From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
July 23, 2020
In the book “One Small Spark” by Rabbi Yechiel Spero (ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, Ltd) “Tell Me Something Nice” he relates about the close relationship Rav Aharon Rokeach ztkl had with a cousin of his who served as rav in a small village near Haifa. One year on an erev Rosh Hashanah when that relative came to join the Rebbe, in a conversation the Rebbe asked him what was doing in his village and the cousin responded “If all the villages and cities in Eretz Yisrael had such good Jews as we have in our village,the entire country would be different.” The Rebbe was displeased with his cousin’s response. The cousin noticed how displeased the Rebbe was. Rabbi Spero shared how the Rebbe was known for the love he had toward every Jew. He would find the goodness of others rather than finding fault. The cousin eventually realized what bothered the Rebbe. To the Rebbe,even though the cousin was praising those in his village, he was still speaking derogatory about all the other Jews in Eretz Yisrael. That year erev Yom Kippur when the cousin came to greet the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked his cousin if he had anything good to tell him. He shared with him the positive reasons he was unable to get a taxi ride from any of the drivers that day because of their concern about being able to fast should they have done all that traveling which was a six-hour trip those days from Haifa to Yerushalayim. He eventually got a ride with someone going his way. The Rebbe was incredibly pleased to have heard such a positive report about all those drivers who will be fasting on Yom Kippur. There was no reference to anything about the taxi driver’s observance -just that they were all going to be fasting on Yom Kippur. (The entire beautiful story can be found on pages 255 -257). All to often the Yetzer Hara find ways for people to add something negative about someone else. How often will a critic share his /her opinion about a rav and his drasha, the voice or tunes of a chazan, how the food and or service was at someone’s simcha and so on. Aharon HaKohain was so special as he was able to bring shalom between others. I have mentioned previously, being sincere, being erlich is important. The former Mashgiach of MTJ Yeshiva, HaGoan HaRav Michael Barenbaum ztkl used to say, it is not enough for one to say I am observant, one must be erlich. Just as HaRav Rokeach I mentioned in the story above had such love for his fellow Jews. I often hear amazing stories of the patience chaplains have listening, being so sincere with those who they care for in nonjudgmental ways. Often bringing peace of mind, body, and soul especially during difficult, trying, and challenging times. I often discuss the goodness, the kindness, the professionalism of chaplains, because frequently, I have been asked to share the many aspects and qualities of chaplains. Personally, I have been zoche to be affiliated with Rabbanim, chaplains and professionally in the secular world as well. It is my affiliations with those whose love of the Aibershta, the love of their fellow Jews and care for their fellow human beings always seeking opportunities of Kiddush H that have made me the greatest impact. There is such a need of becoming closer to the Ribono Shel Olam, with Ahavas H, Ahavas Torah and to appreciate each other. At a senior center I was going to be giving a presentation, a woman came in wearing extremely youthful modern clothing, makeup, accessories, and a hairstyle in various shades of color. The other women present started making comments to each other, while looking or I should say staring at her. That woman felt so uncomfortable, she got up and left. I engaged the other women present and asked how they felt about her leaving without focusing on what she was wearing. Some of their comments ranged from she should be ashamed of herself trying to be someone or something she is not, to at her age why, and who does she think she is anyways, she is an embarrassment amongst other comments. I asked if anyone knows who that woman was. Response, no one. I asked if she was causing any harm to anyone (maybe a distraction, but she sat down in the last row, behind everyone. Their response was only if they turned around to look at her. I asked was she disturbing anyone. Again, the response was no. I asked how they felt she was making them uncomfortable or making them feel embarrassed. No response. I asked if they themselves ever felt like wearing a different outfit, makeup or hairstyle from what they usually wear, and they said yes. After some discussions about their own feelings about why that woman left and how easy it was for them to speak not nice things about someone else, especially someone that has no relationship to them was an eye opener. We also discussed ways they could have welcomed that woman, invited her to sit with the others – what would have been so terrible instead of being hurtful. The same holds true in shul. When someone new comes to daven or attend a shiur, is there a policy of welcoming a guest? What about being at a table at a simcha or dinner and there is someone who appears not connected to the others at the same table, isn’t it a nice welcome and maybe a form of hachnasos orchim welcoming a guest who might just be sitting by himself while everyone else is having conversations with each other – but not with that person? Regarding the mitzvos of bikur cholim and necham availus, what about the days and weeks after returning home from the hospital or recuperating at home, or after the sheloshim- yes the sheloshim it is possible the avel or the choleh might still want a phone call, to check in on that person who you know. The only way of knowing if that person wants a check in or can I get something for you, or would you like to talk a little is by asking or offering. At first that person might say no, but really would like that call and if not now, maybe in a few days or so. Being sincere is an important aspect of caring. What else is important is trying to be understanding of what the person might be going through and what his or her needs might be, but at the present time, not being said.
To my dear wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohain A”H who I so miss. Not just for her companionship, her delicious meals, for being such a wonderful Bubby, but her constant inspiration and appreciation of what H meant to her, to me and to Klal Yisrael. Though she always knew there was no cure, until the last weeks of her life when the symptoms got so difficult, she never gave up hope. Life would go on for as long as possible. Even with the periodic difficulties and challenges, there was the hope, there was the faith, there was the determination to utilize every moment the Aibershta gave her the breath of life. I am so grateful for the precious gift Hakadosh Boruch Hu gave me and my family of my wife. Her prayers were as strong and meaningful for as long as possible. I dedicate my maysim tovim to my wife and mispallel, I can continue the mesorah with Torah, Avodah, Gemilus Chasadim, tefilah with kavaneh, meaning and to continue to bring her neshama nechama. I would like to share with you the next time my dedication to the CCHF Asher Yatzar Chart that meant so much to her. May we be zoche that this coming Tisha B Av be a yom tov.