From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS, BCCDirector of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs

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From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim 917-446-2126 October 15, 2020


Some of my thoughts with meaningful stories and quotes that I found worthwhile to share with our readership. With much appreciation to the Aibershta and I dedicate this article to my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H who as her father’s name Shalom always’ conveyed through her wonderful midos with shalom, kindness, chesed, the love of the Aibershta and Klal Yisrael.

The first from the Yated Ne’eman Ushpizin A collections of Perspectives October 5781/2020. A Career in Rabbonus “As A Shepherd Cares For His Flock” A Yom Tov interview with Rav Avrohom Chaim Feuer former Rov of Kehillas Ohr Hachaim in Miami Beach and Kehillas Bais Avrohom in Monsey by Avrohom Birnbaum. In one of Avrohom Birnbaum’s interview questions “Rav Feuer, you have been a rov for decades. How has the rabbinate changed an evolved over the years, and what is the key to motivating people-especially today’s generation? After sharing what it was like for his shver HaGoan HaRav Mordechai Gifter’s ztkl early years as a rov, Rav Feuer mentions “Today, Boruch H, things are different. Yidden want to understand Yiddishkeit, they really do want to know, but they also want to feel that you care about them and their families in a very personal way. Another important thing is that the rov must be excited about Yiddishkeit. When the kehillah is convinced that what really excites the rov is Torah, they will eagerly flock to hear Torah from this rov. I was in rabbonus for decades and merited to be mekarev many people to Yiddishkeit, and I could tell you that the integral ingredient is excitement about Yiddishkeit. If they see that you are excited about Yiddishkeit, they will also become excited.” When the Bobover Rebbe HaRav Shlomo Halberstam ztkl would come to Miami for his annual rest, he would not receive any visitors except Rav Feuer. They became close to each other. The rebbe would share with Rav Feuer personal insights dealing with many areas of Jewish life such as difficulties relating to chinuch, parnossah, marital issues etc. and many meaningful stories. Avrohom Birnbaum asked Rav Feuer, “I always wondered how the roshei yeshiva and rebbes who came to America after the war had the fortitude to rebuild, transcending their personal losses. Rav Feuer continues a story related to him by the Bobover Rebbe ztkl. It’s about a man in Bobov who is known as “Reb Moshe Chile,” as in the South American country. Who was he, and what was the story behind his name? In the early 1950’s survivors were slowly finding their way to America, and the Bobover Rebbe want to build a cheder and yeshiva for the children of the survivors. To achieve his goal, he needed fund. At that time, many Eastern European survivors had experiences financial success in the country of Chile, and the rebbe decided to journey there to raise funds. He spent a few weeks garnering support for these projects. On the last Shabbos he was there, the community made a kiddush in his honor. On Sunday, the day before he was to leave, a Jew came to the home of his host to bid farewell”. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it on Shabbos, so I came here to bid the rebbe farewell”. Where were you on Shabbos?” the rebbe asked him, “I’m embarrassed to tell the rebbe,” the man replied. Finally, after much gentle prodding, the man told the rebbe. “I was in my factory. You see, my factory must run seven days a week. The machine is complicated and cannot be shut down, so I go in for a few hours on Shabbos morning to make sure they are running properly.” “Oy vey!” the rebbe exclaimed in a pained voice. “Is there no other eitza for you-especially today, when there are machines that can run things without human intervention? Is there no automatic machine that you can purchase that will run the machines for you ?”“The truth is,” the man replied, “such a machine does exist, but the price is so exorbitant that I simply cannot afford it.” “How much can it be?” the rebbe asked. “$50,000, “replied the man-an astronomical sum in those days. Imagine the man’s surprise when the rebbe nonchalantly said, “Nisht geferlach! and dipped his hand into his pocket, pulling out a thick wad of bills.” Here, take this $50,000 and buy the machine!”. “Rebbe!” the man protested, “You are not fooling me! I know that this is the money you collected for the yeshiva back in New York. You took money from Yidden for a cheder and a yeshiva. The rebbe has no right to give it to me!” The rebbe responded with a tremendous insight, “You are incorrect! I didn’t collect money for a cheder or a yeshiva- I collected money for the Ribono Shel Olom! If there is an urgent need to use the money for H in one way, I will use it that way. “Ordinarily, if there is no pressing matter, I collect for Bobover mosdos – after all, as Bobover Rebbe, I am responsible for Bobov. But if I feel there is something more urgent for H’s kovod, I will drop everything for that purpose. Your shemiras Shabbos is the most urgent thing right now. I want you to take this money and buy the machine!”.The rebbe was also concerned about this mans son and what future would there be in Yiddishkeit where he lived, The rebbe was willing for the son to return with him to Bobov under his personal mentorship which the father consented. He grew up in the Bobov community with his own children and grandchildren and he is known as Moshe Chile. The rebbe showed what is it that H wants and what is it that we want.

The Sukkoth edition of the Hamizrachi magazine published by the Mizrachi World Movement, Mizrachi Religious Zionists of America Vol 3 Issue 4 , 5781-2020 has various articles including from Rabbi Dr. J. Twersky ,Rabbi Berel Wein, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Doron Perez and others. From Rabbi Dr. Twersky “Why Kohelet on Sukkot?” He writes “As a psychiatrist, I was once asked to explain why we read Kohelet on Sukkot, the season of joy. After all, Kohelet is so terribly depressing, negating everything as futile and worthless. Sukkot is indeed the season of simcha. However, our concept of simcha is flawed. I have heard people say, “If only I could get out of debt, I would be happy, ”or“ If only I had a better job, I’d be happy,” or If only I could get relief from my arthritis, I’d be happy,” or “ If only my daughter would do a shidduch, I’d be happy,” The “If onlys” are countless. I’ve been around long enough to see people get what they thought would make them happy but remain unhappy. Happiness does not depend on comfort or pleasure. They are indeed admirable desires, but they do not produce happiness. The Talmud says,” No one leaves this world having achieved even half of his desires.” In Kohelet, Shlomo states this clearly.” As a king, I was the richest of all. I did not deny myself any human pleasure. But I found that this too was a vexation.” It is wonderful to enjoy good things, but don’t deceive yourself that these enjoyments will bring you happiness. Happiness is achieved when you work toward becoming what G wants you to be, a mentsch! What separates a mentsch from animals is not his greater intellect. Animals are totally self absorbed, seeking their physical pleasure. One cannot be happy if one lives a life of self- absorption, seeking pleasure, you are a mentsch when you get out of your own skin. When you do chesed, when you have goal in life of serving G instead of expecting that G should fulfill all your desires. Shlomo ends Kohelet by saying, “In summary, fear G an do His mitzvot, because then you will be a mensch.” Only when one is a mensch can one be happy. So, reading Kohelet on Sukkot is most important. We live in a culture that places self-gratification as a goal in life. Kohelet tells us this can never result in Simcha.”

Rabbi Berel Wein describes the significance of any siyum and the siyum of Simchat Torah, the essence of Shemini Ateret and Simchat Torah. He goes on with “However, despite the elation, the Torah ends on an apparently sad note, poignantly describing the death of our great teacher Moshe. He will never enter the Land of Israel but will only be able to glimpse it from afar. The generation he shepherded for 40 years has passed away, his sons will not inherit his position or power, and with his great gift of prophecy, he is aware of the terrible problems his beloved people of Israel must face and overcome through their long journey of history and destiny. Nevertheless, the joy of the presence of the Torah within our nation overcomes these feelings of melancholy. As long as Moshe’s words and ideal still live amongst the Jewish people there is great reason to rejoice. It means we have not lost our way and the eternity of Moshe and Israel is guaranteed. The nations of the world resent the fact we still have a chance to rejoice or attempt to live normal productive lives under terrible duress and distress. Simchat Torah comes to teach us that we should rejoice when we are able to do so, celebrate our existence and accomplishments even if things are not exactly as we would wish them to be. Completing the Torah reading is a matter of perseverance, as is all Jewish life. The Torah’s description of Moshe’s death is meant to impress us with the fact that Judaism is not the cult of the personality. Even when Moshe, the greatest ever Jew ever dies and leaves us bereft and alone, we are not to overly mourn and certainly not to despair. We may yet continue to rejoice because the eternal Torah is still present within us with great vigor and vitality. As far as we are concerned, the game is never defeated. That is the power the Torah grants us. It is the source of our great joy in celebrating the completion and simultaneous beginning of the reading of the Torah this year, so be it for all of the years to come.”

Rabbi Doron Perez in his article also writes “in our unpredictable and transient world, there is one immutable constant G. It is our unshakeable faith that everything is somehow ultimately for the good. There is Providence in unpredictability and purpose in seeming chaos. This allows us to transform our perspective and trust in that the Almighty knows what He is doing. Such is the transcendent power of faith and belief. It is for this very reason the Zohar calls the sukkah” tzila demehimenuta,” the shadow (or shade) of faith. Nothing is more temporary and transient than a shadow. It has no existence of its own and can disappear in a moment. Nevertheless, our temporary sukkah is the shadow cast by the most permanent reality of life- G, the Creator and Sustainer of all Life. When we understand we live in His shadow an all that happens is somehow a reflection of the purposeful plan of Providence- whether we understand it or not – we are ready to transform. So, as we begin the new year, still very much in the throes of the old, we can change. With our belief that everything is ultimately for the good, we can begin to celebrate the gift of life. We can cultivate peace of mind and faith-based serenity in our unpredictable, vulnerable world.”

What does the Ribono Shel Olom want from us ? To know how much He means to us by doing mitzvos, to be a mensch, to do chesed, Kiddush H, Torah, Avoda Ugemilus chasadim. We should be excited about Yiddishkeit and share that enthusiasm with others. What do we want from the Ribino Shel Olom? Let me share this with you on a personal note. As you know after having read previous articles which I included many personal emotional and spiritual life’s journey with my wife A”H during her illness and after she was nifteres there were understandably many tears during the grief and bereavement. But what are my tears in the present? The tears are from the heart beseeching His wisdom, His guidance, and the right path to take. From my wife not only to be a melitza yeshara, but I should continue to fulfill her wishes that I continue with the meaningful and good things I am doing which also brought her simchas hachayim with continued happiness in life. meant so much to her. When you think of this, we all have been beseeching the Aibershta not just for His forgiveness, but to help direct us in the right path with the proper wisdom and guidance we need every day of our lives. We pray that each of all of our loved ones who we recently recited the yizkor for to be a meilatz yashar for us and for us to do those things they would want for our lives to be filled with much happiness, success and simchas hachayim. But it is important to have Shalom, to have achdus, to remove any machlokes that would prevent achdus. We davened and cried our hearts out from the beginning of Elul, though the Yomim Nearim and Hoshana Rabba and again Yizkor on Shemini Ateres with the joy in our hearts on Simchas Torah. Our emunah our faith must never falter, the meaning of our Jewish way of life should be filled with kindness, understanding, sincerity, care for others, for each other and yes ourselves too. The Aibershta is sending us clear messages of how important it is to make a Kiddush H and not chas veshalom a Chilul H. We cannot permit COVOID-19 or any other disturbance in our daily lives to tear us asunder. We must impress upon our mispallim to be aware that there are many individuals who are fearful of contracting this virus and if anyone has any symptoms or has been near anyone with the virus to be considerate of others. I have been hearing from some and reading about many who feel they are immune and maybe so, but I also have heard from some that it is not serious, and they have not heard of anyone being hospitalized. But there are many who are homebound with fever and with other symptoms. There are many who have been hospitalized some on vents and in serious conditions. It is true, many do not have symptoms, and many have gotten over this virus without serious side effects at least none that we know of at this time. But part of our Yiddishkeit is to be caring for other’s. We each have to be a mensch. Of course, we also must have feelings for all those who were not able to celebrate Simchas Torah in their shuls. No matter what the reason is we still have to feel sadness for those shuls with no minyanim or had to make drastic changes, or for businesses to once again be closed if they ever were open to begin with all of these months. Our “normal way of lives” has been changed dramatically and often drastically. Our Yiddihskeit has kept us living meaningful lives even with all the chaos in the world. To all our rabbonim and rebbitzens, please continue to be a source of chizuk for your mispallim and all those you care for and encourage them to seek professional help from professional licensed practitioners during these difficult times. Much praise must be given to all our members for the tremendous support you have been giving. Special mention must be given to all chaplains who with their special training give so much expertise and supportive care in the various settings they serve in. All of our members who serve in professional settings as I have mentioned in the past are role models, and leaders for Klal Yisrael helping to encourage the Torah precepts with Ahavas Torah, Ahavas Chesed, Yiras Shamayim, Ahavas Yisrael and most of all Ahavas H. In Pirkei Avos mentions who is rich, whoever is content with what he has vesamachto vechelko and do not say “if only I could, would or have “Someone once asked HaGaon HaRav Dovid Feinstein for a bracha about a certain shidduch that it should work out. Rav Dovid’s response was to paraphrase that he could give a bracha that whatever the Ribono Shel Olom wants best for you should work out. Often individuals want something that maybe is not in his or her best interest. We are mispallel to have what the Aibershta wants us to have.

I would like to share these thoughts. If you were in a crowded room and people were standing next to a small table with a lichter and lit candles that is shaking, would you say something to the others to be careful. It is possible to prevent an accidental knocking over the lit candles onto the carpeting which could catch on fire. Aside from making a Kiddush H even if it is only a 1% of the population who is vulnerable (maybe more) and yes, they should be taking appropriate care for themselves, but we all should be thoughtful of them and who knows how many others that we might not know of. I have written this many times, listen to your medical specialists and your posek. It is not my position to question their decisions. My doctors tell me I should wear a mask, as best as possible keep social distancing and wash with soap and water thoroughly. On Shabbos for those not wanting to use soap which is supposed to be the best in cleansing the hands, then use liquid hand disinfectant or alcohol. Where I reside, management recently posted for all to read that they will be enforcing with giving (yes, it is true) a warning and then a fine of $100 for anyone not wearing a mask or observing social distancing in any of our building public arears (not apartments) meaning no congregating in the laundry rooms, parks between the buildings and only one family or a few in an elevator at any given time. With the cold weather, schools, businesses, sporadic scheduling, being in the presence of others who might have been a carrier ,flu season, colds season, they are concerned about having an outbreak in the buildings and want to prevent that from happening. There have been many articles, recommendations and so on about appropriate precautions and to really be considerate of others. It takes only one person even without symptoms to spread this virus. Rabbonim of shuls and yes even the rebbitzens can encourage making a Kiddush H. Listen to the following video sent to me as seen on Yeshiva World News today Tuesday October 13th, 2020 from the following Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Yisrael Resiman, Rav Elya Brundy and Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff. There have been other such messages in the past from Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Mordechai Wullig and others., Bezras H. with everyone’s compliance we can and will overcome the on going illness in our communities. I know there has been constant controversy about wearing a mask. What is so important is not to speak loshon harah which could lead to sinas chinan. We have to have achdus in Klal Yisrael. Every Yid is an ambassador of H. What and how we act, do and say reflects on Klal Yisrael’s greatness.

May the Ribono Shel Olom remove all the illnesses and give us all the guidance, brachos and koach we need to help bring Moshiach soon. Let our emunah in H become stronger every single day and night. May our tefilos our bakawshos be answered. We are so grateful for all the wonderful opportunities no matter what impediments might come our way, to continuing learning Torah, Gemara, Halachos, Mussar and so much more as well as on line shirurim for men and women. We are also grateful for the multitudes of webinars helping with many difficult and challenging daily lives for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities. Please see the video that was posted on Yeshiva World News sent to me this past Tuesday October 13th with HaRav Reisman, HaRav Brundy and HaRav Leiff (Click here to see the video).


I am presently working on collaborations with various organizations to be announced in the near future. Continuing chaplaincy education and information ,please read the following information and registration link about the webinar especially geared for chaplains. There is no fee for this chaplaincy webinar. Many thanks to my long time chaver, Rabbi Lowell Kronick ,MHL,BCC Chaplain Coordinator, VACO National Chaplain Service Veterans Health Administration Department of Veterans Affairs for sharing the information with me about this forthcoming chaplaincy webinar. Finally, on October 19 at 2:00 PM Eastern, Transforming Chaplaincy and the Lab will co-sponsor “: A Conversation with Deborah Marin, MD.” Join us on this webinar for a conversation with the Director of Mount Sinai’s new Center for Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth, Deborah B. Marin, Our webinar is the second installment in the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s project Building and Supporting Resilience among Frontline Spiritual Care Providers. It is co-sponsored by Transforming Chaplaincy’s new Network for Spiritual Care Managers and co-sponsored by the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation. You can register free here.