From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
January 7, 2021
At a hesped the following day after shiva at the Yeshiva MTJ, one of the things Rav Berel mentioned about his father Rav Dovid ztkl was not dwelling on something important but acting on it asap as needed. The following is such an example with a halacha thrown into this true story by Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein. One interesting note before reading this personal story was Rav Dovid telling Rabbi Finkelstein not to have hope (In this situation)!
“It was my first year of beis medrash. At the end of a day’s learning, I walked to the back of the MTJ beis medrash to grab my coat and tefillin before I went home. Uh oh. My coat was there, but my tefillin were gone. After thoroughly searching the whole beis medrash, I came to the conclusion that someone had taken my tefillin. The next day, after shiur, I told my rebbi about my lost tefillin, and I added that I was not giving up hope of finding them. He was horrified. “No,” he said, “the halachah is you must give up hope. You must make your lost tefillin hefker, ownerless. It is possible that someone stole your tefillin and sold them to a Jew. If you aren’t mafkir your tefillin, a Jew might be wearing your tefillin thinking he is doing a mitzvah, but really be doing the aveirah of using stolen tefillin.” “Okay,” I said, “I am mafkir them.” Later, right before Minchah, the Rosh Yeshivah came over to me. “I went to Rabbi Eisenbach’s store. He is a sofer. I ordered you a new pair of tefillin. I already picked out the parshiyos for the tefillin for you. Please ask your father to speak to Rabbi Eisenbach tomorrow.” His talmid needed new tefillin, so Rav Dovid had immediately gone to the sofer to order him new ones.” (Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein is an author of many articles and well-known children’s books. He is also a well-loved and distinguished Rebbe at the MTJ Yeshiva and a nephew to Rabbi Blank. The above story was part of a larger article of personal experiences with Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl in the Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly magazine December 16, 2020). Rav Berel Feinstein is now the Rosh HaYeshiva of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem.
I continue to receive “check-in” calls from those my wife and I have known and those who know me personally wanting to know how I have been doing which is very comforting since my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H was nifteres. They are happy to hear my spirited attitude and continued activities including, cleaning, cooking, baking, shopping, going to shul, attending zoom shiurim, many zoom presentations, webinars, working on programs for the RAA, meaningful committees with the NAJC, doing lots of nice things with my grandchildren via zoom and -well that’s enough for now (I forgot doing laundry too). Oh yes, and happiness about a granddaughter who became a kallah and preparing for her wedding. What about sleeping time? Well, that is a lonely time, but there is always’ something to fall back on (I don’t mean my bed), but restful things like learning, reading, listening to music( during the week, of course, zemiros on Shabbos) and maybe a little nighttime snack. Would you believe I get emails from organizations even in the wee hours of the night? No, I do not respond to them. AND, I have been asked how my journey in grief and bereavement has been. I could say, I don’t have time for that, but that is not so. I am grateful for a loving and supportive family, friends, and others, but most of all for the Ribono Shel Olom and my emunah with good spirits. From time to time, there is always a reminder of a wonderful relationship that once was and very thankful for and knowing how much it meant to my wife A”H for me to remember life does go on. It is interesting in Rav Dovid’s English sefer Kol Dodi on the Torah (an Artscroll Judaica Classic, Mesorah Publications, Ltd, Parshas Vayechi pages 86-87) “ But as for me when I came from Padan, Rachel died on me in the land of Canaan on the road, while there was still a stretch of land to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the road to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem” (48:7) “ Joseph might have thought that Jacob did not care enough for Rachel to take the trouble to find her a fitting burial site since she was only one of four wives. This is why Jacob uses the seemingly unnecessary word, Awlai, on me, in his account. This word alludes to a teaching of the Sages (Sanhedrin 22b): A woman dies only to her husband. They meant by this that a woman’s loss is felt most intensely by her life’s companion, more so than by other family members, who are hopefully by then settled into lives of their own. The Sages also taught (Berachos 61a) that Adam and Eve were originally created as one organism, like Siamese twins, joined together at their backs. This lasted until H said,” It is not good for the man to be alone” (2:18) and split them into two people. At the same time, we can visualize that all future generations were split into two halves, to be born separately and reunited later through marriage”. So, when I saw the magnificent ad in this past weekend Yated Ne’eman newspaper from the Yeshiva Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem and the Yeshiva of Staten Island with a picture of Rav Dovid on page 30 and the rest of the ad on page 31 amongst the honorees with the words “The Rebbitzen Shima Feinstein Award Presented in memory of Mrs. Keila Blank” A”H brought me tears. No, they were not tears of sadness, but tears of pride. My family has been zoche with a long, caring, and meaningful relationship with the Feinstein mishpacha. In previous articles, I mentioned how fond Rav Dovid and Rebbitzen Malka techia was of my wife for all the goodness she brought all our children, their mishpacha, everyone who knew her not just from the Lower East Side and for the Yeshiva and Kollel. How well liked she was by so many, of all ages and from diverse backgrounds. Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H was a role model for Kiddush H, Emunah, and Betachon in the Aibershta, Always with joy, happiness, and a beautiful, radiant smile. Most of all, she wanted life to blossom and continue for her as long as the Ribono Shel Olom wanted and she wanted me to continue that mesorah in my own life and mishpacha. There is a well-known phrase “Life goes on”. But how does everyone interpret those words? In what positive ways can we enhance our lives? With chesed, maysim tovim, caring for each other and ourselves too, keeping busy, doing things that bring meaning and joy into one’s life. Being respectful no matter what one’s background or affiliation might be. To enhance achdus, using the blueprint of Torah Avoda and Gemilus Chasadim. Never to give up hope and when times might feel blue, to remember her quote “When things look blue it helps to remember that tomorrow is another day and will be a brighter day” Yes, we have our yartzeits, we have yizkor, we continue to remember those who are no longer with us and life does have its ups and downs, but life does and must go on. Rabbonim, Rebbitzens, Chaplains, Health, Mental Health, Social Service, and other professionals can and do bring much kindness and care to all those in time of need which is a blessing. May we all be zoche to have lives filled with joy and happiness and comfort for 120 years to come. Last Shabbos we said Chazak Chazak after completing Bereishis and this week we begin with Shemos- a new beginning. May this be the beginning of good things to come Bezras H.
I would like to share with you a recording of my hesped given on the Shloshim of Rav Dovid ztkl at the MTJ beis medrash. In addition to the Mashgiach Ruchni Rav Chaim Ganzwieg , I was one of five talmidim who were maspid. Please click on the link below. Thank you. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank