From the desk of Rabbi Leonard ( Yehuda ) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America? Igud HaRabbonim
September 24th, 2020

I first want to wish all of our readers a Gmar Chasima Tova. This is a busy season, but for all the good reasons. An opportunity to continue to develop a close kesher with the Ribono Shel Olam, Teshuva, Tefila, Utzedaka. Torah, Avoda, Ugemilus Chasadim. These holy days are jammed packed with so many mitzvos, as well as caring for other’s in many different ways. There are many venues for Kiddush H and expressions of Ahavas H, Ahavas Torah, Ahavas Yisrael, and promoting whenever and however achdus amongst Klal Yisrael. Achdus is no easy task. It takes conviction, determination, willingness to find good in others.

Regarding COVID-19 there are still rumbling’s in the air about mask vs no mask especially in public areas. According to the latest news reports, there has been an uptick of cases in various neighborhoods. I am not a medical specialist. I know what my doctor has recommended. Some interesting questions to ponder ,if someone is not symptomatic, has little of no symptoms, but might very well have COVID-19, was in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID, was in a location where there are others who have COVID, can the virus still cause medical complications other than just flu like symptoms and will they disapate ? Can such a person infect another ? Are there any concerns to consider? Achdus is also an important component and of course encouraging shalom amongst and between each other and not to have machlokes is of utmost importance. I myself have at times been drawn into discussions by individuals who have their personal views and opinions about COVID 19, the value of wearing the mask ,what type of minyan to be davening in. I not only refused to give my opinion , nor take sides, but encouraged them to speak directly with their own medical specialists or posek.

How often do we hear from individuals of their yichus, or how much they accomplished as compared to others. I wrote in my recent article when asked of Rav Moshe Feinstein ztkl is it possible to attain the same heights of Torah learning and I paraphrased everyone could reach the same potentials of bitachen and emunah. Everyone on his or her level can attain greatness, especially in the eyes of the Aibershta. It is important to feel accomplishment , to feel success even if one reaches certain milestones that compared to another might not seem as worthy or important. Encouragement and conveying enthusiasm to others is also and important facet of chizuk. Often talmidim feel not only intimidated, but failures if they are never given the opportunity of being successful in their own right. The same is for someone who attends a shiur and needs encouragement and support from a caring chavrusa and surely the Rav, if unable to grasp the Gemara being reviewed and with pride. These thoughts are definitely not just for the men folk, but for women as well. My wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohen A”H for instance was able to impart, imbue and enhance even the smallest steps of accomplishments with her Torah Mate which led to tremendous success. Leading to a wonderful marriage, brought up two sons who are masmidim in every sense of the word in yeshivos bringing much glory to their family.

I would like to share with you a beautiful story about HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein ztkl from the book “ How Sweet is the Light/ Umesuka Hawor” by Rav Shlomo Levenstein. Ticket to the World to Come (pages 231-232).

“Rav Moshe Feinstein was said to have completed the entire Shas 300 times, and the entire Shulchan Aruch with its commentaries 400 times. One of his neighbors was a non- religious Jew who was a boxer by profession. One day, the boxer lost his job. Now unemployed, he had nothing to do but wander around his house throughout the day, utterly bored. The boxer had a son who had become a baal teshuvah, and he asked his son to teach him what he was learning in yeshivah. At first, the young man tried to demur. “Listen, Dad, this is Gemara,” he said. “It’s complicated, and you will have to learn a new language in order to understand it . I don’t think that this is for you.” Nevertheless, his father was adamant, and they began learning together. They soon discovered that over the many years when the boxer had learned a living with his fists, his brain had been left to atrophy. Every line in the Gemara took him days to understand. Week followed week, and month followed month, until finally at the end of an entire year they had managed to complete a page of Gemara. A whole daf of Gemara ! The father wanted to make a siyum, but the son was uncomfortable with the idea. “A siyum is celebrated after you finish an entire volume of Gemara, or even a chapter, but not for a single page,” he said. Again, the father was adamant. “ I finished a page of Gemara, and I want to make a siyum,” he said. Seeing that his father would not be dissuaded, the son
consulted with Rav Moshe Feinstein. To his surprise, Rav Moshe agreed with his father. “Of course you should make a siyum,” the gadol hador told the surprised young man. “ In
fact, I will come as well.” Both the former boxer and his son were overjoyed. Rav Moshe Feinstein was coming to their siyum! They made a festive meal, which was indeed graced by Rav Moshe’s presence…and the next morning, the father did not wake up. He had passed away in his sleep. Rav Moshe delivered a powerful speech at the funeral.” The Gemara says that some people earn their Olam Haba in just one hour,” he asserted. “Similarly, some people earn Olam Haba with just one daf.” This was the outlook of a man who had completed the entire Shas 300 times. In spite of the volume of his own accomplishments, he recognized that what matters in Heaven is not the number of pages that a person learns, but the extent to which he fulfills his potential.” (This book “ How Sweet is the Light by Rav Levenstein is filled with meaningful and inspiring stories of chizuk).

I would like to follow up about how my Rosh Hashanah was. I have been asked, what was it like ? When I returned home the first night , I looked at a picture of my wife and wished her a Leshana Tova _______ and had the same feeling as singing the Friday evening Ashis Chayil. Of course it was not the same as previous years, eating the simanim without her, going to Tashlich , going to and from shul without her. However, that might be so in the physical sense, but spiritually, I felt her presence. I gave this a lot of thought, and actually shared it with a few availim. True, there is a sense of sadness, not being together in the physical sense, but to believe, to know with strong beliefs that our loved ones are for the first major yom tov, such holy days together in Shamayim, in Gan Eiden in Olam Haba together, with their relatives (my relatives also)with so many holy neshamos such as our Patriarchs, our Matriarchs, and so many more,in such a holy place gave me much nechama. How can we not be thankful to the Aibershta for all that He has done for us.

We are mispallel the Aibershta will listen to our tefilos and bless us to have a good and meaningful life for as long as He wills it. To fulfill many mitzvos everyday for years to come
in good health ,happiness, joy and zechusim giving us the strength and abilities that are needed throughout our lives. The answer to all our concerns, issues, and future of this world is of course, without a doubt all dependent on the Aibershta. May we be zoche the geula shelaima, Moshiach tzedkainu with Techias Hamaisim, bemhaira veyaminu amain sela.
Thank you one and all. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank.