From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS.BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission 
and External Affairs
March 18, 21                                                                                                                                   *****

Well as they say, it is down to the wire – for Pesach that is. But as I mentioned last week, as challenging as it might be and I used the word challenging, not difficult, we look forward to Pesach. Years ago, on the radio were advertisements from Maxwell House (yes and their famous Haggadah’s) Manishewitz or Shapiro wine, so thick you could cut it with a knife (thick and sweet). Everyone has their stories, their memories of what it was like growing up, preparing, and shopping for Pesach. This is a Yom Tov most Jewish men, women and children look forward to, in what ever way they observe Passover. The radio Passover jingles advertising different wines, matza, macaroons and the famous Lubavitch announcements. For me, my mother a”h used to have the kitchen painted every year before Pesach. Then taking out the special boxes in the “sealed” never to be opened closet with all the Pesach pots, pans, dishes etc. and a wine press my grandparents used to make their own wine. We used 18-minute machine matza, and the shmurah matza came in a special box. We used to make a trip to Horowitz Margareten and we also got hand made shmurah matza from a Chasidic Rebbie who lived across the street from us we were close with. The hand made shmurah matzos were wrapped in brown paper, no such things as boxes like today. I used to go with my father a”h to Kedem located on the Lower East Side on Norfolk Street and admired the huge wine tanks and I mean floor to ceiling. We got to taste many of the wines. There was also a wine store right next to the Yeshiva MTJ on East Broadway. Shapiros was located on Rivington Street also on the Lower East Side. Some of the famous items from Kedem was their honey mead wine, egg nog wine and their Raspberry syrup. We never had soda, but one year there was a new brand of soda kosher for Pesach called Cott Soda. We would not use the seltzer that was in the schpritz blue bottles that were delivered each week. Mechiras Chametz at the Rebbie took along time. He was so makpid and careful and kept a log from year to year comparing notes making sure whoever sold their chametz did not forget anything as he reviewed what was written from year to year. He gave everyone a package of three hand baked matzos, but for us he gave two packages. I never felt as if my parents were burdened with Pesach preparations, They made me feel so excited in all the preparations even the cleaning of the house. I used to watch the Rebbie’s Rebbetzin clean, polish and make her apartment so sparkling, Yet I never heard her complain. Both spoke mostly Yiddish. My mother made her own meat borsht, her own chrain and mostly everything else. OK, what could I tell you, her food was delicious and my wife’s food also delicious. No comparison. Before I remarried, I used to cook, but after our marriage, I only made something my wife Keila wanted me to make. I always’ said her food was way better than mine. 

