From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank. MS. BCC 
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbanim
January 28, 21

In “Rabbi Frand on the Parsha” by Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd Parshas Bo (pages 99-102) “The Message of the Firstborn” Sanctify for Me every firstborn, those who open every womb. (13:2) “Rav Simcha Zissel, the Alter of Kelm, once wrote a letter to Baron Rothschild, praising him for his exertions on behalf of the Jewish people. In his letter, Rav Simcha Zissel raises an interesting question. What did the Jewish firstborn do in Egypt to earn this high level of sanctification? True, they were involved in a great kiddush H, but did they do anything at all to make it happen? They contributed nothing to their rescue during the plague. They also had nothing to do with their being born first. Their role was absolutely passive. Clearly, even passive participation in a kiddush H is a very great thing. A person gains tremendous merit if H chooses him to play a role in a kiddush H, even if it is only a passive role. “If this is the reward for a person who has a passive role in a kiddush H,” wrote Rav Simcha Zissle, “how can we even begin to imagine the reward of a person that actively makes a kiddush H? You, Baron Rothschild, considering who you are and what you have done, have actively and publicly sanctified the Name of H, and there is no limit to the honor, respect and gratitude you have earned.”  This is the lesson we must all draw from a mitzvah of pidyon haben. If a passive contribution to a kiddush H sanctified the firstborn, we can he sure that an active contribution would certainly provide at least such a level of sanctification if not a greater one. And the opportunities are always there for us. We can make a kiddush H in the way we conduct our daily lives, the way we do business, the way we treat other people, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It is within our power to cause people who observe us to remark (Yoma 86a), “Look at him! Look how beautifully a religious Jew behaves.” This is such an easy way to make a kiddush H, such an easy way to gain tremendous reward both in this world and the next.”

In “A Vort from Rav Pam” by Rabbi Sholom Smith Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd Parshas Bo

(pages 93-94) “A Turn for the Better. But H strengthened the heart of Pharaoh and he did not send the Children of Israel (10:20) “The pasuk stresses that once the immediate danger was over, Pharaoh hardened his heart and went back to his old, evil ways of stubbornly refusing to let the Jewish nation leave Egypt. The Torah underscores Pharaoh’s fickleness to show common fault in human nature: When a person faces a crisis – an illness, accident, or pending disaster-this awakens in him a need for tefilah, teshuva, and emotion-filled appeals to H. But once the crises end, or even if the situation merely takes a turn for the better, and he sees the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel,” the hisorerus (inspiration) often quickly dissipates. He suddenly doesn’t need H anymore. “Rav Pam shared how Pharaoh kept changing his mind after each plague dissipated. Rav Pam also mentions in Megilas Esther how the Jewish people felt the crises upon them through Haman changed when Mordechai was paraded through the streets wearing royal clothing on as ruled by the king “befitting a man whom the king especially wants to honor (6:11) Yet, Mordechai returned to the king’s gate wearing sackcloth and fasting and continued to beseech H for mercy, pleading for the rescue of Klal Yisrael “ Rav Pam continues” There are many situations in life when a person going through a difficult situation suddenly sees a turn for the better. That is not a signal to discontinue one’s pleas to H for mercy. A person must pray until the full yeshuah (salvation) comes and then express his full-hearted gratitude to the One Above.”

During the three and a half years of my wife’s illness, there were times when we thought we could have some type of seuda todaw, A seuda of thanks when treatments were working. Of course, we did not stop praying for a remission. We could go for weeks either with no further changes or very noticeable symptoms, and then bounce right back needing a change in treatments. That is often the case with various types of cancer. Here is one such example of wanting to celebrate. At one point in this up and down journey, the doctor was going to give up, I convinced him to permit my wife to take a certain test and if there was no change at that time, will cease any further treatment. He agreed to give another chance. The whole family was praying and then the moment of truth came the following morning when the doctor said he could not believe the new results that were encouraging, and he would continue the treatments. Everyone in the family were so relieved, so happy for us, for my wife and for some period, the treatments were working, well at least no further changes for the worse. But then, the inevitable happened. A downward spiral where the cancer spread. My wife never gave up hope and yes, we were realistic of what could be, but we could not say what will be for sure. That was all up to H. A few short weeks before she was nifteres, she requested I bring out some of the albums of things we did through the years and albums we did with all the children. She knew what was happening to her and after having gotten over the most difficult prognosis she was given at her request, as I mentioned in a prior article, she remarkably bounced right back with enormous emunah and happiness thinking of all the wonderful things we did through the years. Why did she want to reminess and review those many wonderful times together, because she mentioned it brought her good feelings to know of all the accomplishments, she was so proud of as an Aishis Chayil, a daughter, a mother, a bubby, a sister and so on and so forth? She smiled with a twinkle in her eyes and even some laughter. She put aside all the things she will not be doing anymore with me and the family, but she still had hope for her legacy, for the future of myself and the family and still had a glimmer of hope for a miracle if H wanted it to be. Most of all, she shared with me how much appreciation she had to the Ribono Shel Olom for all the good things in her life. I was so touched after she was nifteres by many of her close friends and relatives who shared with me how happy she was when we got engaged and married how much simchas hachayim she had. She brought up three wonderful sons and then opened her heart with tremendous love and care for four other children. Getting back to those albums, just as an example of that laughter. On one of our trips in PA we came across a small airport with sign “airplane rides”. We said to each other “sure why not”. An elderly looking gentleman asked if I drove over that small road. I told him yes, well he said that was the runway. My wife and I looked at each other and gave a chuckle. We went for a ride and my wife said she will sit in the back with the headphones on. That man was the pilot and he even let me steer the plane or whatever what I did was called. We took pictures of the scenary and of each other. This is not something we planned or might normally have done. That was one of the many things we did which brought her a smile and laugh about. We were sitting on the couch looking at the many pictures we and our family did. It brought her so much happiness remembering. She was such a role model of how much hakaros hatov, appreciation, gratitude to the Ribono Shel Olom to everyone and everything that brought much meaning to her life, to me, the whole family, to everyone she knew.

I would like to share with you this example: We often bring home lekavod Shabbos flowers. When we pick out the flowers at the store, we do not think of them as dead flowers which will wither away in due time. As soon as they were cut from the ground, they were no longer considered living. Yet, we make sure to put them in water and maybe put that small packet of plant/ flower food to help keep the flowers looking fresh and enjoy their beauty for as long as possible. Yes, there is so much to live for. So much to be grateful for. Let us take Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel of Milk and Honey. Reflecting on the centuries through the trials and tribulations of the Jewish Nation. When Ramban finally arrived in Eretz Yisrael, he found it desolate. He eventually put together a minyan and finally built a shul, a makon kadosh. Our belief that one day Eliyahu will inform us Moshiach is here and it is time for Klal Yisrael to return with the third Bais Hamikdash. It is a hope that has not diminished. On Tisha B Av we cry, but we go on living knowing H has not abandoned Klal Yisrael. Until that time of Moshiach, despite all the present challenges Israel faces throughout the year, we do not give up. It is still the Holy Land filled with kedushah.

Today is Tu BShevat also known as the New Year of Trees. Rosh Hashana of Ilanos and to some Arbor Day. A time to reflect, to have hakaros hatov for all that He does for us. Israel the land of Milk and Honey and so much more. We are reminded of Terumah, Ma’asors and Orla. Rabbi Zvi Romm in the weekly Bialystoker Synagogue newsletter writes the following. “Rav Hershel Schachter has explained that Tu BShevat was instituted “as a holiday” to remind those of us who reside in the Diaspora of the mitzva of Ma’asors a mitzva primarily observed in the Land of Israel. In reminding us of the laws of Ma’asors and the significant dates associated with those laws, Tu B Shvat reminds us of the connection which we are all supposed to have to Eretz Yisrael, even when we find ourselves living. Whether we mark Tu BShevat by simply omitting Tachanun, or eating certain fruits, or eating anything more elaborate, we should allow ourselves to feel that connection to the Land of Israel and strengthen bond” (Rabbi Romm in addition to his being one of the distinguished Rabbeim of YU is also the Morah Dasra of the Bialystoker Synagogue). There are many who have a Tu BShvat seder with various fruits and different shades of wine, representing the different seasons in Eretz Yisrael.  There is even a special Yehi Ratzon many recite being mispallel for beautiful arba minim, Lulav, Esrog, Hadasim and Aravos for the forthcoming Yom Tov of Sukkos.  One thing we always remember, everything is up to the Aibershta, but we must do our hishtadus. There is a famous saying “H helps those who help themselves”.  We must always have hope. Thankful America. We must continue to convey having emunah and btachan in H. We must convey to those who we give chizuk to, the importance of Kiddush H and achdus. May we be zoche Moshiach Tzedkeinu Bemheira Veyawmeinu, the Geula Sheleima Bekarov Amein.  Sincerely and Respectfully, Rabbi Yehuda Blank

The following is from Kosher .com


Are There Any Special Minhagim To Be Practiced in Honor of Tu B’Shevat?

February 6, 2020 | OU Kosher


Shailoh of the Week by Rabbi Zvi Nussbaum

Rabbinic Coordinator, Kosher Hotline Administrator for the Orthodox Union

The Magen Avrohom (131:16) writes that there is a minhag on Tu B’Shevat to eat many varieties of fruit. Some poskim write that one should especially eat the fruit of the species with which the land of Israel was blessed (grapes, figs, dates, olives, and pomegranates) [Yalkut Yosef – Minhagei Tu B’Shevat]. The Bnei Yisaschar (Ma’amer Chodesh Shevat) writes that there is a minhag to daven on Tu B’Shevat that one should merit a kosher and beautiful esrog. Piskei Teshuvos (288:7) writes that such a tefilah may even be said on Shabbos. However, one who sells esrogim should not say this tefilah on Shabbos, since his concern is for success in business and it is inappropriate to pray for one’s business dealings on Shabbos.

Some have the minhag to eat esrog jam on Tu B’Shevat. Mishnah Berurah (225:16) writes that one does not recite the bracha of shehechiyanu, even if one has not eaten an esrog this season. Since the esrog can live on the tree the entire year, it does not have a specific season.