebbetzin.
After a formal greeting, Rebbetzin Jungreis said, “I’m pleased to meet you. What is your name?”
“Mario,” he answered. But the Rebbetzin shook her head all the while, smiling warmly. “Mario can’t be your name. That’s just a pretense. Tell me your real name, the name your mother and father call you by. Tell me your Jewish name.”
There was a long pause. “Anshie,” he finally muttered.
“Anshie,” she repeated. “That can’t be it. Anshie always goes with something else. Give me your full name.”
“Asher Anshel,” he said reluctantly. For a moment, Rebbetzin Jungreis was speechless, to be sure a rare occurrence indeed. She stood there nonplused. Asher Anshel was the name of her great-great grandfather, Rav Asher Anshel Jungreis zt”l, who was known throughout Hungary as the Miracle Rabbi. Her own son, and nephew, were named after him. In most cases, those people who carry that name are usually somehow connected to him.
“How... how did you get that name?” the Rebbetzin asked eagerly. The man just shrugged and looked at his mother.
“Tell me,” she turned to her, “how did you come to give that name to your son?”
“It’s a long story,” she said, her eyes full of tears. “When Mario...eh...Anshel was born, he was a twin. His sibling died, and he was very ill. I went to my rabbi and asked him for a blessing, and he suggested that I give him the name Asher Anshel, after the Hungarian Miracle Rabbi, so that he might pray in Heaven on his behalf.”
Rebbetzin Jungreis felt overwhelmed. The whole story was awesome, a jigsaw puzzle spanning oceans and continents. Here, standing before her was Asher Anshel himself – named for her ancestor – looking for her help.
“Why are you wearing sunglasses at night, indoors?” she finally asked. He just stood there, unresponsive, and shrugged his shoulders. “Take off your sunglasses,” she commanded, deciding to take a tougher tone, “I want to see your eyes, the windows of your soul.” He shrugged and slowly took off his sunglasses. He gave a half smile, more like a sneer.
“Listen to me,” Rebbetzin Jungreis said in a soft, penetrating tone. “I am the great-great granddaughter of that Miracle Rabbi after whom you are named. It is no coincidence that you are here. There are no accidents in G-d’s world. The blessing that you received when your mother gave you that name has served you well. You may have been away for quite some time, but now you have come home, and we are here to help you.” With that, she took him over to her father, Rav Avraham HaLevi Jungreis zt”l, who was in his usual seat near the aron kodesh. His long white beard, gentle serene countenance, and warm, penetrating eyes made Anshie feel as if he were in the presence of sanctity. Rav Avraham enveloped him in his arms, kissed him, and prayed that G-d grant him the privilege of starting a new Torah life. And today, Asher Anshel is doing just that.