From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS. BCC
Director of Programing, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
March 24th, 21 

“Halachic Challenges for the Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplain”
The seminar will be based on the questions you have or will be sending me 
to be forwarded to both Rabbi Welcher and Rabbi Dr. Glatt. 

Pesach can be a very joyful, meaningful Yom Tov or it can be stressful, leading to family machlokes and even issues and concerns for shalom bayis. Communication, sincerity, compromise, being loving and caring OR “It’s either my way or the highway”. There are many different minhagim with sometimes members from the same family who seek guidance and psak from different rabbonim. For instance, this year erev Pesach is on Shabbos. Do we have two meals Shabbos morning to fulfill the mitzvos of having the regular meal with matza ashira or chametz challah and seuda shlishis? Perhaps we should have one meal in the morning of Shabbos and just fruits, vegetables and maybe a little fish, meat, or chicken in the afternoon? Or if we eat gebraks, then add a kneidle or two? Yes, observing the halacha, the minhagin are very important, but so is having shalom and having a meaningful and enjoyable Yom Tov. It is heartwarming to learn of families who have enjoyed kneidles and matza brei (some who eat gebraks enjoying matza farfel- broken pieces of matza in their soup) and when a daughter whose husband minhag is not to eat gebraks, with simcha and happiness make sure their Pesach is absolutely non gebraks and not “it is not my way or the highway approach”. 

Knowing what to and how to advise or giving a psak for a rav is no easy thing to do.

You might ask how does a chaplain deal with similar challenges. Here is a difficult challenge and that is working with a family dealing with end-of-life issues. Or it might be decisions about treatments amongst other concerns. When there is more than one family member who feel for whatever reason that he/she is the spokesperson for their loved one with differences of opinions regarding the medical care can be quite challenging. That is why it is significant to have a designated health care proxy, family member or caregiver. The medical team with the permission of the health care proxy can discuss a patient’s condition or treatment with other family members, but they must follow HIPPA. On many occasions, I was requested by the health care proxy designated family or caregiver and health care providers to be part of the discussions. Often, the family members would request my opinion. However, I would not be able to make any decisions for them or in fact instruct, encourage, discourage, or direct them unless they had specific questions, needed specific clarifications that was in my purview or I felt appropriate to respond to. Often due to miscommunications, misunderstandings, or simply a certain family member decision to make decisions or try to be the spokesperson against the wishes of the loved one often a parent or designated family member health care proxy can bring sadness and machlokes without caring what their loved one would have desired. Surely, not family machlokes. What often is especially challenging when different family members quote their poseik on what treatment or end of life decisions should be made. Another aspect to this picture is if their poseik is knowledgeable in relevant medical information of the patient condition. Is their poseik able to converse with the patient’s physicians to ensure his guidance is in the best interest of the patient. There were instances where there were questions of what type of care to be given when there were differences of opinion between family members due to their religious and or spiritual backgrounds and or affiliations.

Healthcare chaplains have a determination and professional desire to learn, research and be knowledgeable of a patient’s diagnosis and prognosis. Learning from the interdisciplinary team is a vital component to giving appropriate care to the patient, family and care givers. Professional chaplaincy is not just about giving chizuk. In healthcare settings, the chaplain is looked upon as an integral part of the interdisciplinary team whose participation is required and whose guidance and opinions are valued by the other members of that team which can consist of medical specialists, social workers, therapist, dietician and other professionals who contribute to the total care of each patient. Often, the patient, family member or caregiver seek the opinion, guidance or assistance from the chaplain in understanding various aspects of a patient’s condition and possible relevant  to halachic concerns and can be the bridge as a liaison between the medical team and family. The chaplain can be a source of comfort, understanding and peace maker bringing much need shalom. There are many questions and concerns an Orthodox Jewish Healthcare chaplain often has. The RCA, RAA and those who are part of the Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplains Listserv seek the guidance and often chizuk from rabbonim such as Rabbi Welcher and Rabbi Dr. Glatt amongst other well known Halachic authorities here in the USA and Israel who are knowledgeable in healthcare areas. Webinars, presentations, and continuing education such as the forthcoming “Halachic Challenges for the Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplain” seminar is so essential.  

There are many wonderful opportunities of caring for others including being understanding, willing to compromise, seeking harmony, enhancing the quality, the meaning of joy, happiness, and the spirit of life. In grief and bereavement, the sadness is not having the person we loved and cared about with us. Yet, as I mentioned about my own wife a”h who inspired me to inspire others with the goodness, meaning of life, through her emunah, her tremendous faith and will to live making everyday, every act of kindness and every mitzvah count according to halacha Even on the last night of her life with the brachos  for Yom Tov candles.  I want to share with you one of Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s remarkable stories in “At the Maggid’s Seder. Stories and Insights of Grandeur and Redemption” by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn. Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd) In regard to “Yawchol meirosh chodesh. “With Love and Affection” (pages 121- 123) One might think that the obligation to discuss the Exodus commences with the first day of the month of Nissan,… at a time when matzah and maror lie before you. The mitzvos we do afford us an opportunity to gain a closeness to H. A father appreciates when his child fulfills his wishes; how much more so when the wish is fulfilled with passion an endearment. AS we now view the matzos and maror before us, this poignant story gives us a perspective of adherence to the wishes of H, our Father.  It was the last full day of the live of my mother, Mrs. Hindy Krohn, but none of us knew it. On the morning of the second day of Succos in 2006, she was a patient at the Paul Kimball Hospital in Lakewood, N.J. My nephew, Rabbi Yehuda (Hudi)Gutman, the rabbi of Cong. Lev Avrohom in Lakewood and a rebbi in Yeshivah Shaarei Tzion in Edison, N.J, was staying with her for the two days of Yom Tov. He brought her a lulav and esrog, but he was not sure she was lucid enough to make the beracha. He put them in her hands, but she didn’t respond. “Bubby, would you like to bentch lulav?” Hudi asked. There was no response.: Let’s do it together,” he said. Gingerly, he wrapped his fingers around hers as she clutched the lulav and esrog. Slowly he recited the beracha, hoping she would repeat it after him. If she did, her voice was soft and the beracha inaudible. Together with her, he waved the lulav and esrog in all directions.  Then he tried to take them from her, but she gripped them tightly. Hudi released the arba minim so my mother could hold the mitzva items herself. As she gripped them tightly, she brought the lulav and esrog, to her lips and kissed them. She closed her eyes without a word. Hudi was so touched by that sacred scene. She couldn’t talk, she couldn’t express herself, yet she could communicate he love for the mitzvah. Then she relaxed her grip and Hudi took the lulav and esrog from her. He had never told me about this incident, but a few nights before Pesach 2016 he called with great excitement. I will never forget what he said. Hudi told me what had happened that Succos day and then referred me to a Ba’er Heitiv (O.C.477:1): The Shelah writes, “I have seen eminent people who would kiss the matzah and the maror and also the succah upon entering and leaving it, and the same with the four species of the lulav, and all this to show their love of the mitzvah. Worthy are those who serve H with joy. My nephew said,” I never understood why Bubby did what she did or what source she may have had, but now I do. I wanted to tell you.” I called my children and grandchildren to relate this episode and tell them about the Ba’er Heitiv. It elevated the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach and even increased the great reverence that I’ve always had for my mother. Interestingly, R. Laibel Rutta, a disciple of the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner (1906-1980), writes in Reshimas Lev, a compendium of Torah thoughts of his Rosh Yeshivah, that Rav Hutner suggested that kissing the maror symbolizes kabolas yesurin b’ahavah, one’s acceptance, with love, of the punishment that H metes out to him. (See Berachos 5a,5b; see also Sefer Aspaklaria Vol.9, p 268.). My mother passed away that night, with my nephew at her bedside. But she left him and all of us with a lesson for a lifetime; the undying love of a mitzvah.”

When I opened the Pesach boxes for me to go through for those things, I needed for Pesach it was like opening a time capsule. So many memories of last Pesach with my wife. She was so well organized and last year instructed me in repacking everything just as they would be needed the following year. She knew how ill she was and what the future might be in store for here. Nevertheless, she had me pack her bag of Pesadika cosmetics and all items that would be needed for another Yom Tovim. On the one hand she had tremendous emunah never giving up hope making every precious day and night meaningful. She also as she did with other things made sure to have prepared me for the inevitable so I could be ready to continue life and daily living with the same zest of life with joy and happiness after her demise. The lockdown that Pesach was truly a silver lining for us both and for her to fulfill every mitavah with zest and full of life and joy. Whatever she was able to partake of matzah and grape juice, even to taste the maror of the romaine leaves, charoses was something she derived much simcha. We sang all the songs, recited the entire Haggadah and davened day and evening with tremendous kavaneh and simcha as we did all the Shabbosim before and after the Yom Tov. To all those who even have a hava minah the slightest thought of “it is either my way or the highway” should read Rabbi Krohns story about his mother or what I have been writing about how much mitzvos meant to my wife, but always with shalom with love for the Ribono Shel Olom and to be free of any machlokes. I therefore am looking forward to a joyous and wonderful Pesach. It will be different, but knowing she is with all the other holy neshamos in Gan Eiden in Hawolom Habaw.  I am surrounded with wonderful family, friends, neighbors, and others who I join in the spirit of this Yom Tov of Pesach brings me much comfort and happiness. STOP WAIT BUT THERE IS MORE. I have been mentioning about the inspiration my wife gave me and I have mentioned some of what I have been doing. So I have decided hopefully you wont be bored with personal reflections of what someone like me is doing with my life. First let me say when I reached the age of 50 and had to purchase something from the drugstore, was told I could now get a discount. When I received information from the AARP, I really felt I was getting older. So, my wife and I used to kid each other when I said I was getting older she would say Boruch H. OK- no tears now Yehuda. I know what you were thinking when she brought up her age and said she said to me ‘ I’m so young with so many years I would like ahead”, but she bounced right back with a smile.  Anyone of my readers who either receives the AARP magazines  know their features of people who are age 50 plus + and about their many accomplishments in life. My feeling is that after a certain age, especially a person who had retired, or widow or a widower, or laid off from their work, sometimes feels as if they are out to pasture, feeling depressed 

(I did not say clinically depressed) feeling worthless and so on. My wife gave me spirited encouragement with much for what I was doing. So what can I offer in suggestions to those who might have become a widow, widower, recently retired or laid off from work. I hope to share some wisdom with a shot in the arm(no -not a vaccine) boost of enthusiasm. Most of all it is important to feel and have self worth. Once again, I want to encourage anyone who is really having a difficult time in life, where rabbinical support is just not enough, to seek the advice of a social worker or psychologist. I have mentioned many times, there is nothing to be ashamed of seeking such help and if the professional focus is called mental health, that is not indicative of something terribly wrong with whoever could use such help. Not getting the help a person needs, is really not in his or her best interest.   So in my future articles especially after my wife’s yartzeit will share personal and other reflections on giving oneself an extra boost of self-confidence. So, with all the preparations I am doing for Pesach, minus the cooking for a change, and making sure this article is being submitted and anything else I might be doing of worth including various programs I am involved in. I am really in a positive spirit, I have put an automatic tickle machine inside of me like an invisible feather to tickle myself when needed and I made up with my eyes that  it is time for a rest from all those tears, though once in a while is ok. I know I am not the only one especially this year with many who are celebrating Pesach without their loved ones. Many thanks to all of my readers for taking the time reading my articles. And now for my parting words in this article:

Rabbonim, Rebbitzens, Chaplains can and do have many opportunities to inspire others bringing  the simcha and joy of a Yiddishah environment filled with kindness, understanding and the essence of a peaceful and caring home. There is room for compromise, there is room for understanding and room for working together making every precious day and night meaningful. We don’t know what the future holds, but we are mispallel to be zoche that everyday be filled with the sunshine and warmth of the Ribono Shel Olom with His guidance and love for all of us – for Klal Yisrael. For our sincere appreciation for the beauty of the mitzvos we do bringing us even closer to the Him. Wouldn’t it be amazing when we open the door at the seder and Eliyahu Hanovi would be there to inform us about Moshiach arriving? May all of our tefilos be answered. May we be zoche the geulah sheleimah, Moshiach tzedkeinu bimheira veyaweinu Amein.




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 BeYisrael. 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 members of the RAA/Igud are. 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 Rebbetzins’ 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

Click here to register

Click here for the Zoom room

Click here for a printable flyer with links

Wednesday April 7, 2021 at 1:00PM
Register in advance for this meeting:
Wednesday April 21, 2021 at 7:00PM
Register in advance for this meeting:
This is open to the entire metro area and beyond

FEMA to Assist with Funeral Expenses for Covid-Related Deaths
FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will be reimbursing up to $9,000 of funeral expenses for funerals that meet the following conditions:
  • The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
Click below for further details, including FAQs and application instructions.