Other memories when I was in Beis Medrash, I went with Rav Moshe ztkl to one of the Lower East Side hand made shmurah matza bakeries. Some years, I went with the Mashgiach of MTJ Rav Barenbaum ztkl who would bake at a bakery in Crown Heights. A lot of people think the only matza bakery on the LES was the famous Streits machine bakery. During the year many would purchase freshly made matza and other products. For Pesach my yeshiva had a special run. Streits closed their building and moved elsewhere as did all the other Lower East Side hand made shmurah matza bakeries. I also remember watching Rav Dovid ztkl do all the measuring in his office for the shiurim for wine which as everything else he did was remarkable. Those shiurim plus for the other requirements for the Seder has been written in the well known brochures from the MTJ Kollel and his Kol Dodi Hagadah .His measurements plus those of Rav Moshe have been used by many throughout the years. Fast forward, last year was a special Pesach not to be forgotten, as it was for everyone else, especially those who had to be alone due to the Coronavirus. But for me, on the one hand it was one of the most memorable Pesachs/Sedarim I ever had with my wife. This year as it will be for many a Pesach with some more freedom – almost as it used to be with more family gatherings for the Sedarim. However, for me and unfortunately many others especially due to the virus will be missing someone special. Honestly, on the one hand I am looking forward to being with family and grandchildren, and on the other hand was really looking to stay home, but that is not what my wife wanted me to do. That is not getting on in life. Though, I am quite busy with the various programs I am involved with and planning, keeping in touch with others via phone and zoom, going to shul, zoom events, shopping and preparing my apartment for Pesach for the remainder of Yom Tov. Nevertheless, getting out in the world is so important. I went to visit my stepsons and others at Chasdei Lev, and once again I say WOW, how efficient, organized, and huge was their operation and this is just one location. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in previous articles, there are many who for whatever their reasons may be, even if they received the vaccinations, are still isolated, homebound, unable or just are not interested in getting some fresh air. There is no question that many are confused with the recommendations from the CDC, other channels of information including what is being broadcast on the news media and relaxing of regulations in different locations in the USA. My recommendation is to get advice from ones health care provider. However, for whatever the reason may be, helping those in need, providing whatever assistance is needed and keeping a line open for any type of socialization and communication is very important. Feeling and being lonely is not pleasant. I have been asked so what is it like being alone since my wife died ? Well, the loneliest time is late at night, when phone calls are not possible especially on a Shabbos or Yom Tov. I have pictures to look at and can speak to whomever I want to and whenever I feel like it, read, learn, write my articles and know I am never really alone. Is it getting used to being alone ? Those are question’s each person has their own thoughts about. Most of all, there are ways of overcoming being or feeling lonely, but not for this article. Being active and involved in activities is very helpful. This is something to think about regarding anyone my readers might know. I have heard from others how much it meant to get a phone call and when possible a visit from the Rabbi or Rebbitzen and a member (s) from his/her congregation when not being able to attend services or “go out for some fresh air”. Not everyone has zoom, or the will to call others. It really is a wonderful mitzva caring for others. Especially if the person does not have any relatives he/she has or is in contact with. 

We all have memories; we all have a purpose on this world. Each of us dedicate our lives for the Aibershta for others and for each other. That of course is up to each of us and how we wish our lives to be. But for many need the care, the utmost love, understanding and sincerity others can give them. For those of us, whatever position we might have, professionally or as mentors, as friends, as relatives, we remember in the Rosh Chodesh benching Chaveirim Kol Yisrael. In Parshas Vayakel, 35:5 “Take for yourselves a portion for H, everyone whose heart motivates him shall bring it as the gift for H : Yeviehaw, Shall bring it ,The verse’s stress on the motivation of the donor indicates that the primary requirement is not the monetary value of the gift- G is in no need of our contributions-but the giver’s sincere desire to elevate and unite himself with Him” ( Or Chaim  from the Stone Edition Artscroll Chumash Series Mesorah Publications Ltd) Those of us who are in the position to help other’s in their time of need, to bring comfort, simcha, joy to their lives is so important.  Rav Pam in Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd pages 114-116) “From the aforementioned Sefer HaChinuch one can learn another vitally important lesson: A Kohen must constantly be in a state of simcha in gratitude for the privilege of spending his life in the service of H”. (continued) “A person’s attitude of simcha in the service of H can have a profound influence on his children as well. Rav Pam however gives an example of a brilliant talmid chacham whose children strayed from the path of Torah. He constantly complained and shared his difficulties of which his children decided why to live a life their father was enduring, Unfortunately, their father did not seek the help and guidance from anyone who could have brought comfort some assistance, understanding and a means of meeting his ongoing challenges in life. Rav Pam mentions in this parsha from Rav Moshe “Es iz shver tzu zayn a Yid” He ends off with Simcha is the basic ingredient for success in life and is the medium by which parents transmit the mesorah (heritage) of Torah life to their children”. However, to have simcha to feel joy when a person is going through difficulties in life whatever it may be, truly needs the comfort and understanding each of us can bring and convey. That is why it is important to seek resources, to seek answers, to seek guidance from others and each other. In our hearts we must be sincere, have a heart filled with the desire to be there for others whenever and however possible and to be mispallel to the Ribono Shel Olom for His direction and wisdom. 

I am in awe of the knowledge, expertise, talents, abilities of our Rabbanim, Rebbetzins and chaplains who are mechazek Klal Yisrael, are there for those of diverse backgrounds of Judaism in their time of need. and show care to those who are not Jewish. Having the needed and appropriate resources to assist others and continuing education are essential ingredients. . You are the unsung hero’s bringing much meaning of life to so many often in challenging conditions and situations. I am deeply appreciative to so many for the support and encouragement given to me. I often am told how it is not easy for me. They of course are referring to continuing in life without my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom Hakohen A”H who was my mentor, my co pilot, my inspiration, but that is just what I am dedicated to do. To continue with simcha and joy in life and to share that inspiration with others. Of course, it is not easy. Who says life is easy? However, it is important to have betachen, and emunah in the Ribono Shel Olom, with the belief in doing what is right. To be emesdik and as erlich/sincere as possible is so important. 

Bringing and enhancing achdus is another important facet of life which the Ribono Shel Olom wants of us. I am honored and feel simcha in the forthcoming seminar “Halachic Challenges for tor fhe Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplains” brining together two major Rabbinical organizations under the leadership of Rabbi Dratch and Rabbi Mirozcnik and the Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplains Listserv under the leadership of Rabbi Kramer where Orthodox Jewish men and women who are professional healthcare chaplains receive and share expertise, knowledge, and inspirations in chaplaincy. Questions should be submitted by those who are registered and the responses will be discussed by two well known and very respected Rabbanim in the United States and beyond, Rav Hershel Welcher and Rav Dr. Aaron Glatt MD in the live seminar. 

 “ Zechor rachamechaw H Vachasidechaw Ki Meiolawm Heima Remember Your mercies, H and Your kindnesses for eternal are they” We are mispallel for those who have any difficulties in life, need a refuah, are mispallel for a specific simcha, with Klal Yisrael’s achdus, our care, and our tefilos we should be zoche maysim tovim. May it be His will we should be zoche Leshana habaaw Birushalayim  Amain.

Thank you. Sincerely and respectfully, Rabbi Yehuda Blank

                                                       “THE REBBITZEN’S SECTION “
This is a special edition for the Rebbetzins of the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud Harrabanim.
One of the greatest chesed is sharing, participating, facilitating, initiating and being a partner
with the Ribono Shel Olom in a shidduch leading to a marriage and Bezras H a Neeman Bayis Yisrael.
My wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohen A”H amongst the many gemilus chasadim she was involved in was her remarkable care and sensitivity for others and the desire to bring happiness to other’s including shidduchim. No, she did not consider herself a shadchan, but another way of doing gemilus chasadim by  joining with the OORAH Rebbetzins Network which brought her simchas hachayim. One of my functions as Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs, is creating, developing facilitating various programs that will enhance and bring desired resources to the members of our organization. This includes the esteemed Rebbetzins of our distinguished Rabbonim who are members of the RAA/Igud. You the Rebbetzins have often been mentioned in my articles that are in the RAA weekly newsletter because of your meaningful, valuable contribution and participation in the Avodas H as the Rebbitzen. I am therefore adding every so often “The Rebbitzens Section”. Please read this about the OORAH Rebbitzens Network with a link to their website and contact person for additional information and participation should you wish to join this worthy cause. It is endorsed by prominent Rabbonim you will see when you click on the link. Please feel free to contact me for any additional information, Thank you. Respectfully Rabbi Yehuda Blank

The Rebbetzins Network
Guidance in Establishing a Torah Home

The Rebbetzins Network is a program geared to frum marriage-minded singles aged 18-35 of baal teshuva background. With an extensive network of singles and shadchanim, we give practical guidance, caring support, and, of course, shidduch ideas and dates. Our hand-picked volunteer Rebbetzins act as dating mentors, advocates, and shadchanim for our singles. Whether you have questions about the shidduch process, need someone to field suggestions or call references for you, or just need a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear, Rebbetzins is a good fit for you. Plus, you’ll be invited to our many exclusive shadchan meets and events throughout the year.

“Even though this was not an Oorah Rebbetzins shidduch, I want to thank you for your hard work. The Oorah Rebbetzins were of the few shadchanim that I worked with that seemed to genuinely care about the singles, and put a lot of time, energy, and work into trying to make shidduchim…The shabbaton last year was also a pretty incredible event, and I really enjoyed myself! “I had such a wonderful experience with you, and I have so much hakaras hatov for everything you did to help me.”