Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
February 18th, 21 *
Being a Rav and a supportive Rebbetzin is never an easy position. It might see glamorous to some, but with awesome responsibilities. The care and understanding, the patience could be taxing for the average person, especially as we enter the next two Yom Tovim Purim and Pesach. Due to COVID or Corona as many call the virus, has once again brought us to uncertain times with many shailos and difference of halachic opinions. There have been major announcements in the Jewish media about reduced gatherings, Purim celebrations, giving, receiving meshalach manos and restrictions on visitations by youth groups or for that matter any groups for charitable collecting and about avoiding giving and drinking (special article about drinking in last weeks RAA newsletter). Though the mitzva is just with at least two different edible items, many like to give more and often elaborate gifts. There are many who will not accept anything that comes from a home where there are individuals during quarantine or actually have the Corona. And there are many who will not be giving shalach manos or be fearful of attending the reading of the Megilah in the synagogue, but each rabbi will find solutions when possible not to miss such and important mitzva. Then there are as I have mentioned in previous articles those who are isolated, are alone, feel lonely, and with many, sad not being able to be with the world. I have been asked how will I be celebrating Purim this year? Well, it is the first Purim without my wife, and due to COVID I am not socializing in the sense of being with others, visiting, not just as a co-davener in shul, or being amongst people in the supermarket. I will give neighbors in my building a simple shalach manos. I will have something special for my Purim meal in the early afternoon, as it will be erev Shabbos. If possible, will do zoom with different families where the grandchildren can show me their costumes. How can I not forget the memories of joyous days with my wife, preparing shalach manos packages she made so beautiful for our relatives. I just helped with the gift wrapping. Through the years, at the Bialystoker snf, had beautiful and exciting programs and activities for community residents too and my wife used to join me with her own costumes, both of us really getting into the Purim mood making everyone happy. She also made a special Purim breakfast for all our children and grandchildren, they too with their beautiful costumes. Every year, I had a professional looking get up, nothing silly or funny, really Broadway looking, and my wife joined me. Am I reminiscing again, maybe, but there are so many joyous and meaningful things we did together, like teammates There are so many things to share with each holiday and special events? I could go on and on. So, what is the use of memories, when as she wanted me to go on with life. Well, we look back and just as she wanted to look at the many albums of what we did together and with our family and others, just a few weeks before she was nifteres, but that made her so happy. Reminiscing all that she accomplished on Hawolom Hazeh bringing up three wonderful boys, opening her heart to my children and just so loving and caring for each other and family. So, my dear readers, for yourselves, your family make every moment filled with love of the Aibershta, for each other and all those who love and care for you too. There is much to impart and share with those who you give counsel to, those who you bring meaning of life. Every experience preparing for each chag is precious and being there for those who do not have family, not married, for various reasons have not been with family, caring with sincerity, with your hearts will always bring something special to the lives of others, yourselves, your spouses, you children, grandchildren, other relatives, mispallim and those who seek your advice, your help, and your guidance. What is important is always remembering and thinking of the Ribono Shel Olom with emunah and betachim. For those who are lonely, or feel lonely, for what ever reason they are, don’t just keep them in your prayers, find opportunities of bringing life into their lives.
Then comes Pesach just four weeks later after Purim. Cleaning for Pesach, shopping for Pesach, preparing for Pesach including for the Pesach Sedarim and once again COVID makes everything a challenge. Of course, there are several different organizations and groups offering Pesach food items, clothing, and other Pesach essentials. For Rabbeim there is the well known Chasdei Lev in many locations throughout the USA and Canada. There are presently a number of people at home in quarantine and patients in the hospital. The chaplains of the hospitals and hospice are doing remarkable and fabulous things for their patient populations and their ability to be with the patients in their journey however and whatever their treatments might be, bringing them, their loved ones, care givers, and yes staff, much comfort in their time of need.
Is the glass half empty or is the glass half full? Do you know anyone who can look at a glass half full and not feel satisfied, not feel being cared for fully, not wanting, wishing and I ask why can’t the glass be at least ¾ full if it cannot be completely filled? What is the essence of harkaras hatov? What does it mean to be appreciative, to be thankful and be a person with a positive outlook in life Yes, we all have our ups and our downs. Complaining about the weather, the former administration, the new administration, the cost of living, the Corona, maybe a new virus, and so many more things to complain about. Even things that are given away for free or even going to a simcha and not being happy with the food at the shmorg or the meal. What about the lashon harah when speaking to each other about the food, the service, maybe even the color scheme? My goodness, there is so much to talk about, so many things to complain about. This is especially so when not feeling satisfied with what a person has. Vesawmachto Vechelko, in Pirkei Avos Be satisfied with what you have.
Rav Moshe in Darash Moshe A selection of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s choice comments on the Torah published by Mesorah Publications Ltd (Mishpatim page 126)” The Sages (Chagigah 11b) said that everyone experiences a craving for money and illicit relationships, but this is only because people feel a need for these things. If, however, one has the firm belief that it is impossible for him to enjoy any more of these pleasures than H wishes him to have, then he will certainly have no desire for money he is not entitled to. On the contrary, not only will he take care that his income be earned only in ways H permits, but he will also make an effort to give as much money as he can for charity and other mitzvos, just as a businessman invests his capital in merchandise or equipment in order to make a profit on it. No one would consider such investments as frivolous extravagances to be regretted; instead, they take pleasure in investing their money in enterprises from which they stand only to benefit, in the same way that people rejoice when they spend fabulous sums to build large houses. Our attitude should be exactly the same towards spending large sums of money for mitzvos, for they are an investment far more certain to bring large returns; surely, we should have no desire for money that does not rightfully belong to us, because it will only be detrimental for us in the long run.”
Yet, as Rabbanim and Rebbetzins must take in consideration many other factors such as the economy today’s reduced income, salaries, or loss of jobs and still have responsibilities and obligations to one’s family and one’s own need. Also, tuition, payment of bills, being able to purchase daily and Shabbos items, plus so much more. And the unexpected crises situations such as medical needs, dentistry needs and other unexpected needs where insurance might cover part or nothing For children and adolescents, not only adults there is the wishful thinking of items they might want or need. There can be a lot of anxiety and listening to the pangs of what is needed, what their congregant are praying for is not an easy task.
Yes, the mere thought of thinking about how to spend Purim this year might be perplexing and the thoughts about Pesach, can add to the stress and anxiety of a person. Of course, we should, we must depend on emunah and betachem in the Aibershta for His guidance and direction to take. With the love, care, respect, and sincerity by and from the Rabbi, and Rebbitzen, can help make Purim and G Willing Pesach meaningful times of joy. Thank you and sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank