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
May 6th, 21
I am keeping to my word that this and the next few issues of this year are being dedicated to my Aishis Chayil Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohen A”H whose yartzeit is the first day of Shavuos I have included in this article three things that represent so much of my wife A”H, myself and all of us who are the readership of these articles. About the Donnie (Doniel)Morris A”H whose grandfather sol zein gezundt is a long time chaver to me, Rabbi Kramer and hundreds and hundreds of military and healthcare chaplains Rabbi Ira Kronenberg, a response by Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman and about a shiva visit by Yakir Asaraf to the Englard family in Jerusalem who lost two children in Meron. The compassion and respect given to each other was truly heartwarming and another example of how Klal Yisrael should be like. Also included is the link to the seminar “The Halachic Challenge of the Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplain”.
This and the next few articles are leading up to my wife’s first yartzeit the first day of Shavuos and the concluding siyum being held the night after Shavuos. Practically all my articles these past 12 months have included some segment of her and our lives. Now that her name has been handed down to a great granddaughter ensures that her legacy will continue as it will be through all the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on Bezras H. Her legacy will not only continue via her name’s sake, but through all the maysim tovim, and dedicated lives to the values that meant so much to her and which she stood for during her lifetime on Hawolam Hazeh and Hawolom Habaw. There have been many messages I have conveyed to my readership, but I would like to share additional thoughts and continued personal reflections. My convictions and dedication to the Ribono Shel Olam has become stronger. Though I have been blessed with wonderful mishpacha, chavairim and other rabbonim to seek advice and support, there has not been anyone to replace Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl and my wife A”H who I not only could confide in, but to seek guidance in many areas only they could have been wonderful speaking and discussing with. So now, even more than before, I seek their guidance in a spiritual way and most of all turn to the Ribono Shel Olam trusting in Him for the right direction to seek and follow. Of course, this was always the sake, but now even more so. I just cannot forget how one of the awfully close maspidim of Hagaon Harav Mordechai Rennert ztkl at his levaya at Yeshiva Derech Chaim reading from some of his notes of his personal relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam. Aside from his dear Rebbitzen sol zein gezundt, his mishpachah and close and dear chaver and Rosh Hayeshiva Hagaon Harav Yisrael Pluchock ztk” l I do not consider myself not even an eighth of Rav Rennert’s gadlus. I am so pashut, so insignificant in comparison to Rav Rennert. Yet he was an inspiration I never forgot. I was zoche to know him and those words of how special his relationship was to the Aibershta made a special impression on me – to seek guidance from Hakadosh Boruch Hu and mispallel I will take the right path in my decisions in life. What the future lies for me ahead in life, I do not know, but pray the days, months and Bezras H years ahead should be meaningful. This has been a trying and challenging week, with the tragedy in Meron, the recent hakamas hamazteiva for my Aunt this past Sunday, the hakamas hamtzeiva for my wife this coming Sunday, a special yartzeit siyum reflecting and remembering my wife’s yartzeit, and the bar mitzva of a grandson who just like his siblings and in fact all the grandchildren, gave her much nachas.
While listening to the levaya of HaBachur Donnie (Doniel) Morris A”H to family and rabbeim, most of all, the words and tears from his parents, especially his mother, brought forth my own tears. Listening to the talmidim of the Yeshiva Shalvim singing the Ani Ma amin and Hamalech Hagoel was even sadder. But what was the sadness? Although the Aibershta has His reasons, Donnie’ physical life was over. The same with all those nifta at Meron. Life will never be the same for all the families and mishbacha. There will now be an emptiness. But what and when can the void be filled. By all maysim tovim. Life must go on. How? That will be determined by those who wish to ensure his legacy will continue, not just in name, but in all the things he was known for in many different positive ways. Do not wait. We want to make the best of our years and seek His brachos to be able to fulfill those years with His guidance for however long those years will be.
This is a response from Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Grossman
Everybody is asking me, what can we do to help after the disaster in Meron? 45 people were killed creating so many orphans and so many widows… What can I do? The Torah teaches that after the children of Aharon the high priest lost their lives in a fire, “The whole nation of Israel cried about the fire that G-d burned.” Each one of us needs to cry and think, “What can I do to help Am Yisrael?” so that there will not be another catastrophe and disaster like this one. The Torah tells us, that God is the father of Am Yisrael. The father likes to see his children loving one another, caring for one another. If you don’t care, if you don’t love, if you live in a world of conflict, hate, jealousy, then this leads us to problems. Let us work on ourselves, in the merit of those that were killed and as a merit for the speedy recovery to the injured, to think about what we can do. Let us not speak lashon hara (gossip), let us try to do everything we can for one another. Look for the goodness in everybody, not the bad. Let us be united. Not religious and non-religious, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, left, right… Am Yisrael is one. The nation of Israel is ONE! If you want my blessing, God says, come together as one people. With one heart, with one feeling, loving one another, caring for one another. Hashem will give us His blessing. Let us pray, that we keep this moment in our hearts and minds every minute and make a commitment…I will do everything to love my brother. I will do everything to care. And in this merit Hashem will help us and bless us.
Amen ve Amen.
Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman
Founder and Dean, Migdal Ohr
As seen in Yeshiva World and posted on many sites. “ Like A Malach, The Post That Moved Thousands of Israelis” Yakir Asaraf, a secular Israeli, who like many others was shocked by the immensity of the Meron tragedy, decided that he had to do something to share in the families’ pain, and he and a friend went to pay a shiva call to the Englard family of Jerusalem, who lost their two sons, Moshe Natan Neta, z’l, 14, and Yehoshua, z’l, .He wrote a Facebook post about his experience, which quickly went viral and moved thousands of Israelis.” It could be that I just experienced one of the most significant moments of my life,” Asaraf wrote. “I just left the shiva of the Englard family, who lost their two sons at Meron. And my heart is simply bursting with mixed emotions, my eyes are filled with sad tears, but my heart is full of simcha.” When my friend Maor and I, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, entered their home, we really stood out in the Chareidi crowd. Some people looked up and two wonderful Chareidim quickly got up and let us sit, mamash opposite Menachem Mendel, the father who lost his two sons just days ago.” “The father noticed us and quickly stopped speaking in Yiddish with the other menachamim and turned to me and Maor in Hebrew.” “‘I’m happy you came,’ he said, and his eyes are wet with tears, but his face is radiant. “When are we already zocheh to meet together – you and I?’ he said. “Maor and I looked at him with sparkling eyes as if he’s a malach talking to us. “You should know that what’s happening here is the truth,” he said. ‘You and I are both pained by the great loss. We are giving chizzuk to each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re chilonim (secular) or Chareidim – we’re Jews.” “Everyone else in the room – in eerie silence – is quietly listening to Menachem Mendel talk to us.” ‘I want you to invite me to your simchos!’” I say.” ‘And I’ll invite you to my simchos!’” he responds. “A few minutes of silence and he looks down and mumbles; ‘Mi K’Amcha Yisrael.’After the tefillah, we approach him and before we had a chance to say words of comfort, he says, ‘Thank you for coming. You were mechazeik me.’”“Maor and I leave the house, looking at each other, but unable to speak. We cannot process what just happened, and while I am writing these words, I still cannot process it. “This meeting represents the truth of our Am, the endless Ahavas HaChinum we have for each other, our shared pain, the tremendous emunah that continues to unite us.” I’ll end with a tefillah l’Yoshevi Ba’Meromim – for Ahavas Chinam between us, and for besuros tovos, and for all the families of the victims to be too true zocheh nachas, and that I’m zocheh to be invited to the smachos of the wonderful Menachem Mendel.”
In Parshas Emor ( From the Artscroll Stone Chumash Mesorah Publications Ltd (page 139) 22:32” You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel: The primary privilege and responsibility of every Jew, great or small, is to sanctify G’s Name through his behavior, whether among Jews or among Gentiles-by studying Torah and performing the commandments, and by treating others kindly, considerately, and honestly, so that people say of him.” Fortunate are the parents and teachers who raised such a person.” Conversely, there is no greater degradation for a Jew than to act in a way that will make people say the opposite (Yoma 86). Train the members of your household to be kind (to strangers) H will shower blessings upon you. Avos d ’Rabbah 4:2
During the week I walk from shul with my “chaver” to the bus stop. On the way, I meet people who I knew from some of my prior positions. It is so pleasant when greeting and being greeted by others who are not of the same affiliation or not of the Jewish faith often asking each other how you are. When my “chaver” is about to board the bus, I say hello and wish the driver a nice day. There is one driver who takes the time to smile at me and thank me for my greetings and gives me the thumbs up and sometimes even asks how I am. This past Monday that driver kept smiling. We greeted and said some nice things to each other. My “chaver’ had not yet purchased his ticket from the machine for the bus ride. The bus driver told him he would wait while he got the ticket all this time each of us sharing some nice little comments and this time more than just a thumbs up, but in front of all the passengers gave his hands up greeting for a good day. Last week, at the local bakery (kosher of course) on two separate occasions I received blessings from two different women for being courteous and friendly to them. They mentioned how they look forward to greeting me when we meet. Does it really matter if I say all these three plus some others are not Jewish, some Latino, some African Americans? Once at a meeting I was invited to at the Brooklyn Borough Hall sponsored at that time by the ADL and Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President and I was interviewed by some reporters which was aired on several stations. Afterwards, a representative of an agency who was invited spoke to me. A question she asked me was what I see when I speak to her. She was referring to her color of skin in relationship to human relations. My response to her that I am speaking to another human being who is interested in caring for others. She found my response to be very respectful, non condescending, and honest. I did not think twice about that, as that was my sincere response. Just this week, I was sitting in a park behind the building I live in where I meet a neighbor of mine to schmooze, share things of common interest and especially about his sister who is not well. He and I come from different Jewish backgrounds but share not only in friendship in spirituality too, In fact our discussions of well being, pride in our being Jewish and other light but meaningful conversations led him to make all the arrangements for his sister and himself for after 120 years following traditional Jewish traditions. Another person who lives in the same development stopped by sat down and joined us in conversation. For some reason, certain current events came up and before long this person was using words which could have used some mouthwash. But that did not faze me. It was when he started to use derogatory words about people of other ethnic backgrounds and cultures, I decided to excuse myself. He wanted to know what was wrong and kept saying things I was not only not comfortable with but sitting and listening to his sharp words was disrespectful of others. I did not wish to be part of his conversations. What we say, what we do, what our appearance can lead to either a Kiddush H or Chilul H. There are different types of loshon harah, but why go that route. Speaking with gentleness, kindness, is so much more productive and caring for others. When I think of my wife, I can only think of how gentle she was, her sweetness, even from the beginning of our relationship, she only displayed in her words and actions tremendous midos tovos. How she was so well liked and respected by men, women, and children of different backgrounds. Rabbi Yissocher Frand in his sefer Rabbi Frand on the Parsha Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd, on Parsha Emor speaks about the Yiras Shamayim of the Steipler Gaon as a young man but also the “gutskeit of his eventual wife to be which reminder me about my wife’s midos. (page s 182-183).” Here is just one example of what I consider true yiras shamayim. When the Steipler Gaon was a young man, he once went to meet a young lady who was a prospective match. While they were sitting at the table and talking, he nodded and fell asleep. The young lady let him sleep and just sat there waiting patiently. Presently, he awoke and realized where he was and what had happened. “You must excuse me, “he said.” Oh, it is nothing,” said the young lady. “Don’t worry about it”. “No, it is something. I must explain. You see., I was very tired.” “Well that was obvious.” He cleared his throat. “Look, you know I had to travel twelve hours on a train today to get here.” “Yes, I know. Twelve hours on a train can make anyone tired.” “No, it is not so simple. I knew that I could not learn that much traveling on a train, so I stayed up and learned all last night. I expected I would be able to catch a few hours’ sleep on the train and come here reasonably rested. But when I saw the upholstered seats on the train, it seemed to me that the material might have shatnez. I could not very well take a chance, could I? So, I remained standing for the whole journey. And of course, I didn’t get any sleep at all. So, you must forgive me for falling asleep in your company. Please don’t take offense.” Incidentally, the young lady married him. To remain twelve hours on a train- after having stayed up the entire night- because of a suspicion that there might be shatnez in the train’s seats, this is yiras shamayim.” Though the story about the Steipler Gaon was special. I found the midos of his future Rebbetzin equally special and in many ways reminded me of my wife A” H. Throughout the 27 years since the first time we met, I was so taken by her midos, her kindness, how she described her sons and family to me, and so much more. During our courtship, walking in her neighborhood, we sat down on a bench on Ocean Parkway. During our conversation, she took out from her pocketbook a dime and handed it to me. She said ‘“nu Yehuda, here is a dime you can use to call our children and family to tell them we are chasan and kallah from the public phone on the corner near where we were sitting. She had so much joy and happiness and couldn’t wait any longer. Calling her parents in Israel, meant using a calling card that was purchased at many stores. The love she gave to all the children and our parents, (well my father was not alive then), but was my mother, sister, and other family members as were her parents in Eretz Yisrael was so special. Before she was nifteres with so much unselfish feelings she wished for me, to start anew making all my days without her in a physical sense, meaningful as she wanted for all the children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. My message to one and all, is to make everyday count. Do not look back at what could have been. Make use of all the resources the Ribono Shel Olam has given to enhance your lives and the lives of your loved ones. Don’t wait for the time to say, I could have, I should have, for whatever reason. We both so much wanted our relationship to continue forever and ever- never to end, but the Ribono Shel Olam knows what is best.
How ironic, this coming Sunday, will be the hakamas hamatzeiva for my wife and it comes out on Mother’s Day. For me, that day was so special. We were recently engaged. I gave her a present that day, We discussed where we would get married and all kinds of plans that meant so much to her. We went to Yankee’s and could have stayed all day just dreaming of our future together and with our two sets of children- the future Bradey Bunch plus one. So now what? Where do all those memories go? Like all the photo albums she put together, they go on a shelf, a memory shelf. But her way of life was not to live purely on memories, but to build on the future as we did with ourselves and our family. As I mentioned in one of my articles, less than a few weeks before she was nifteres, she requested for me to bring out many of those albums. She wanted to review all the things we did together and with the family for the past 27 years. To be proud of what she considered so many accomplishments during her lifetime. But she still spoke about the future, should a miracle happen and if not, her thoughts were about her love for all the children and their future and her wishes for me to continue with life, not just to live in memories, but to continue to build on a future. Yes, it is still hard to believe she is not here physically, and for me and all the children and family will finally see that when standing by her kever this coming Sunday. For me, this has been my journey this past year, and the years since she was initially diagnosed with her illness. Next week, I hope to share with my readership an actual picture of her matzeiva, and a poem I once wrote about, but with some changes reflecting life as is. If I were to share all the albums of memories would take a whole city block, if not more, but as I mentioned, life goes on and continued faith and hope continues for good things and to share with others as time goes on.
Is the glass half empty or is it half full, or is it all full? What is one’s perspective in life is what a person is all about? We must discourage listening to the naysayers to the constant barrage of negative reports we hear or read about. We must live our lives as productive as possible and when necessary, seek the help to get over the hurdles and the bumps in life. Nothing is perfect, but with hope, faith and betachen we can help and enhance the lives of our mispallim as rabbonim .as rebbitzens and all the magnificant chaplains for their remarkable work for what they do throughout the year. It is important to take advantage of life returning to some normalcy with many restrictions being lightened, and restrictions in many ways being removed or lessened. For me personally, I walk the sidewalks without a mask which CDC said is fully permissible though almost everyone in public is still wearing the masks. I am looking forward to family simchas, hoping to return to in person shiurim rather than zoom. In fact, this past Tuesday, I took for the first time over a year, even before the pandemic, an MTA bus over the Williamsburg Bridge to go shopping outside of my own neighborhood. OK. I took car service back home with all my packages. Of course, I am still going to be cautious in many ways, but life is changing – so many positive things to look forward to. I purchased some new items for the kitchen, I even started preparing for my Yom Tov meals especially with guests at my table for the first time in many months. I even purchased a special wine for the occasion and of course kiddush. Surprise, my refrigerator was finally fixed after many months. I was almost getting used to having an extra refrigerator but will now have it returned. As I was walking home from shul some thoughts crossed my mind again, and again me-myself and I came to the same conclusion I have had in the past. What can I accomplish in the months and years ahead? A person gets older, there are always different challenges that can and do arrive, the same concerns throughout life, but there is nothing a person cannot do or achieve- why- how – when? That is where the Ribono Shel Olam comes in. The Aibershta is with us throughout the year and throughout the many times between others and with ourselves. There is so much to look for, most of all, not only to find pleasure and meaning in life, but to recognize our purpose in life. I remember hearing this years ago from Rav Moshe ztk” l the Ribono Shel Olam gives us things in life that bring us enjoyment such as delicious fruits. The fruit, especially when ripe can and does bring joy and enjoyment admiring the fruit, perhaps a good fragrance, and aroma and of course taste. He stressed how something such as a fruit, the delicious item of “gashmius” through the making of a bracha, the fruit becomes filled with kedushah. When a man and woman become chasan and kallah, perhaps beyond childbearing age, what mitzvos can become connected with such a union? What about friendship between people, what mitzvos can be connected? There are so many ways of bringing joy and happiness, doing many gemilus chasadim throughout the day and night, being kind, caring, meaning of life through daily living for each other. As I write with much interpretation of the days ahead. We sometimes forget gam zu la tova, it is barshet, everything is in the hands of H, im mirtza H and many similar phrases. Companionship, friendship, caring about someone else, doing things for someone else, giving chizuk, inspiration, encouragement, bringing a smile to someone’s face especially when and if that person might be going through a lonely, a difficult, a challenging time or even moments, are just some of the “zillion” kind and meaning things to give and to do for each other or for others whoever that person or persons might be. We just don’t do things just for ourselves, even though caring about ourselves is also important. Being thoughtful for someone and especially for a chasan and kallah of any age showing and being compassionate, caring for each other, wanting to do for each other is so important. Someone asked does it really matter how large the bouquet of flowers is. Sure, young couples want to give the world and show off their happiness with their gift giving. But especially for the older mature couple, it is not the size of the bouquet that counts but the sharing of kindness, joy, and happiness for and with each other. The same is with friendship as well.
The saintly Chofetz Chaim in his seifer of gemilus chasadim gives many examples of doing chesed no matter how small or insignificant the action might be. What significance would there be in giving a pencil for someone to use or other items needed for work or school.? Aside from the actual use of that pencil there is the goodness of being able to share something needed and useful even a pencil. What about just listening to a person’s kvetches, or any of the difficulties he/she is experiencing and then becoming invited and welcomed to share his life’s difficulty no matter how trivial it might be. But always remember the especially important word is to be sincere. Years ago, I used to hear the words don’t be a phony because that will come right through. If a person senses or feels the comments or actions one does for another is not sincere, can be more and long-lasting damage, than not saying or doing anything at all. Here is a common example of not always meaning what you say or the impression it might give when someone tells another person who might be lonely, sitting shiva, not feeling well and someone says to that person, if you need anything, if you need a phone call, please let me know. Well, unless a person has no choice or really needs the chesed, most likely will not call the other person for a favor- for whatever reason it might be. Instead, don’t just offer, but say for instance, I am going to the store or shopping what items do you need? What specifically do you need for Shabbos? May I call you tomorrow? Could I come and help with the laundry? I’m going to the takeout, what item would you like? Oh, you want to pay, well if you would like to pay for it OK with me, or if the person cannot pay for something let that person have some time to pay it back. Just calling and checking in on someone or stopping a person on the street with hi how are you, it is so good to see you. May I call you or would you mind if I gave you a call rather than remember you can call me anytime and never hear back from that person because he/she just isn’t going to call you. Don’t be a stranger, but don’t impose yourself on anyone. And just as I mentioned when having a guest over for a meal, don’t push having the other person try and or eat whatever food you may have. Don’t expect a guest to have to follow your lead and do what you would like that person to do.
You shall not desecrate My Holy Name, rather, I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel. I am H Who Sanctifies you. The primary privilege and responsibility of every Jew, great or small, is to sanctify G ‘s Name through his behavior, whether among Jews or among gentiles-by studying Torah and performing the commandments, and by treating others kindly, considerately, and honestly, so that people say of him. “Fortunate are the parents and teachers who raised such a person. Conversely, there is no greater degradation for Jew than to act in a way that will make people say the opposite. (Yoma 86a).” Stone Edition Artscroll Series Chumash Parshas Emor Mesorah Publications Ltd (page 139) Of course, how, and what do we teach our children and young adults regarding doing mitzvos, making a Kiddush H not the opposite. In Darash Moshe Artscroll Judaica Classics in Parsha Emor, Rav Feinstein said regarding the Kohanim, Hashem said to Moses: Say to the Kohanim (pages 204 -205) Rambam (end of Hil. Shmeitah) Writes that Moses’s blessings apply to the entire tribe of Levi generally, but to the Kohanim specifically. Although it is not easy always to be in a state of kedushah with all its ramifications and halachos, and to always be meticulous in what one eats and how one conducts oneself, the Torah introduced this section with the word vayomer, which is a softer form of statement, to teach the Kohanim that their very important vocation of serving H by performing the Temple service and teaching the Jewish people His Torah should seem to them as a very easy matter.
“Those who do mitzvos out of love are praised with the following verse: And those who love Him will be like the sun which comes out in full strength (Shoftim 5:31) Gittin 36b.).
“If one gives his friend all of the finest gifts of the world but does it begrudgingly, with his face full of gloom, the gifts are considered of no value; but one who receives his friend with warmth and a smile on hi face, even if he does not give him anything, it is as though he gave him all the gifts of the world.” Avos d’R. Noson 13:14
Let us continue striving for achdus, being mekadeish H, being sincere, caring for others, each other, ourselves, and the days ahead should always be with hope, faith, emunah and betachen in H. Sincerely and respectfully, Rabbi Yehuda Blank
The Healthcare Chaplain members of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Healthcare Chaplains Listserv offer their sincerest and heartfelt condolences to a dear chaver of many years, Rabbi Ira Kronenberg, a mentor in both the healthcare and military chaplaincies, and to his devoted rebbitzen and their entire family, upon the untimely and tragic petirah of their beloved grandson, Nachman Doniel Morris, z’l, on Har Meron on layl Lag B’Omer.
As we joined thousands of others in listening to the inspiring hespedim at Donny’s funeral in Yeshivat Shaalvim, we were struck about how in his brief 19 years, Donny seemed so chaplain-like in the way that he selflessly and kindly cared for others–in yeshiva and at home or in his shul and on the street–in Israel as well as in America, through his tremendous love of HaShem and His Torah and his wonderful acts of gemilut chasadim.
We mourn for Nachman Doniel and all the others who were so tragically taken from Klal Yisrael on such a special day. We offer our nechamah to the bereaved families– HaMakom Yenachem Etchem Betoch Shaar Aveilei Tzion Virushalayim.
We also pray for the refuah shlaymah of those who were injured on that fateful night–HaMakom Yerachem Alayhem Betoch Shaar Cholei Yisrael.
Rabbi Yehuda Blank, BCC, Director of the Chaplaincy Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America
Rabbi Doniel Kramer, BCC, Chairman of the Chaplaincy Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America; Administrator, Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplains Listserv
This is the link to the video recording of the halachic challenges of the Orthodox Jewish chaplain seminar Monday, April 26, 2021: