From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS,BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America and External Affairs
December 24, 2020
This article is not about whether one should take the COVID 19 vaccine or not, but how much we
have to remain vigil to continue caring for each other. In some of my previous articles I mentioned
there is no confusion, just discuss ones concerns with his/her health care provider and ones Rav or
posek. Recently, Hagaon Harav Shmuel Kamenetzky made a statement regarding whether or not to take the vaccine and he mentioned to discuss it with their health care provider and their Rav. A person’s health care provider knows the medical history of their patients and what their opinion is about taking the vaccine. The most important aspect of what keeps on occurring is hearing non- stop in the media about the illness and now a new strain of this illness. There are a lot of emotions being generated pro’s, con’s, safe, not safe. Constant reports about the challenges not just in the USA, but the world over. In fact, the United Kingdom has been this past week practically at a standstill with no one coming into England nor being accepted in many countries. What is the Aibershta telling us? What does He want from us ? For one thing not to have machlokes nor sinas chinam, but to have Shalom Al Yisrael.We all want this pandemic, this mageifa to cease and for those who are ill to have a refuah sheleima .
The following is from the English Kol Dodi on the Torah- comments, insights and ideas on the weekly sidrah, adapted from the shiurim of Rabbi David Feinstein ztkl.( pages 81-82) In this past weeks sidra of Vayigash (45:14) “ Then he fell upon the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Rashi cites the Midrashic interpretation that Joseph wept for the two Temples that would be in Benjamin’s territory and would suffer destruction and Benjamin wept for the Tabernacle of Shilo that would be in Joseph’s territory and would likewise be destroyed. What was there about this moment, when they were united after twenty-two years absence, to turn their minds to these tragic far- future events? Perhaps, the same Divine Spirit which prophesied those events also foretold that they would be caused by baseless hatred among Jews (cf. Yoma 9b). As Joseph and Benjamin embraced, the baseless hatred that the other brothers had felt for Joseph was very much on their minds, since it seemed that they had now repented and admitted their error. It may be that this reminded Joseph of the future baseless hatred which would cause the destruction of the Second Temple. [Possibly the sins that caused the destruction of Shiloh and the First Temple would have eventually led to baseless hatred and thus the destruction of those Sanctuaries was a pre-emptive action]”. This Friday is Asseres B Teves when the walls of Yerushalayim were breached. A time to remember what occurred and how to prevent Klal Yisrael from repeating the causes. “On Chanukah, we sing Maoz Tzur, which speaks of the Jewish People’s challenges throughout history: from Mitzrayim up to our present galus. In each paragraph, we sing of the attempts of the villains to destroy the Jews and how all their attempts failed. When was this song composed? What prompted its composition? The Kuntrus Ohr Chanukah (by Rav Mordechai Ginsberg) suggests a most heroic origin. Many are not aware that it was written by Rav Mordechai ben Hillel (very possibly the “Mordechai” found in the back of the Gemara) who was the Rav in Nurnberg in the late 1200’s. The Rintfliesch Movement, as the massacres became known, named after the savage Lord Rintfleisch, was the first large-scale persecution to take place in Germany since the time of the First Crusade. He encountered Rav Mordechai and instructed him to gather the Jews of the town in the town square for forced conversion or else. True to his word, Rav Mordechai would have to witness the murder of all the people of the town of Nurnberg as none would give in. They died Al Kiddush H. He himself would eventually be killed too. He composed a song in memory of his holy congregation, a song that Yidden would sing until the end of time- Maoz Tzur. (From the book “Just One More Tear. The soul of Tishah B’ Av through stories and reflections by Rabbi Yechiel Spero published By Artscroll Mesorah Publications, ltd. pages 177-179) At the end of this article is a link to a video from Matzav of Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl singing the Maoz Tzur.
What is needed is continued emunah, faith in the Aibershata and to do what is best for Klal Yisrael. Ilmud Ullameid From the teachings of our sages, a compendium of insights, homilies and interpretations of the weekly sidrah. (A Jewish Education Program by Rabbi Mordechai Katz JEP publications Feldheim Publishers ltd. Philipp Feldheim, Inc. from Mikeitz pages 53,54). After Yoseph had correctly interpreted the chief butler’s dream, he depended on the butler’s help in getting out of prison. However, he languished there for another two years. Our Sages say that this extended imprisonment is a punishment for relying on the butler, rather than H for freedom. However, it seems difficult to understand why Yoseph was punished for this.We know that H sends his help to us through natural means, so what was wrong in Yoseph’s depending on help from the butler? The answer is that a person as great as Yoseph, who had so clearly seen the role of H in all that had happened to him, should not have placed his full reliance on his fellow man alone. Furthermore, if he did place some faith in others, he should have chosen a righteous person to rely on, not the disreputable butler. Midrash Rabbah, Parshas Mikaeitz) Having total faith in H is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. We must remember to retain this bitochon, our emunah our faith at all times. A man once came to a Rav to complain that he did not have enough funds to live comfortably. The Rav replied, “Have complete faith in H. If you do, then He will provide for you with one thousand dollars”.The man left, reassured.However a month later, he was back.“I’ve been waiting quite a while a while for the money, and I haven’t received anything yet” he protested. Have you retained full faith in H that He will give you the thousand dollars? asked the Rav. The man nodded. Well, continued the Rav, I have five hundred dollars here, would you take that instead of the thousand dollars? The man replied eagerly that he would. The Rav shook his head, this shows that you do not have complete faith in what I told you, for if you truly did, then you would not be willing to accept the five hundred dollars instead of the thousand you were promised. Having Bitochin can help calm our fears and can prevent us from leading nerve -wracking lives. We know that we will not always have to worry about the future if we lead Torah true lives today”. Blessed is the man who trusts in H and whose hope is H (Jeremiah 17:7) Cast your burden upon H and He shall sustain you ( Mishley 3:4) Trust in H and do good so you shall dwell in the land and verily shall you be fed (Tehillim 37.3)
It has been recommended by professionals for parents to try not to expose their children to the constant barrage in the news media of all the fearful news about the COVID and how it is affecting our communities, our cities, our country and the world. And perhaps the threatening words of calamity in government affairs. The words of advice by the professionals can be applied to everyone, for how many adults can also be affected by what can be considered fearful news. Yet, there is hope on the horizon. There is always’ hope even with Heaven Forbid impending challenges facing those who are ill, those with life threatening and life limiting illnesses, or anything that one is concerned about making him/her anxious with a lot of anxiety. We are always’ faced with various challenges and often difficult situations. We pray to the Aibershta for wisdom, to give us the chachmos of knowing what to do. However, depending on the situation whether or not it is in our own realm to figure out the best , most logical, the most practical way to go and if not, we can and should seek the advice of a rav, a posek and when necessary a professional with expertise dealing with the specific issues at hand. Most of all, we beseech the Ribono Shel Olom to give us the proper derech to take and to be matzliach to take the right direction in life. Though we have lost just this year many gedolim, many rabbonim, many askonim, many worthy men and women who are not written about in the Jewish news media within our own communities, but life not only goes on, we are blessed with many who continue to give Klal Yisrael the chizuk we so much need. We learn much from Shlomo Hamelech’s Koheles how the life cycle continues. We are never left stranded by H for He is always’ with us and has always given us those who guide us and bless us. We seek the blessings of H to have the wisdom to have the right derech to take in life. Shlomo Hamelech was but only 12 years old as we learned in the Haftarah of Mikeitz (From the Stone Edition Chumash Artscroll Series Mesorah Heritage Foundation) “The Haftarah begins by saying that Solomon awoke from a dream. It was a dream that set the tone of his reign and had implications for the future of the Jewish people. In his prophetic dream, the twelve- year- old, newly crowned Solomon had been asked by G what blessing he desired for his new position. Solomon had requested wisdom so that he could judge his people well. Pleased that Solomon had altruistically asked for wisdom, went beyond His willingness to delay the full extent of judgement”. In the Shemoneh Esrei we recite “You graciously endow man with wisdom and teach to a (frail) mortal insight. Endow us graciously from Yourself (with) wisdom, insight, and discernment. Blessed are You gracious giver of wisdom. The first plea is for wisdom and understanding- because man’s intelligence is his primary characteristic, the one that sets him apart from animals. We ask for wisdom and for insight, so that we can draw proper conclusions and achieve intellectual discernment. (Vilna Gaon)” (Shottenstein Edition Artscroll Siddur Mesorah Heritage Foundation). Boruch H Klal Yisrael is zoche to have Rabbonim, Rebbitzens, Chaplains, professionals in diverse fields of expertise who are able to guide, teach, counsel and enhance the quality of life with Torah as their blueprint in Jewish life. It is with each person’s wisdom that helps guide their own decisions in life and their wisdom when to seek the guidance from our Rabbonim, Rebbitzens, Chaplains and professionals as well as from those in the medical, healthcare fields who we depend upon for all types of medical and healthcare concerns.
May we be zoche for Moshiach Tzedkeinu Bimheiraw Veyameinu. May all those who are ill have a refuah sheleima. May we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding not only the end of coronavirus, but all illnesses. May our hope, our faith in the Ribono Shel Olom continue to shine upon us. With ever growing strength and conviction especially during these trying days. To remember the ever lasting faith in the quote from my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H which is so appropriate. When things look blue it helps to remember that tomorrow is another day and will be a brighter day”. Let us all be able to have a positive outlook in life and a brighter day the next day. Thank you. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank
This is a video of Hagaon Harav Dovid Feinstein ztkl singing Maoz Tzur.