From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
June 3, 2021***

There is a magnificent article I am sharing with you “Caring for Patient’s Spirits: Chaplains heal emotionally ailing at Soroka” It features Boruch Siris at Soroka University Medical Center, a chaplain in Israel. “This story begins as many hospital stories do, with a woman lying alone in her bed. In this case, she was in Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba, and she was dying. According to Prof. Victor Novack – professor of medicine, head of the Research Authority and Department of Medicine at Soroka Medical Center – nobody came to visit her until one day when Novack heard screams and saw hospital staff members trying to calm down a man who was “really tall, really big and really angry.” The man said the woman was his mother, and she was so bad to him he wanted her to die. Novak tried to calm the man down and even thought to call the police. Then Boruch Siris, Soroka’s chaplain, arrived. Siris sat with the man and talked with him for two hours. The man made peace with himself and with his mother. She died that same day. “The man was so thankful that she didn’t die during their argument,” Novack said. “And that is something” (Jerusalem Post May 21,2021 and NAJC) Professional chaplaincy, showing a sincere concern for others, truly from the heart listening, caring, being in the present, can mean so much to a person or persons in their time of need. Just as Boruch Siris, anyone who has taken Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE, especially those who are Board Certified here in the USA can also seek positions in Israel and with one’s Torah background can bring tremendous ruach to the “Holy Land”. There is much to learn from dedicated and devoted chaplains. I have often shared experiences of chaplains and how they can bring themselves to be in the presence of those who they are bringing spiritual care to- leaving anything of a personal nature at the door, and devoting themselves completely for their patients, their caregivers, and for the medical and nonmedical staff. I have also in previous articles featured some of our own chaplains and the phenomenal work they do. To see this article please click on this link.

Body language says a lot and that includes facial expressions. It is important to have a pleasant demeanor, showing interest, and a sincere desire to learn of what might be concerning others, but especially not to walk around with a sullen face or attitude. In the recent parsha of Behalosecha we learn again about having proper body language and not to show anything of a negative nature. In the book Shabbos with Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd (pages 194-198 with excerpts from these pages). Parshas Behaaloscha “Complaints About Food” 5756/1996. The people were like complainers; it was evil in the ears of H, and H heard, and His wrath flared (11:1)” “People complain in different ways. Often, they express their bitterness and frustration with sharp words and gestures, but sometimes their complaints are not verbalized at all. They don’t say a word, but their misery and unhappiness is written all over their faces! The Sefer Yer’im (paragraph 180) says that this is included in the prohibition of causing pain with words, as stated in the pasuk (Vayikra 25:17), You shall not aggrieve your fellow man. A person who walks around with a “sour” or angry face causes distress to those around him. A mother wonders why her son looks so angry: What is troubling him? A wife is concerned why her husband says nothing but seems to be upset. She thinks to herself, What am I doing wrong? Why does he seem to be dissatisfied with me? People feel better when greeted with a smiling, happy face, just as they feel good when the sun shines brightly in the sky. This concept is clearly illustrated in the Book of Nechemia. The first chapter begins with Nechemia receiving the tragic news of the desolation of Yerushalayim” “Nechemia was heartbroken by this report and prayed to H for help. In chapter 2, pasuk 1 describes how Nechemia, who was the wine butler for the Persian king Darius, came toward the monarch with a glass of wine. The king said to him” Why is your face downcast” You are not ill”. The dialogue continues with the king being concerned as to what Nechemia might be thinking and doing. Eventually, Nechemia shares with the king why he is so downcast, and the king therefore asks Nechemia what could be of help to him which he replies with his desire for the eventual rebuilding and return of Klal Yisrael to Yerushalayim. However, it still bothered the king. Rav Pam continues with how important one must be in the presence of a king. Surely one must be in the presence of the Ribono Shel Olam. Rav Pam was concerned that a husband should not be critical of a wife’s cooking just as the Benei Yisrael were critical about not having the food they enjoyed when in Mitzrayim. Of course, a husband should be diplomatic, sharing thoughts about meals but never to hurt her feelings. Rav Moshe ztkl was always mindful to always compliment the yeshiva’s cook. There is a story of a Rebbe who normally would take some of the food and then give the rest to all the guests. One time however, he kept asking for more until there was nothing left in the pot. Everyone was shocked at his behavior. It was not like him not to give the “shriem” out and have only a little for himself. Privately he explained, the food was inedible, and he did not want to embarrass the cook, so he ate the entire contents of the pot with nothing left.

