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 29, 2021

This past Sunday was the Tu B Av Together Let’s Daven Together (A Yad L’ Achim Initiative). There were rabbonim offering words of inspiration as well as musical performances by well known singers. It was shown in many countries throughout the world with chapters of Tehilim recited by Klal Yisrael lead by each of the rabbonim. Donations were accepted, but not required for anyone who wanted to submit a name for a shidduch as well as a refuah sheleima. Though, Tu B Av came out this past Shabbos, the concept for tefilos especially for a shidduch was supported by various rabbonim including Rav Chaim Kanievsky from Eretz Yisrael. The list of rabbonim who spoke included Rav Eytan Feiner, Rav Yissocher Frand, Rav Shimon Galai, Rav Warren Goldstein, Rav Dovid Goldwasser, Rav YY Jacobson, Rav Paysach Krohn, Rav Berel Lazar, Rav David Ozeri, Rav Yisrael Reisman and Rav Asher Weiss. An estimated 500,000 worldwide would be participating. 

One of Klal Yisrael’s greatest attribute is doing chesed. After all, one of the three pillars as mentioned in Pirkei Avos, Ethics of Our Fathers are Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim. The saintly Chofetz Chaim wrote extensively not only the essence of chesed, but all the various types of and ways of doing chesed. Helping or having a share in bringing two individuals together to the chupah no matter what age group is truly a wonderful chesed. However, as with many acts of chesed helping others can often involve different dynamics and the need for understanding, not just being tactful is so important. There are those who wish to remain single for whatever reason they may have. There are those who need appropriate support and sometimes guidance. There are those who would be grateful to be engaged in conversation of their desire for a meaningful relationship and marriage. There are those who prefer their privacy, not wishing to divulge personal things, but only with someone they feel comfortable and safe with. What is tremendously important is being careful not to get involved in loshon harah. The Ribono Shel Olam loves Klal Yisrael and there are many ways to express and show one’s love to Him. to each other- especially between husband and wife. There are other types of relationships such as business partners. I was recently asked why a widow or widower should want to get remarried, what is it for them especially perhaps past childbearing age. My response is the same for anyone of any age. There are also those who decide to have a relationship and marriage at a later age who are not Boruch H widow or widowers. Is it just companionship? This is not the column for detailed conversation about relationships, but for those who never thought about why there are those who are older (and remember, not old, but older- no matter what age- the AARP starts with age 50).) have a desire to truly want a new and meaningful relationship. Caring about and for each other. Not just someone to have a conversation with, or a companion to go places with or do things together with. For that, one doesn’t need marriage, just friendship. Sincerity, with one’s heart, feelings, true desire for as I mentioned above to care for each other. Real, goodness, kindness chesed because two people want to have a meaningful relationship and a life together filled with joy, happiness and shalom. For those who are younger part of that is also having a family of their own and building a legacy for years to come. What about a widow or widower’s spouse who died? He or she will always be remembered by everyone who he/she had an impact on in their lives. I did not invoke the word love. I did touch upon that word in my article last week. Love is a sacred word and should not be used loosely. Sincerity is what truly counts with love and how it is applied though it sometimes used to express one’s appreciation of something such as I love the color, I love that food, I love that painting, I love that… …. and then there is the expression of one’s feelings about someone important or meaningful to that person, family, spouse and most of all, our love for H and our Torah. I wish to revisit once again, how important it is to be understanding and appreciate the goodness of anyone who for whatever the reason might be, not to have chosen the path of marriage, but the path of friendship. It serves no purpose to try to understand decisions made by anyone should their desire not to share nor reveal their personal reasons in life.

I share the above thoughts as it is important for rabbis, rebbitzens, chaplains and others who might not have given thought as to the feelings, concerns and aspirations of singles, older adults, widows, and widowers. This is not a shidduch column, but another way of looking through the lens of others and the relationship doing chasadim and caring for others and each other. We want to follow in the ways of H with all our heart and love. In Parshas Eikev (11:13) “Hayom, today. The commandments should always be as fresh and beloved to you as if you had received them today (Rashi).” “Liahavaw To love. The commandment to love G was given in the first passage of the Shema (6:4). The context of this passage indicates that one should perform the commandments as an expression of love of G, not to attain riches or honor. One should perform the commandments purely out of love, and the honor will come ultimately (Rashi)” (The Stone Edition Chumash Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd). In discussing how Reuven perceived the dreams of Yosef and the pursuit of Reuven doing what he considered correct, The Midrash contains an important insight into life. Two people can hear the exact same words and react in diametrically opposite ways. Yosef’s dream of a sun, a moon and eleven stars bowing down to him infuriated his brothers, who cried out, “Will you then reign over us? Will you then dominate us? “(Bereishis 37:8) That same dream filled Reuven’s heart with joy and calmed his fears that he and his descendants would be banished forever from the Jewish nation. Instead of being angered and insulted by Yosef’s grandiose dream, he felt honored and relieved that he was counted as one of the eleven stars! There are many situations in life where a person’s remarks may be interpreted in various ways, each listener hearing what he wants to hear. Wars between nations have broken out based on faulty communications. Countless business partnerships, friendships and marriages have been destroyed due to misconstrued remarks that wreaked havoc on the relationship. A Jew must train himself to look for the good in what he hears by following the advice of Chazal to judge everyone favorably) Pirkei Avos 1:6)” From Parsha Vaeshchanan Rav Pam on the Chumash by Rabbi Shimon Smith Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd (pages 204-205).

We find in many parts of our tefilos regarding our love and the love He has for us and His kindness. Here are several. When putting on the Tefilin after the shel rosh is put on, “From your wisdom, G ………,may You imbue me and from Your understanding grant me understanding; and with Your kindness deal greatly with me; …….The tefilla of Ahavaw rabaw we recite in shacharis  “With abundant love have You loved us H, with compassion that is great and exceeding have You shown compassion to us. Our Father our King, for the sake of our forefathers who trusted in You and to whom You taught the decrees of life, so may You be gracious to us and teach us. Our Father the merciful Father Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us, and instill in our hearts to understand and comprehend, to listen, learn, teach, observe, perform, and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love………. (Artscroll Siddur Schottenstein Edition Mesorah Publications Ltd). 

Our hearts should be filled with sincerity however possible just as the Ribono Shel Olam loves Klal Yisrael so too, should our efforts be the same for others as well. Even with difficulties we see and share with others going through challenging times, we should be like the Aibershta and follow in His ways. How we listen to others as rabbis, rebbitzens and chaplains, our hearts should be filled with compassion, patience, understanding and willingness to be in the presence, offering a helping hand, a kind word, in the best way possible. I often stress the importance of achdus, of being mekadeish H. We could look at the world as being in turmoil, but what about the world we live in amongst and with each other. We cannot fix the world, nor can we fix the concerns of our fellow brothers and sisters in Klal Yisrael, but there is so much we can do to alleviate distress, and difficult times, bringing simchas hachayim into their lives with much kindness, love and understanding and of course our own blessings for them and each other. We listen to what one is saying and sharing with concentration and no preconceived thoughts of being right or wrong. We should not be judge and jury, just be sincere. I have also written about being ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael. That is so true and can do so in so many ways. I shared in some previous articles about my experiences with NYC bus drivers. I walk from shul in the morning and evenings to the bus stop with a dear chaver who I have gained much inspiration in many ways. Whenever he boards the bus in the front, he turns around wishing me well and then I greet the bus driver offering a kind word, a smile and there are now a number of drivers who reciprocate with their own kind words to me and remove their masks to give me a smile, offering their thanks and even thumbs up – all in front of other passengers. No matter what the color of their skin, male, and female, all have taken the few moments before closing the doors wishing me well as I do to them. I find the same in greeting men and women in the neighborhood and how they reciprocate. My dear and chashuva chaver is in aw of the responses given by those people of different cultural, language and color of skin. Many of the same people we meet will greet us often with a big smile.  

Before I conclude, I would like to share the following: There is a remarkable Talmud Chacham who davens near where I daven. His kavaneh, his way of davening is with tremendous heart and soul to Hakadosh Boruch Hu. When he responds to Yehei Shemei Rabaw whichever of the Kaddeishim is recited, “May His name that is great be blessed forever and for all eternity” he follows this “The Talmud (Shabbos 19b) teaches that one must respond Yehei Shemei Rabbaw with all his power meaning his total concentration (Rashi, Tosafos) Though it is preferable to raise one’s voice when saying it , one should not say it so loudly that he will invite ridicule (R’Yonah). It must be enunciated clearly. (Maharal). (Artscroll Schottenstein Edition Siddur Mesorah Publications Ltd)He reminds me of how much I must daven to the Aibershta with such feelings to Him with love and appreciation and always to be thankful for the opportunities He gives me. I am grateful to be in His presence as we all are. The next time you meet someone, give a smile and be grateful to Him for giving you the opportunity of sharing with your heart your sincere care as we can say for humanity, making a Kiddush H and whenever possible for bringing a smile on someone’s face. One cannot always know how that smile can wipe away some hidden tears a person might have. 

May we all be zoche to bring joy, happiness and simchas hachayim not only to our own lives, but to others as well. May the bracha of Sim Shalom recited in the Shacharis and Musaf Shemoneh Esrei (and also on public fast days) be fulfilled. ”Establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness, and compassion upon us and upon all of Israel Your people. Bless us our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance,  for with the light of Your countenance You gave us, H our G the Torah of life and a love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, life, and peace. And may it be good on Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, at every time and at every hour, with Your peace……..”(Schottenstin Edition, Artscroll Series Siddur, Mesorah Publications LTD)

Thank you for taking the time for reading this and my other articles
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank