From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
917 446 2126 firstname.lastname@example.org
April 22, 21
REMINDER TO REGISTER IF YOU HAVE NOT DONE SO AS OF YET FOR THE “HALACHIC CHALLENGES OF THE ORTHODOX JEWISH HEALTHCARE CHAPLAIN” SEMINAR, MONDAY APRIL 26, 21 AT 8:00 PM
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I have often written about the immense pride we should have for each other and ourselves.
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Tversky often stresses the value and importance of self worth and self confidence.
It is also important not to be a person who is so judgmental of others or so critical of how others stand in the orthodox Jewish community. Instead of placing too much emphasis on how a person looks, or Jewish political ideology, one should look more at oneself and be proud not only of one’s accomplishments, but the value of other people, especially fellow Jews. I truly find it difficult reading or knowing how others can hurt anyone maybe not physically but with epitaphs just because of their Jewish lifestyle or beliefs. Where is Chaveim Kol Yisrael. Loshon Harah about another Jewish person is just not appropriate, but what about having pride, having good and meaningful relationships with other Jewish people. What is really in one’s heart about another person. Let me pose a question to my readership, what does the Jewish star mean to you. Well, it can conjure up thoughts about the Holocaust with the yellow Jewish star. It can bring pride when seeing the Israeli flag on an El Al plane. Personally, especially with the environment we are in today, I am proud to be a Jew, I am proud to say Am Yisrael Chai and proud of Israel. That does not mean I agree with various of their political beliefs or any anti Jewish religious views, but still proud of Israel. I am proud to be an American citizen even though, there are political viewpoints which I do not agree upon. How can we forget even for a moment the love H has for Klal Yisrael, all His promises for Klal Yisrael and the land of Eretz Yisrael since Avraham Avinu, the Avos and the Imahos? How can we forget even for a moment about the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim? Whenever my wife and I went to Israel specially to visit my wife’s parents A”H in Nevei Yaakov Kaminetz, family members in other parts of Israel including some of her family in one of the kibbutzim was truly special. My wife’s parents were looked upon as a Tzadik and Tzadeikes who were treated with tremendous kavod. My wife and I never felt being pulled one way or another way about the situation by their neighbors or for that matter anyone they knew about other Jewish person /Israelies. When my mother-in-law during her last year was in a religious nursing home, but everyone of the staff, patients, and visitors no matter what their background was or Jewish way of life, was found with kavod for each other, filled with a lot of pride who they are and the care they gave to each other. When my mother-in-law was hospitalized in Sharei Tzedek hospital, the environment was exhilarating seeing Jewish patients and staff of so many backgrounds being cared with much sincerity and achdus. Attending minyanim in the hospitals beit hakneset was remarkable with velvet yarlmukas, satin yarlmukas, cloth yarlmukas, knit yarlmukas, no yarlmukas, Ashkenazic, Serfardic, Buchariam, and many other Jewish backgrounds davening together. In my mother in laws room, it was shared with an Arab patient and family. Both patients had family members sleeping over on a chair and even the floor. Yet, with no fear of anything sinister. In fact, the medical staff was made up of Israelies from diverse backgrounds Jewish and non-Jewish. Shabbat candles were lit at the nursing counter in a designated area. Tickets were purchased before Shabbat to get food in the strictly kosher dinning room. In Israel one could find such diversity throughout. HaGaon HaRav Heinken ztkl did not approve of speaking negatively against the medina in Eretz Yisrael. When I was a NYC Housing Authority Police Department Chaplain and spiritual director of the Shotrim Society (the Jewish fraternal society of the NYC Housing Authority Police Department) I was proudly given a special sash to wear over my uniform and join all the other police departments marching in the Israeli Day Parade. The police officers were proud I marched with them and showed then sincere care. It was considered an honor to show solidarity for Israel. That was one of my official requirements amongst the many other events I attended. One year I was invited by the Israeli Police when visiting Israel with my wife to meet with high-ranking police officials in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other locations. I was also given a tour of their headquarters. I met the Israeli chaplains everyone in uniform. It was a great privilege and honor representing my police department and Shotrim Society of Jewish police officers. They were impressed at that time of what I do, including counseling, spiritual care, visiting and doing tours with police officers, special events and so much more. They were pleased to hear of the achdus amongst the Jewish police officers, a number who were observant as myself and how our events that also consisted of food was strictly kosher. I remember a genuinely nice event which no longer exists was a boat ride on the East River which included glatt kosher food. For some reason even at that time, I always found an Israeli who thought living in NYC was a danger zone and surely needed police protection. What I found through the years in whatever positions I had, there was always a sense of pride to be proud of my heritage not having to hide my yarlmuka nor make up excuses of wanting to be a proud American and Orthodox Jew. What I surely was keenly aware of how much being an orthodox Jew had its responsibilities, not to be taken lightly. All the hashkafa, I was taught all the mitzvos to be observed no matter what, was not an impediment, but a source of strength. The love of H, the emunah and betachen is always important and the love for my fellow Jew. One thing I most say about today’s climate regarding police officers is how hurtful and disappointing it is for police officers of any rank not to be appreciated for the good they do every single day of the year. There are so many who are genuinely caring human beings and would think twice before harming anyone. The purpose of these comments is not condoning any “bad apples in the barrel”. Any police officer not fit for duty should be removed from any police department as soon as possible. But why lump every and all police officers as bad apples in the barrel. Especially how many through the years made the supreme sacrifice with their lives. Interesting, I found police officers at precincts being respectful of prisoners in their cells. In fact, I was the recipient of kind words by some individuals in a cell awaiting transportation to the courts. I happened to be near one of the cells when someone behind bars, thanked me for taking the time to speak to him and saying hello. He told me even though I was in uniform did appear as a cop. The other cops near me also spoke respectful to him. I also saw people who were arrested on some profoundly serious crimes. Whenever I went on patrol visiting different police precincts and police officers throughout the city, I always had to wear a bullet proof vest. No, I was never issued a gun, not even a water gun, but on occasion was issued a police radio. I had the rank of Inspector and police officers of the different departments had to salute me. My goal in this article is not to share the many quite interesting experiences I had, but to offer the essence of being mekadeish H in many diverse ways not forgetting I am in the presence of the Holy One.
There is a magnificant rabbi who is a tremendous role model with never ending opportunities of caring for his fellow Jews no matter what their Jewish background was, never tried to nor must blend in with other Jews but was an outright Chasidik role model so many thousands have come to respect and love him -Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman aka the Disco Rabbi. His love for all Jews no matter what their background was phenomenal. He had a remarkable relationship nonpolitical with many elected officials and dignitaries – again no matter what their level of observance might have been, and I am referring to elected officials one might have been surprised he had and the affection and respect they had for him. The amazing things he did, his tremendous influence he had and his ability of developing relationships with anyone whose Judaism was not even close to his, yet their relationships, their desire to help him was enormous. When my wife was in Israel, we took so much pride in seeing the many soldiers, sailors, and other members of the military, many with the siddur in one hand and their weapons in the other hand, standing near the Kosel (Kotel) being mispallel with such kavaneh. Rabbi Grossman, relationships with soldiers of many backgrounds religious and not was so full of love for them and they had the same for him. What he did for Israeli’s was enormous. All this plus more about Rabbi Grossman can be found in the book called “Living Legend” Rabbi Grossman of Migdal HaEmek Connecting with the neshama of every Jew” as told and written by Rabbi Nacham Seltzer found in the book the Leonian-Rosenbaum Edition Published by Shaar Press Distributed by MESORAH PUBLIC PUBLICATIONS Ltd. There is no question Rabbi Grossman’s upbringing from his childhood, youth through adulthood, his relationship with many Gedolim, Chasidik, Litvush, Sefardik, Chabad, his tremendous devotion to his religion and his faith knows no bounds and a continuous source of inspiration to him and his rebbitzen even to this day. There is nothing artificial about Rabbi Grossman and his relationship with the Ribino Shel Olam is far reaching sincere and truthful. He never felt he had to compromise himself, had to change his clothing for a more modern look to be able to fit in. He was and is real, even to this moment- his family and hundreds of talmidim looking after him. He is never alone; he is always in the presence of Hashem. He was able to and continues to do much and be successful at it too. He also has been an absolute genius, in conveying meaningful events and visits to the prisons. He has been accomplishing much for prisoners who genuinely want to be rehabilitated and returned to the free world without returning to the life they once had. His travels from one part of Israel to another to save Yiddishah lives, but without any initial strings attached – just out of pure love for caring for his fellow Jew.Though non-political, he has had meaningful relationships with President Shimon Peres, President Ruby Rivilin, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Arie Sharon, Prime Minister Menachem Begin amongst other Israeli dignitaries who had such respect for Rav Grossman. There are many stories of how he would go to the soldiers praying with them, singing and dancing with them, giving them tremendous chizuk before going to war, bringing them to his own city, giving soldiers a place to rest, eat, music, entertainment, and would do all he could to ensure the troops would be satisfied and well taken care of spiritually and physically to best of his abilities. There were times when without anyone knowing would resupply the troops with necessities and essentials to feel well taken care of. Often, the troops were so appreciative, with gratitude to Hashem and to the rav. On one of the occasions after basically promising the troops would be successful and every one of them would return safe, how could the rav had made such a promise. He gave each soldier a special medallion, and his brachos for safety. After they had left, Rabbi Grossman made sure to go to various kevarim which he did to pray on their behalf. The soldiers were so grateful when they returned and not one was killed. Every one of those soldiers were so grateful for Rabbi Grossmans remarkable care for them. He even brought a new sefer Torah and every soldier was given the opportunity to write a letter in that Torah. From the time when he came to Migdal HaEmek and stepped into his choices of treatment available. The main thrust is for Klal Yisrael to have a vision for young adults in a disco with sincerity and a vision of opportunities for their growth. Going from a life of crime or other unfavorable lifestyles to a life of success and future lives of Yiddisha nachas with families of their own. He would not give up in face of adversity thinking the worse for the future of any of the youth and how these young adults giving the chance they need. Rabbi Grossman truly has a heart of gold, accomplishing with so much kindness and goodness. He took chances such as getting up on stage with a famous singer comedian and doing an act together which included songs of kedushah before an audience of hundreds of soldiers before going to war. He was supposed to go on stage and do something spiritual, but then came this act and decided not to sit it out he would say privately some prayers. He joined the actor/comedian in beautiful spiritual songs everyone sang and cried. Every soldier and the comedian were so grateful for this duet on stage. In almost all the stories whoever Rabbi Grossman would rekindle someones heart, not one had an improper thought of rejection, or being coerced into their beliefs. This is from the Afterword from this book the Living Legend. “And so, we arrive at the end of the book- although by the time you will be reading this, no doubt another hundred stories will have happened to Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. Yet, even without everything that is surely to come, his is without a doubt an incredible life story (WHICH I RECOMMEND READING).
How was it possible that a young boy from the streets of Meah Shearim found his way to the urban jungle and knew the right words to use with each person that he met on his amazing journey?
I decided not to quote large segments from this book as each story is like being caught in the cross winds of something amazing you must read on your own. Rav Grossman wanted to do something special after living during the Six Day War and being able to go to the Kosel. He went to the Lelover Rebbe, Rav Moshe Mordechai Biderman “who when asked where his talmid should go, replied with a line that would change the course of history:” Efsher vest arupgein a kik-tun vos mir ken eppes oiftun in Migdal HaEmek? Maybe go down, look around, and see if there is anything for you to accomplish in Migdal HaEmek?” So are worlds created and pages of history written. This book tells the story of a tzadik who does his best to fulfill the ratzon Hashem, Hashem’s will, and how the Ribono shel Olam reqards him with the kind of results that most of the humanity can only dream of. Because Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman has never stopped dreaming and will never stop dreaming, not if there are children who need him. You see, Rav Yitzchak Dovid is their father, and a father never forgets his children.” He was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres in 2014.” I was so tempted to quote many of the stories, but it would not do justice as you really must read about this amazing rav, his rebbitzen and all that he accomplished until now and continues to do even more.
Many things have come up recently including having prepared for a forthcoming seminar and about three more to come. I am still up at 4:17 AM wanting to get this article included in this weeks RAA newsletter. The mekamas hamatzeiva for my Aishis Chayil A”H on April 9th. A yartzeit siyumin after Shavuos and a bar mitzva of a grandson. Sounds like a lot. Well, all this and then the first yartzeit of my dear wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohen. A”H which comes out the first day of Shavuous. So, who has time to being sad and I am not? Boruch H, I am keeping busy with quite several programs I am working on, viewing a zoom conference, attending zoom shiurim, and doing all the other weekday and Shabbos preparations. This year has been like a dream or to some a nightmare with the COVID 19 making lives more challenging and difficult. Yet, there have been many silver linings whatever they might be. Local, Nationwide and throughout the world there have been so many changes in life. So, if I am not feeling sorry for myself, what am I feeling. What will life be for me now when all the memorial services will be over. The same as has been until now, continuation of life to it is fullest and making it the best possible way. Yes, I feel for others also going through their own pain of grief and bereavement especially with young adult children. But it is not healthy to continue in any grief pain. Just missing my wife for all the kindness, she has brought me, all our children, grandchildren, mishpacha and many others. Yet, rather than thinking of her in darkness, knowing the flame of her neshama and everything that was important to her and everyone else, she will always bring light to the world and as I have mentioned many times in the past, her neshama is alive with all the other holy neshamos in Shamayim in Gan Eiden. I am mispallel to be with deep appreciation to the Ribono Shel Olam for all the good things in life and to continue making life meaningful and full of life. If I could continue to give and bring chizuk to others I will. I look forward to the days, months and years ahead bringing sunshine to this world. May the tremendous lessons of emunah of faith of hope, the beauty of Torah ,Avoda ,Gemius Chasdim so important to my wife continue for us all. May we all be zoche Moshiach tzedkeinu beheira veyameinu venomar amein. Thank you very much .Sincerely Rabbi Yehuda Blank