From the Desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda)Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
May 14th, 2020

If one person stuck his thumb on a nail and there is some bleeding and pain, and another person also has the same experience, is it possible for either one to say to the other I know how you feel – I know what your pain is? It is possible to share sympathy and understanding how painful it might be, but honestly, it is not possible for someone to know what the pain is of the other person. Often, I have heard from chaplains and other medical personal share with me how different it is to be on the bed side as a patient rather than the other way around. It is important to be empathetic, to be understanding, to be patient, to be compassionate, and most of all to be sincere. There are many scenarios about people being necham availos not only telling their own stories, but telling the mourner or mourners they know what they are going through or know how much pain they are in or the pain and suffering of the deceased. A person might have experienced the pain, the anguish, the sadness, or similar experiences the mourner might have gone through, or their family member who died, but cannot know the actual feelings nor the pain the mourner has experienced. Often those comments can be painful to a mourner who might personally take afront how is it possible for that person to know my personal pain and what I have gone through. It is all right to say, I feel for you. Listening, and being empathetic is so important.

Klal Yisrael has been experiencing tremendous pain due to COVID-19 with the suffering of continued sickness and the death of so many. We can and do suffer the pain of the loss of those who have meant so much to us. But, can we really know and feel the pain of the families who have experience the hospitalization and the death of their loved ones. Or those without any family or their own loved ones to grieve for them. There is also the fear of the unknown. What about the forthcoming Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos and Simchas Torah? What will those holy days be like in many spiritual and cultural ways. Even more so, what about those who are 60 years and older or of any age with underlying health conditions. What will those days be like for them? Especially those who are alone and not able to leave their homes and their apartments. Of course, having emunah, btachen and faith is important for the future is up to the Aibershta. Nevertheless, we must also be cognizant of those fears. We must be with these fellow brothers and sisters in the present, being there for them in spirit, with hope, understanding and if possible, help to work out practical solutions. For those who are lonely, for those who feel alone, we must continue to be there for them. Only each of you knows who those people are who feel alone. Sometimes it might be a person going through a personal difficulty, a medical condition that might be life limiting, life threatening or even with chronic pain and discomfort as I mentioned in my recent article. It could be a matter of financial concerns. For a person who is lonely, who feels alone, many things that might seem insignificant to someone else can be magnified and painful to that person. Whatever the case, when a person feels alone, it is so meaningful for that person to know he/she is not alone.

We are mispallel there will be a major change for the best. Nevertheless, our hearts go out to all Klal Yisrael and to all our neighbors. Our tefilos do not stop. We beseech the Ribono Shel Olom for His Rachmim. We do so from our hearts and yes, our tears. This week the OU, RCA and Agudah went public with their guidelines on opening the Kehilos which was also distributed by the RAA to our readership. The RAA/Igud is also extremely fortunate to have as our own Director of Medical Halacha Commission, Rabbi Aaron Glatt MD, who has and continues to guide us with his scientific, medical, and halachic knowledge and resources. There are no simple answers or solutions. The underlying concerns are how and when will our shuls and, our kehilos return to some normalcy without the fear of spreading or contracting COVID-19 and to follow government policies. What is important is not to speak loshon hara, have any sinas chinum, nor machlokes, but to have most of all achdus and shalom. We all need each other for chizuk and support.

What is truly remarkable is the phenomenal chasadim -the wonderful good deeds from all corners of the world. Just this week was the Hatzalah -Thon on Lag B Omer. Seeing the videos of some of the Hatzalah members who themselves Boruch H were able to return home having been in the hospital after having contracted the virus during their heroic care of others – Jewish and not Jewish. What they conveyed brought tears to the eyes. The Kiddush H, of all Hatzalah throughout the world continues through their valiant and magnificent care for humanity. Praise must also be given to the hundreds and hundreds of other volunteers who help in many different venues.

Though, I have written in earlier articles what a professional chaplain is, there are many who are not familiar with what it takes to become a BCC a Board-Certified Chaplain. Briefly, Board Certified Chaplains have gone through rigorous Clinical Pastoral Education, training, internship and must meet specific requirements to be considered a candidate for certification by a recognized and accredited organization. Orthodox Jewish Chaplains are imbued with love of Torah, Yiddishkeit and with the Taryag Mitzvos.

The following are examples of excerpts from the many tefilos, the holy prayers that can bring comfort and meaning at specific times between a chaplain, a rabbi and a patient or person experiencing difficult and challenging times especially as I mentioned in previous articles regarding spiritual distress.

Hodu La H = Va ani bchasdecha Vawtachti but as for me on Your kindness I trust

Haleluka Ki Tov = Hawrofai Lishvurai Laiv Umchabais Lartzvosawm = He is the healer of the brokenhearted and the One Who bandages.

Modim anachnu lawch = Maiolawm kivinu lawch always have we put our hope in You.

Vhu Rachum= Elokai selichos awnaw selach naw Kail tov vesalach Ki Kail Melech chanun verachum awtaw. G of forgiveness please forgive now G Who is good and forgiving for G is King Who is gracious and compassionate are You.

Kavai el H chazak veyaamaitz libechaw vekavai el H = Place your hope in G strengthen yourself and He will instill courage in your heart and place your hope in G

Kawrofai Lisvurai Laiv = He is the healer of the broken hearted (Tehilim/Psalms 147:3)

Let us remember the Ani Maamin that became so well-known and sung during the Holocaust and throughout the years. It gave the multitudes tremendous faith who often sang it during horrendous and difficult times. “Ani Maamin beh emunah bvias haMoshiach, veaf al pi sheyismamaiha, im kol zeh achakeh lo bechawl yom sheyawvo. I believe with faith that is complete in the coming of the Messiah and even though he may delay with all that I await him every day certain he will come.” May all those who need a refuah, whatever their illness might be have a complete refuah shelaima a speedy recovery. May the Holy One give us the ability to continue to persevere and continue to be strong in the days ahead.
Thank you. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank

Please see the flyers following this article for:
OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services
TTI= Testing and Training International
CAHE= Center for Allied Health Education.

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