Personal Reflections and Words of Encouragement

It was remarkable how my wife A”H despite her illness, not only had a positive outlook in life with simchas hachayim. Her demeanor, her body language and facial expressions always showed concern for others, always had a radiant smile, always made the other person she was speaking to feel he/she is the most important person. She always seemed to have the finger on the pulse of how the other person was feeling, how to respond and what to say. She would not give advice that was not appropriate for her to give. Whether it be spiritual, medical, or other concerns, she always encouraged the other person to seek whatever professional help or advice that was needed. She was keenly aware of the work I did. Not only was she proud, but she also gleaned from what I did. However, just as I did not divulge any personal information about anyone who I was helping nor reveal who that person is as confidentiality was always of the utmost, the same with my wife. If someone told her something of a personal nature, she also kept it confidential and would ask the person if he/she would like to speak to me for my thoughts. That is by the way another important attribute in a healthy marriage such as being loving, caring, respecting, trusting and of course- so much more, including not having the need to know everything about everyone. She was known for all the above. The remarkable aspect of her attributes in the three and a half years since her diagnosis was never disclosing any personal medical and physical concerns, pain or discomfort or telling anyone she just does not have the time for that person. Even in the last months of her life, how she was able to overcome her physical discomforts, how she was able to mask how she was feeling, how she would give her strength to others and not have body language or facial expressions of being downcast was utterly amazing when speaking to others – even on the phone. What tremendous emunah and love of H she had. Towards the last days of her life when it was difficult to speak on the phone, she nevertheless was willing to have me put the phone next to her ear so she could listen to the loving words of those who were very close to her. They wanted to have those last words with her as they knew the end was coming soon. When her strength permitted would try to respond with her loving words or even to say yes or amein to that person. I would convey a sincere thanks on her behalf while keeping my tears to myself. She was truly amazing even then to be caring for others not wanting to disappoint them knowing how much those last words meant not just to her, but to those who wanted so much to be with her even if it would be just on the phone. How important it is to be concerned about the feelings of others even under duress. How important it is to sincerely be nice, courteous, respectful, kind and caring. Everyone who knew her, their lives touched by her kindness and joy of life will not forget her. I can surely and proudly say hundreds upon hundreds through the years from her youth through adulthood.

For those who have been reading my own journey from darkness to brightness, I hope you have found hope and comfort with your own challenging times and journey. Cognitively, it was difficult understanding and accepting the fact, my wife was no longer here physically in this world, hawolam hazeh and that she is in Gan Eiden in Hawolam Habaw, but in time that became a reality. I have joined the ranks of being a widower. That was H’s decision. I have gotten used to receiving mail addressed only to me. I have gotten used to receiving simcha invitations addressed only to me. I have gotten used to attend simchas by myself. I have gotten used to giving gifts coming only from me. Especially gifts my wife and I gave to the grandchildren for their bar and bas mitzvas which now only I give. In case you might be wondering if I am talking to myself when at home especially at night. Well, I surely will not go there, but I have also gotten used to not expecting a response in case I might forget there is no one to talk to in the physical sense. As time goes on as the poem I shared in my article a few weeks ago, getting used to lots of changes in life. Being a widower is a fact of life. Of course, it is not the same as being married to a lovely person, but as I have mentioned previously the ability to go on in life, being mispallel for having new opportunities for joy, happiness and meaning of life is important. Making the best of the years Bezras to come. Just as one says modeh ani with the rejuvenation each morning, so do we say Boruch H with every new day. I look forward to every Shabbos and how exciting it will be and what meals I will prepare. This past Friday night I had a guest for the Shabbos meal. A yeshiva bachur whose family went away for Shabbos. I prepared from soup to nuts as the expression goes. Though, I really have to look up to learn where that expression came from. I really enjoyed shopping, preparing, and cooking all the food he enjoyed for Shabbos. One might ask, but he is just a bachor, why go to such an effort? Because this bachor was my guest and my guests deserve to be treated as royalty. It was therefore a zchus to treat him with honor. Didn’t we learn from Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu how to treat guests? Also, this young man, this chashuva bachor was my third guest for a seudah in over a year. In our household through the years, it was a zchus to be like Avraham and Sara making sure to offer not only delicious foods, but those items our guests enjoyed eating and drinking. I look forward to attending simchas and other wonderful things each day including davening to H, attending shiurim and meetings in person no longer just on zoom, learning Torah, being mekayeim mitzvos, creating and facilitating programs for the RAA, my articles and whatever gemilus chasadim I can do in addition to my creative cooking. I pray to H that any challenges will be met with the kochas of being able to meet those challenges. So, to all who have journeyed with me, may all our days continue to be blessed with enthusiasm of a joyful, meaningful life filled with continued emunah, hope, faith, and love of H. Let us together be mispallel not just for ourselves, but for everyone else. Just as we are mispallel for our own happiness, we should also be mispallel for others to have much happiness, and for those who need a refuah sheleima. May all of us be a source of comfort helping others in their journeys and challenges in life in their time of need. We should be grateful to Hakodesh Boruch Hu for all that he does for us and may it be His will that none of us should have faces that are downcast, but with smiles on our faces for 120 years to come. He helps those who help themselves. We must do our hishtadlis. We also must remember to ask H to give us what He considers the best for each of us, for His guidance, His direction and always his love for us and for Klal Yisrael. We should be as positive and look forward to good things to come Bezras H. The following is the last line in Mizmor Shir Chanukas Habayis we recite in shacharis everyday,” You have transformed my lament into dancing, for me, you undid my sackcloth and You girded me with gladness. So that sing to You [might] my soul and not be silenced H my G forever will I thank You.” (Translation from Artscroll interlinear siddur). I am grateful to the Ribono Shel Olam and everyone who gave me chizuk to have the positive attitude expressed in my articles such as the one above.

Before I conclude, I want to share this with you about another sweet interaction with the bus driver I have mentioned in my previous articles. This past Friday, he asked not only how I was doing, but said to me “isn’t it going to be your Shabbos’’ and he wished me and my chaver a good Shabbos in front of all his passengers. I have had positive experiences from other bus drivers. When I wait for my chaver to board the bus I greet the bus driver. They have been greeting, smiling, and wishing me a good day or evening. We cannot change the world, but we can be mekadeish H. Thank you. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank


VA Nationwide announcement for the above referenced position.
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
VA Great Lakes Health Care System-VISN 12The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center consists of a 200-bed acute care facility and four community based outpatient clinics (CBOCs). Jesse Brown VAMC provides care to approximately 62,000 enrolled veterans who reside in the City of Chicago and Cook County, Illinois, and in four counties in northwestern Indiana. In FY10, the Medical Center had over 8100 inpatient admissions and 560,000 outpatient visits. A budget of over $355 million supports approximately 2,000 full-time equivalent staff, including 200+ physicians and 450 nurses, with 500+ volunteers providing service and care at Jesse Brown VAMC and CBOCs.In May 2008, the Medical Center opened its new inpatient bed tower pavilion, which includes seven surgical suites, cystology, intensive care, inpatient dialysis, an outpatient surgical center and a chapel. The Medical Center’s strategic priority is the “heart of the Veterans Community” and as Provider of Choice for veterans in the Chicago area. JBVAMC established a “We Are Here” outreach campaign to inform veterans about the health care benefits they have earned through their service to our country and the specific services available to them at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.Formerly known as the West Side VA Medical Center, the facility was renamed in 2004 for the Honorable Jesse Brown, who served as Secretary for Veterans Affairs from 1993 to 1997.


PNT Integrity Library published to help protect critical infrastructure - GPS WorldToday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) releases an cybersecurity advisory, “DarkSide Ransomware: Best Practices for Preventing Business Disruption from Ransomware Attacks.” CISA and FBI are urging critical infrastructure asset owners and operators to adopt a heightened state of awareness and implement the recommendations listed in this advisory.

Recently, DarkSide actors deployed DarkSide ransomware against a U.S. pipeline company’s information technology (IT) network. In response to the cyberattack, the company proactively disconnected certain operational technology (OT) systems to ensure the safety of the system. At this time, there are no indications that the threat actor moved laterally to OT systems.

This joint advisory provides technical details on DarkSide actors and some of their known tactics and preferred targets. According to open-source reporting, DarkSide actors have been targeting multiple large, high-revenue organizations. Also, the actors have previously been observed gaining initial access through phishing, exploiting remotely accessible accounts and systems and virtual desktop infrastructure.

CISA and FBI strongly recommend that critical system owners and operators prioritize reading this advisory and follow recommended mitigation and guidance to help protect against this malicious activity. In addition to the cybersecurity advisory, CISA and FBI urge critical infrastructure asset owners and operators to review the following resources for best practices on strengthening cybersecurity posture:

Victims of ransomware should report it immediately to CISA, a local FBI Field Office, or a Secret Service Field Office.


Accessing Ohel
An understanding of Ohel’s Mental Health Services

Ohel and RAA invite you to join us for a virtual discussion about Ohel’s Mental Health services.

June 15, 2021
at 8:00 PM

Introductory Remarks By:
Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Programing, Chaplaincy Commission & External Affairs
Steven (Tzvi) Wesson, LCSW, Assistant Director Ohel

Click here to view this virtual event