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
July 22,2021

Personal reflections

It is summertime, with the Three Weeks, the Nine Days, and Tisha B Av behind us, but not wanting to be a “party pooper”, only three weeks until the month of Elul. So, what is so special about that? Well, we start thinking more seriously about the forthcoming Selichos, and then Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos. Gee whiz, where did the days of summer relaxation go to? I guess it depends on how and what one thinks about in relationship to one’s spirituality, current events, where am I going in life and so on and so forth. For me, life has been a matter of fact- different in many ways. I have shared in some of my articles what life has been for me and some of my personal thoughts. So why now again to revisit personal reflections. Perhaps, because of the goodness still being shared by others for their concern for me. I could just say out of curiosity what is new for me? Has anything changed? How am I doing? Any new relationships?  I have found those who know me genuinely care about my welfare. So even now, I am asked how am I doing? My responses have been, I look forward to attending simchos, writing my articles, creating, facilitating, presentations, webinars, and new programs I am working on. I attend conferences and continuing educational programs. My desire to help others, to utilize whatever creativity the Aibershta gives me I am grateful for.  I am mispallel for life to be meaningful with joy and happiness. I am not a recluse and enjoy being with other wonderful people. Late at night, there is much time to dwell upon the future. Aside from “speaking” to the Aibershata, there is no one else to discuss and ponder about. Is that loneliness? No, that is reality. I have received very warm responses with lots of praises for my positive attitude, a source of comfort and inspiration. 

In many neighborhoods there are single men, women, widow, and widowers.  What are their lives like?  I do not have such answers, but for those in the communities who engage them in meaningful conversations, getting to know them and a gentle invitation for a Shabbos meal or to include them in community events and gatherings can be uplifting. One must always remember though, there are some who relish their privacy, and more than a one-time invite might be more than they would appreciate. Every person has their own desires on how they wish to be integrated in a community. There is no one size fits all. No cookie cutter way of life. It is most important not to pry into one’s life, nor try to be a guidance counselor giving unwanted or advice that might not be appropriate. There is a story which was written by a single young woman several years ago about her experiences for Shabbos meals she was invited to. Whenever invited to a family for a Shabbos meal, she knew what questions would be asked of her and when exactly during the meal about her personal life, her likes and dislikes plus a lot more. She always wondered if it would help submitting a resume before Shabbos for them to read before her visit. Being tactful is so important. On the one hand a person might not appreciate nor want what might seem intrusive questioning. On the other hand, maybe, a person would like their rabbi or rebbetzin to inquire how things are, and maybe at the right time even a gentle conversation about shidduchim or other aspects of life. Marriage counseling is a specialty, shadchanis is a specialty and even for a rav or rebbetzin there are certain areas pertaining to a person where the advice of a social worker or mental health professional can offer important guidance. In specific cases these professionals can share his or her understanding of the dynamics of a person with meaningful advice. A relationship with a new person could be extremely rewarding – fulfilling many wonderful opportunities of chesed and kindness towards and for each other. There are all kinds of love such as love for parents or other relatives. There is also “veawhavtaw  lereiechaw  kamocha – you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Kedoshim 19:18). Most of all the love we have for the Ribono Shel Olam. I have heard and read about young men and women asking their mentors why they still do not feel love for a person they have been engaged with or recently married. Love is not something that happens over night. Love for a future or new spouse develops with sincere care and kindness for each other. 

Just as a woman has in mind special zichusim when kneading the dough for challah, so too, we should have in mind zichusim for those wanting a shidduch or those wanting to start a family.  Klal Yisrael is composed of men and women with different minhagim, differences in many ways but we should be united with achdus, doing gemilus chasadim, being mekadeish H, recognizing and rejoicing in our relationship with HaKadosh Boruch Hu. We have learned in the Torah through the journeys of the Benei Yisrael from Yitzias Mitzrayim until their final entrance to Eretz Yisrael of their many trials and tribulations. As individuals, we have our own constant journey with our own trials and tribulations. Klal Yisrael should be recognized as individuals making up that whole. In a relationship between husband and wife are two individuals. A union together in friendship, chesed, kindness, goodness, hopefully with much joy, happiness and a relationship with H making that union truly special and meaningful. We all in our different ways believe in H with all our hearts and in many ways.

In the Kol Dodi on the Torah by Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd pages 264-263. From Parshas Vaeschanan. “Shema Yisrael Hear, O Israel……… (6:4) Why does the Torah require us to make a public proclamation—-Hear, O Israel? Why would it not be enough for each Jew simply to make a personal affirmation of his belief in H’s unity- H is our G, H, the One and Only? The answer is that everyone sees H in a different way, depending on his wisdom, his nature, and his experiences in life. Some are more afraid of H’s ability to punish, others are enthused by His mercy, others focus on His glory. If we were to make only a personal declaration, it could be thought that each individual is speaking only about his personal perception of H. By proclaiming publicly that all His ways and manifestations are One, we affirm that even though everyone has a different understanding of Him, all those differing perceptions of His ways show us His unified glory. “Hear O Israel, H Who each person sees in a different way, is One. It is all His glory”.

Let us be mispallel for good health, maysim tovim, simchas and happiness not just for ourselves and mishpacha, but for all those who need good health, simchas, happiness and maysim tovim.  May we have true achdus and with our Torah guiding us may we be zoche the coming of Moshiach Bemheira Veyameinu Amain. Thank you, Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank