From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
October 22, 2020
I cannot think of another response without getting into any discussion or the pro’s or con’s of why many things are happening regarding current Jewish events. However, I was dismayed to learn about news photographers in Brooklyn taking pictures of chasidim who might not be wearing masks as if there was a special event. They even approached an elderly Holocaust survivor who basically begged the reporters to leave her alone. Yet, there was a massive event in Manhattan this past Saturday where many in the nonsocial distancing crowd including the on-stage band and performers were not wearing masks. Every one of our readership can come to your own conclusions as to what prompted this snowballing effect focusing on Orthodox Jewish people. Of course, we have to be mispallel things should get better. Is this possible? Of course, but only time will tell. Klal Yisrael must continue to make every effort to make a Kiddush H and not to point fingers, speak loshon hara which could lead to sinas chinan, but to have achdus. The United States of America has been a safe haven, a democracy where the Jewish people have been able to flourish with tremendous religious freedom. We have been able to integrate in many diverse professions, occupations, civil service, and government positions, police, fire, social service agencies and organizations, hospitals, etc., working alongside, together, and amongst millions of others in many communities and neighborhoods. I, myself take pride in my various positions working with and for multiethnic, multi cultural, diverse populations, backgrounds, religions, and so on. Yet, we are able to retain our heritage, our culture, our religion. Of course, there are amongst those millions of people living here in the United States who have anti -Jewish feelings and unfortunately have acted out on those terrible sentiments with serious consequences and even loss of life. Each of us is ambassadors of the Jewish Faith and of course the Aibershta. Yes, it is unfortunate, but it is a reality that when anyone who is recognized as being Jewish does something considered not appropriate, no matter how many others do the same without any repercussions, there is always some type of reaction, response, or comments made. Midos tovos is so important. As the Mashgiach of MTJ Yeshiva HaGaon HaRav Michael Barenbaum ztkl would say many times “ it is not enough to be a frumer Yid, one has to be an erlicha Yid.”It is not appropriate to speak loshon hara about others, but we can set an example of what it means to be an erlicha Yid. For parents of any age children, how important it is to instill in them the essence of midos tovos, to be kind, considerate, caring, nonjudgmental, sincere, considerate of others and to do gemius chasadim etc. Achdus means community. No matter what type of clothing, minhagim, religious, cultural background we come from there has to be achdus. In the Yeshiva MTJ ,we had talmidim in the Bais Medrash from many backgrounds such as Chasidik, Litvish, Mizrachi, Chabad, Benei Akiva , to name some. We also had men of all ages who came to learn just beginning in their Yiddishkeit. In fact, that is a reflection of the Lower East community and in many communities throughout the USA and the world at large.
I would like to share with you from Bastion of Faith, comment, and exposition on the weekly Sedra based on lectures of HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein ztkl by HaRav Avraham Fishelis ztkl. The Hebrew version is the Kol Rom also by HaRav Fishelis. “And Noah found grace in the eyes of H.” (6:8) “The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrein 108a states that upon Noah too was signed the decree but he found grace. We must understand how Noach found this grace and how did this help him overcome his fate. A major way to find grace in the eyes of His by carrying out the precepts with great joy and love. Although according to one explanation in Rashi, Noah was considered righteous only in his generation. Nevertheless, since whatever commandments he obeyed were done happily, this overbalanced any shortcomings. It is as the saying of Chazal, “love upsets what’s right” and if we show love for the Torah then H will not act strictly with us. We shall discuss many times that it is not enough to carry out the Torah, but rather this ingredient of willingness and joy is most essential. The Torah tells us in Devarim 26:17 “to follow in His ways and to observe His statutes and His commandments and His laws and to hearken to His voice.” The last phrase seems to be superfluous for all that is necessary is already stated. However, it does not suffice to observe all the laws. We must willingly and joyfully hearken to His voice and not observe out of a feeling of compulsion. As we begin the Torah anew we must be cognizant of this concept and make this resolution which is actually read on the New Year where with regard to the korbon of Rosh Hashonoh the Torah tells us in Bamidbar 29:2 “ And you shall make an Olah” rather than “ And you shall sacrifice an Olah,” for the Torah does not want sacrifices and feelings of carrying out a difficult yoke, but rather wants us to do these things joyfully.” The Bastion of Faith and Kol Rom sefarim are available in most Judaica stores.
Our lives should be filled with simchas hachayim with all that we do in Yiddishkeit. My wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H inspired others like Sara Imeinu ,no matter what their background’ s might be, through her midos tovos, her sincerity, her sweetness, her love of H, her love of Yiddishkeit always made a wonderful impression and Kiddush H. Her outlook throughout her life no matter any challenges or difficulties she might have encountered she always had a positive outlook and knew H was with her. Her outlook throughout her life no matter any challenges she might have encountered she always had a positive outlook and knew H was with her . Though, Klal Yisrael is experiencing challenging times, with the joy and love with positivity in all that we do for H, for Klal Yisrael, for each other, and for ourselves we shall overcome any negative obstacles. Many say the 2nd wave of COVID-19 is coming or is here already. We cannot panic, nor should we listen to the naysayers. We continue to listen to our poskim to our medical specialists. We continue to be considerate of others following all the appropriate guidelines to keep safe and to be safe for others. Avraham Avinu and Sara Imainu went to the people conveying and showing their love of H and the greatness of H. Though, Noah did not do the same, he did what H asked of him and did so with much joy as Rav Fishelis shared from Rav Moshe. Rabbonim and Rebbitzens are the Avraham Avinu’s and Sara Imainu’s sharing the love of H, the love of the mitzvos, and the beauty of being Mekasaish H. We do not pick and choose those mitzvos to do that bring us joy. Our outlook is whatever we are able to be mekabel and mekayaim will surely bring us simchas hachayim. During Sukkos we look forward to being in the Sukkah, no matter how chilly it might be. If it rains, we don’t think, ah, now I can legally eat in my comfortable home or apartment. We are saddened when it is not possible to do those mitzvos and hope it stops raining, Chaplains do not go around conveying their love of H in speeches, but rather in all of their actions, all of their professional good deeds, caring for others from all backgrounds and the kindness they give conveys their love of H and Kiddush H they make all the time. The men and women are enormously proud to be recognized as Jewish chaplains in their diverse positions. It is not an easy task to often engage staff or those they are caring for with different opinions in life, religion, and spirituality. Yet, they do so with much finesse and thoughtfulness. They are wonderful role models in compassion, feelings for others, and yes, their erlichkeit too.
Our tefilos are filled with much inspiration and hope. The Beneficent One for never are Your compassions, exhausted and for the Compassionate One, are Your kindnesses never ended always have we put our hope in You, (from Modim) May we are zoche for Shalom al Yisrael and may there be Shalom throughout the world wherever Klal Yisrael is so that until the coming of Moshiach we can continue to live in peace and tranquility being able to be mekayim the mitzvos in an environment of kindness and goodness. May all those who are not well with whatever illness they may have should have a refuah shelaima. May we continue to have with our emunah, our faith in the Ribono Shel Olom and His guidance, to be able to be Mekadaish H. To care for each other and ourselves with meaning of life and much simchas hachayim.
I would like to share with you once more a special quote from my wife A”H just a short time before she was nifteres. She was so happy with much joy that I was going to print it in one of my articles as she requested which I did. “When things look blue it helps to remember that tomorrow is another day and will be a brighter day”. That is how she lived her life for as long as she could. There is an underlying message in that quote- to have emunah, hope and faith in the Ribono Shel Olom for the days ahead, as she sincerely believed in. May she continue to be a gutter better a malitza yeshara for me, my mishpacha, and Klal Yisrael. May we be zoche the coming of Moshiach, techias hamaisim and the geula shelaima bekarov amain sela.
Sincerely, Yehuda Blank