From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda)Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
March 4th, 21
THIS IS A LINK TO THE ENTIRE RAV DOVID’S LEGACY FILM SHOWN AT THE YESHIVA MTJ VIRTUAL GALA INCLUDED IS A SEGMENT ABOUT MY WIFE WHICH WAS SHOWN THEN AND AT OTHER TIMES AS WELL
On Wednesday February 24th, 21 was the yartzeit of Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein ztkl and also the MTJ Yeshiva Virtual Gala in memory of Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl. It is a two hour film and yes, it does include a special segment honoring my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohen A”H with thoughts shared by my three stepsons and myself. They spoke from their hearts holding back their own tears. I was hoping to share with you a letter I wrote my wife that was placed in their forthcoming journal which was not as yet published . However, I am sharing a letter that was sent to many who knew her prior to the MTJ Virtual Gala. I suppose as we are getting closer to her yartzeit, these and forthcoming are parts of the finale’s for this year. I am sharing with you the film to learn about Rav Dovid for those who might not have had the opportunity of meeting him in person. He was such a kind person as he was such a gadol .Other gedolim sought their guidance and psak halacha from him. As one of my step sons mentioned in the video, Rav Dovid was tremendous in his wonderful guidance and care for my wife and I and our two blended families the Brady Bunch (actually the Brady Bunch plus 1 Naftali, Shmuel and Rephoel (Miller) and Chaya, Esther, Tzivia and Aryeh (Blank). Of course much credit must be given to my wife who with her tremendous emunah in the Aibershta and a heart filled with love, kindness and sincerity made it all possible.
Rav Dovid encouraged me to continue helping others in addition to my Torah learning and mitzvos. With his wisdom, I was and continue to have good relationships with many, from different backgrounds, yet knowing and keeping my own boundaries in an appropriate manner. He had confidence in my abilities of caring for others, yet remembering my own responsibilities of remaining who I am and what I represent. To be an ambassador of the Ribono Shel Olam and for Klal Yisrael as all of us are supposed to be- not just me. When taking Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) some years ago, though Health Care Chaplaincy at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, I wanted to work with all backgrounds. My supervisors were Rabbi Jeffrey Silberman ( Reform) and a Lutheran minister. Everyone in all of my Units of CPE were very respectful and non intrusive with their own beliefs. One of the comments by my supervisors to paraphrase on my evaluations was that I was able to offer care for patients and staff of different and diverse faiths, cultures, life styles and backgrounds, yet was able to retain my own boundaries and faith. As I mentioned in the video and in print of my wife, she was a walking Kiddush H. We both shared the importance of Kiddush H and Rav Dovid was a tremendous inspiration.
In “A vort from Rav Pam” by Rabbi Shimon Smith Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd Parsha Tzetzaveh (page 113) “ By definition a talmid chachm is a person who is fluent in the entire Torah and can answer any questions without hesitation. There are those who say that very few people today qualify for this title and its stringent requirements. This is not true, as can be seen from the following incident: The Chofetz Chaim once saw his son Reb Leib do something. He told him, “A talmid chacham like you should not do that, because it can cause a chillul H!” Reb Leib protested, “But father, I am not a talmid chacham!” “For chillul H, “ replied the Chofetz Chaim, “you are enough of a talmid chacham…” In our time the bar has been lowered even more. Every Jew who wears a yarmulka on his head and , certainly, any Jew with a beard, must realize that he is under observation by those around him. People analyze his behavior and especially his interpersonal relationships. He may consider himself unlearned, unworthy of the title “talmid chacham”, but to the world at large, he is a symbol of Torah, a representative of H, as it were , and his behavior must be impeccable. Let your garments always be white is a fundamental part of being a Jew today.” In Kol Dodi on the Torah comments, insights and ideas on the weekly sidrah adapted from the shiurim of Rabbi Dovid Feinstein Ki Sisa Artscroll series Mesorah Publications Ltd ( pages 143- 144) “The wealthy man shall not increase and the poor man shall not decrease from the half a shekel to give H offering, to redeem your souls (30:15)“H commanded that every Jew contribute the exact same amount for the foundations of the Mishkan,(Tabernacle), so that no one would be able to say that his contribution was more important than someone else’s. The person who is blessed, either in money or Torah scholarship, cannot claim that he serves H more that an ordinary person who conducts himself scrupulously according to the Shulchan Aruch, any more than the worker who assembles the frame of an automobile can claim that he does more than the worker who makes the little screws that hold the body together. Just because people serve in different capacities does not mean that any one gives more than the others. What counts in H’s eyes however, is not how much total time one devotes to His service, but rather how much each individual give from the time he has available. H also looks at how sincerely one performs that service which he is able to . Thus Moshe, the greatest scholar and leader of the Jewish people has ever known, did not hold himself to be any more important than even the lowliest of his followers, The only distinction he saw was that he had a greater load to carry.” This is why Moshe says, at the beginning of Parshas Nitzavim, You are standing this day, all of you before H (Deuteronomy 29.9). In his eyes, all those who served H to their utmost ability stood together as equal, from the greatest leaders down to the smallest children, Someone who is less gifted cannot say that H expected less from him, because H expects everyone to give as much of the twenty-four hours in a day, in quantity and quality, as he has strength for. Different people may vary in the amount that they are capable of accomplishing in those twenty-four hours, but they are ultimately judged according to the quality and sincerity of their efforts.”
Rav Dovid treated all with respect, and answered their questions to each of their understandings. He was able to teach Torah to and in many different levels so that all could be able to grasp the Torah learning and succeed in it’s understanding and abilities. We have much to learn from his ways and most of all how we should treat others as he did. He was a wonderful inspiration to my children and my step children and my wife and I. The love she had for all the children was remarkable and so much to learn from. She considered the blended family as one family and that is how she loved and treated every child and grandchildren and how she is missed by the entire family so much.
(Letter I composed and sent out to many who knew her prior to the MTJ Virtual Gala)Dear Friend, On behalf of myself and my children, I would like to share my thoughts about my wife, Keila Blank a”h. My wife was unique and I would not want to compare anyone with her. Every person has their own wonderful attributes. She never sought tributes or accolades for her kindness, her sincerity, the smile she gave so many, or for any of her gemilus chassadim. People did not fathom how ill she was. She was diagnosed with cancer and given a life expectancy of 6 – 10 months. The Aibershter gave her 3 ½ years. She was a loving, devoted wife, mother, bubby, dear friend, mentor, and confidant to so many. She inspired, like Sara Imeinu, through her middos tovos, sincerity, kindness, and sweetness. Her love of Hashem and Yiddishkeit, made a deep impression and she was always mekadaish Hashem. I am still stopped by those whose lives she touched, Jews and non-Jews alike. She followed all details of halacha, tefilla with kavana, joy of doing gemilus chassadim, bikur cholim, tzedaka, and maaser, fulfilling all mitzvos with enthusiasm. Her smile was filled with brightness and everyone felt her goodness. She was liked and respected. Her love and appreciation for the Aibershter was filled with emunah and conviction even in the last days of her life. She was makpid that our family not speak loshon horah and find only good in people. We were both zoche to have had a personal and caring relationship with Hagaon Harav Dovid Feinstein ztvk”l and Rebbetzin Malke tichia, who gave us chizzuk, inspiration, and guidance prior to and during her illness. My family’s relationship with the Yeshiva and the Feinstein Mishpacha, including Rav Moshe and Rebbetzin Shima brought much simchas hachaim to Keila. Our relationship with Hagaon Harav Reuven shlita and his Rebbetzin a”h was also very dear to her. My wife loved helping my mother, Mrs. Rivka Blank a”h and the MTJ Sisterhood. She, together with my sister, Mrs. Zelda Finkelstein a”h, President of the Rifka Ray Blank Sisterhood, raised much needed funds for the Yeshiva. She volunteered to make phone calls about upcoming MTJ dinners. When she was not up to coming to the office, she made those phone calls at home. Shortly before she was nifteres, she asked me to include the following quote in my weekly articles for the Rabbinical Alliance of America newsletter. “When things look blue it helps to remember that tomorrow is another day and will be a brighter day”. It made her so happy that I could include her quote for so many to read. She wanted all to have hope and faith in the Ribono Shel Olom for the days ahead, as she sincerely did. She did not give up hope nor her love for the Ribono Shel Olom. The last bracha she made the night before she was nifteres was for Yom Tov candles. She was nifteres on the 1st day of Shavuos. Rebbetzin Shima a”h was a role model and the paragon of all the goodness found in a true Jewish woman of valor. The Rebbitzen Shima Feinstein Award is an everlasting tribute to her greatness. Our family is honored that it is being bestowed to Keila Lutza bas Shalom Hakohein a”h in this Virtual Dinner. Your help in perpetuating the mesorah of Rav Dovid ztvk”l is a great zechus for her neshama. May you be blessed with the goodness and kindness of the Aibershter and lives filled with emunah and hope. May we all be zoche to the Geulah Shleima. Sincerely and respectfully, Rabbi Yehuda Blank