From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud Harabbonim
The Arizal recommends reciting the following before the start of davening: “Hareini mekabeil awlai mitzvos asei shel veawhavtaw lefeiachaw kawmochaw” (Devawrim 6:5) When one accepts upon himself this mitzvah and focuses on loving every Jew, his prayers will then be included in the prayers of all of Klal Yisrael, and on en masse will be capable of rising on High and producing results. (Shar Hakavanos). “For H loves one who loves the Jewish people, and the more a person loves his fellow Jew, the greater is the love H showers upon him” (Mesilas Yesharim 19 ). “All people are precious because they are all made in the image of G. When one showers others with kindness and respect, one honors G Himself” (The Alter of Slabodka) All three quotes are from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.
Someone commented to me after hearing the Mashgiach of the Yeshiva Mesitha Tifereth Jerusalem Hagaon Harav Chaim Ganzweig and other hespeidim for Hagaon Harav Dovid Feinstein ztkl levayeh why I mention so often in my articles about the importance of Torah, Avodah Ugemilus Chasadim, about being kind to others, being ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael. Rav Dovid Feinstein was so humble. Even his clothing and hat he wore were not the usual worn by many Roshei Yeshivos or Rabbonim. Before his father Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein ztkl was nifter, Rav Dovid would daven in the back of the Beis Medrash. He had no qualms about speaking to men and women each on their level of understanding and did so with tremendous respect, care and understanding. He was a proponent of doing chesed in various ways because he cared so much about his fellow Jew rich or poor, scholar or someone not learned, a person well known, maybe a VIP, but to Rav Dovid everyone was a VIP. There were individuals who were not Jewish seeking his advice or who he met in the neighborhood he treated with respect. He was a tremendous role model and a very loving and caring husband, father, grandfather, and all his family and extended family members. He was brilliant in his aludication of all areas and aspects of Jewish law, Talmud, customs, traditions, and way of life. He was knowledgeable about life and death and end of life issues. He often conversed with medical doctors, specialists in their fields regarding the well-being and concerns of treatments, for patients, caregivers, and family members. He was often consulted by those in the medical fields as well as other Roshei Yeshivos and rabbonim for his advice and wisdom and tremendous knowledge, not just from the New York area, but from throughout the world. There is a tremendous void for the multitudes who sought his advice, and often the comfort he brought them in their times of need. As many are saying, he has left thousands of orphans. Yes, there are presently many gedolim in our times, but only one Rav Dovid Feinstein. There are those who sought his advice on a higher level such as other talmidei chachamin, rabbonim chashuv who will miss him, those who sought his guidance and advice on a one-time basis, and those who sought his wisdom, his guidance, his advice on a personal level throughout the year. All who will miss him. He was a manhig hador, a posek hador. He was a paradigm of and for chesed. I for one and my family have known Rav Dovid for decades. He is a loss in a personal way. He would not speak loshon hara and as I mentioned above was a wonderful role model in many important ways. I was recently going to be visiting him at his apartment last week, but H had other plans and Rav Dovid once again was taken to the hospital, except this time with no return- only to Hawolom Habaw. Though there was a crowd who came to the outdoor levayeh, what was missing were the thousands who did not attend. It appeared everyone who attended was wearing a mask. There were tens of thousands who watched the levayeh on different platforms available on computers or on large screens in different locations. Many yeshivos canceled buses as they were discouraged from attending. In fact, following his wishes, the aron was not brought into the yeshiva, The levayeh was held in front of the yeshiva so classes should not be disrupted and Torah learning not be curtailed on account of him. It is interesting to note, the general custom is only the Rosh Yeshiva, the Rosh Yeshiva rebbitzen, the rav of a shul, some say the president of a shul aron would be permitted to be brought into the Beis Medrash or synagogue. All other levayehs the aron would have to be outside, but the hespeidim, the eulogies can be held inside. Rav Dovid and family insisted that the aron be on the outside and that is where the levayeh took place in front of the yeshiva. May he be a mailetz yashar for his family and for Klal Yisrael. There will be many articles in forthcoming news media in the coming days and weeks for Rav Dovid Feinstein and also for Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs ztkl who was nifer this past Shabbos. He was well known throughout the world. He was respected by many in the Torah world and the academic world, Jewish and non-Jewish from all walks of life, and even the Prime Ministers past and present as well as the British Royalty in England and other countries as well. He was Knighted by the Queen of England. Both conveyed their utmost love of H through their writings and Torah way of life. I once wrote can we be the talmidei chachamim they were? Can we reach the sky with the same gadlas? Do we have the same abilities? Yes /No? As I wrote in previous articles, our emunah and our love of H and doing mitzvos can also be strong. We can have the same tremendous kavaneh, emunah in the Aibershta. We can and do have many abilities, strengths, love of H. We can and do many gemilus chasadim and in many ways follow the ways of Avraham Avinu. We learn Torah and observe the taryag mitzvos to the best of our abilities. We can be excellent ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael. We do not speak lashon horah. We can motivate and inspire others to appreciate what H does for us and how we can make things better. We need each other. We need achdus. I often hear from others that we are living in challenging times. But we have been a resilient people. Not just with tremendous emunah in the Aibershta, but with finding solutions. By coming together united in positive ways for each other, for Klal Yisrael, and for ourselves. Not just by words, but by actions and in the spirit being Mekadeish H. Even when speaking up for democracy, for religious rights and observances, or social justice, we do so in a respectful manner. The Torah can and does guide us. But there are times we need help uplifting each other’s spirits and in the spirit of the Torah with Daas Torah. Rav Feinstein was able to find goodness in people. He conveyed his kindness with chesed caring for others no matter what level of Torah knowledge, no matter what socio economic level a person was in, no matter what his or her background was, but always using the blueprint of Torah values. Avraham Avinu appealed to H in trying to save the cities of Sodom and Amorah. He tried to find even a small group of righteous people in these cities to save them. But lo and behold there were none to be found. He would try to find goodness in others always conveying his love of H.
The following is from the Kol Dodi on the Torah by Hagaon Harav Dovid Feinstein ztkl. Published by Mesorah Publications Ltd. Artscroll Judaica Classics .”Parsha Bereishis. At the beginning of G’s creating the heavens and the earth (1:1) According to Rashi, the word bereishis, is grammatically a construct noun, at the beginning of something. Immediately we are faced with the question,” At the beginning of what?” Rashi explains that it means at the beginning of H’s creating the heavens and the earth. We have translated this verse in accordance with Rashi’s understanding, in contrast to the familiar rendering, In the beginning, H created… To answer this question, we will suggest a different object of the preposition “of,” one that seems self-evident to us. As Rashi points out, the Chumash is not a history book, but rather a lesson in Torah, the laws and statutes we need to know in order to live according to H’s will and to fulfill His purpose in creating us. Thus, the unstated subject of this, the Torah’s first verse, is the Torah itself, which existed from the outset. Thus we can read our verse as follows: In the beginning of the Torah, H created the heavens and the earth. What does this mean? The Sages tell us that before H created the world, He first made the Torah, which H then used as a blueprint and guideline for designing the world. In other words, He created a world to fit the Torah, to provide situations in which the Torah can function. For example, the Torah contains a commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Therefore, H designed the world to include the institution of parenthood which would allow fulfillment of this commandment. Thus the Torah not only preceded the creation of the world, but was also the entire reason for the creation. Rashi comments on the verse (ibid. 1:31), and there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day, that the whole world was kept in suspense as to whether it would continue, until the “sixth day” of Sivan, when the Jews accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai. Nonetheless, the converse is also true. Just as the Torah is the justification for the world, the Torah has no meaning unless it is practiced; this is why the Torah was given to human beings, The Sages say (Shabbos 88b) that when Moshe went up to heaven to receive the Torah, he had to argue with the angels who claimed to be more worthy recipients than the Jewish people. “Were you ever slaves, “ Moshe asked, “that you need to be commanded to remember that you were freed from Egypt? Do you have parents to honor ? Do you eat, that you need to be given laws of kashrus?” Finally they had to concede that the Torah was intended for humans, and not them. This, then, is the meaning of our verse: In the beginning of the Torah, H created the heavens and the earth-the Torah did not begin until it had a physical world in which it could be practiced.”
We recently celebrated Simchas Torah. The cycle once again of reading and learning the Torah. Not too long ago, we had the Siyum Hashas, celebrated the world over, again beginning anew with the beginning of shas once again. The cycle of life continues again and again. The Torah is not just for the scholars, but for all men, women and children. We have to believe in each other and in ourselves. We have to have hope. It is hard to believe when those who we depend on , those who mean so much to us as our loved ones, as our mentors, as our leaders, as our gedolim, don’t live forever. Often taken in the midst of their lives and our lives when we need them the most. Yet, even in times of personal or national challenges and or difficulties, we can be resilient and capable of succeeding in our many endeavors. We are truly blessed to have Rabbonim, Rebbitzens, chaplains, professionals who are excellent sheluchim of the Aibershta caring for Klal Yisrael and being mekadeish H. Being menshlach, by our actions and deeds do show the world at large how we could live in peaceful coexistence. How we care and have concern for others no matter what their backgrounds might be. We can’t change the world, but we can do our hishtadis. When we are approached by Mr. or Mrs. Doomsday of impending gloom of how terrible the times we are living in, maybe they are going through difficult times and need the support from others. True, we want Moshiach ASAP, but until then, we must go on living with positive attitudes. As Rabbonim and Chaplains we can continue to bring a positive outlook in life and if need be, know how to direct their concerns to the appropriate professionals. The services that we do provide, bring comfort and directions with hope on how to cope and how to find that hope.
I am once again sharing with you my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom Hakohein A”H quote for in spite of her medical challenges, in spite of her impending end of life concerns, she did not give up hope- whatever that hope meant for her, her husband, for her family, for Klal Yisrael “ 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 an faith in the Ribono Shel Olom for the days ahead, as she sincerely believed in.
May we be zoche to be matzliach in helping others in their time of need with our continued support. May all the difficulties in life find solace and comfort knowing we are not alone, will find opportunities of leading successful lives al Kiddush H, and to be proud of our accomplishments. Let us be united with loving and respectful achdus. Let us have continued hope, for the present and for the future. Let us not forget: “All people are precious because they are all made in the image of G. When one showers others with kindness and respect, one honors G Himself” ( The Alter of Slabodka)
On Wednesday November 11th was Veterans Day
also called Armistice Day. We must not forget all the brave men and women who served our country so gallantly we hailed through the various wars. Tens of thousands were wounded, lost their lives, served in war camps as prisoners of war. Thousands lost their lives in the air, the land, the sea, wherever there was conflict and democracy threatened. Yet, our country, the United States of America has prevailed. We are a democracy, land of the free.
May G bless America !
Thank you. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank