From the desk of Rabbi Leonard ( Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
firstname.lastname@example.org 917- 446-2126
September 9th, 2021 <><><>
I was recently speaking to someone who mentioned to me about all the tragic occurrences happening to us and the world at large. H is sending us a message. After listening to him, I gave it a lot of thought and responded, we recently read seven haftaras where occurrences especially for Klal Yisrael where not good, and yet, H conveyed His love for the Benei Yisrael and the kindness He will bestow them. There is so much goodness H does for Klal Yisrael. His patience is beyond that of any human being. Yet, through the journey of Klal Yisrael, sometimes their weakness is stronger than their strength. We don’t need tragedies to remind us of how our lives should be and the love we should have for the Ribono shel Olam. I was speaking to a Jewish person who shared with me that most people are corrupt, thankless and selfish. Most people are out their for themselves and couldn’t care less about anyone else. I did not try to argue the point when in fact there was some truth to what he was saying. I asked him if he ever heard what a gemach is, or the following organizations ,Misaskim, Shomrim. Chaveirim, Chesed Shel Emes, Hebrew Free Burial, Hebrew Free Loans , Bikur Cholims, Chesed to name some ? He was amazed how so many Orthodox Jewish men and women, do so many wonderful and caring things for other no matter what their background might be and all who are volunteers. There is so much to be proud of. But that still does not explain why there are so many tragedies. We read Unesaneh Tokef on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We do not know what the future holds for anyone, but we know one thing, the Ribono shel Olam makes all the decisions – not human beings. We recite in the Musaf Shemoneh Esrei “ Our Father, our King, remember Your compassion, and suppress Your anger. Bring and end to pestilence, bloodshed, famine, captivity, destruction, iniquity, plague, mishaps, that are evil, all illness, all accidents, all strife, all manner of calamity, all decrees that are evil that are evil, and all hatred that is baseless, from upon us and from upon all members of Your covenant”.( Translation Artscoll Rosh Hashanah Machzor English ) We are aware that tragedies can and do happen, but we also know the Ribono Shel Olam has His reasons. We shed our tears, we beseech and pray from our hearts to be inscribed in the good books. We pray for forgiveness and we pray that no harm shall befall us. We pray for only happiness, simchas and maysim tovim. For rabbanim, rebbitzens, chaplains and mental health professionals as I mentioned last article have strong shoulders to bear the many concerns of those who find faith, hope, emuah challenging and difficult. Especially when so many tragedies have occurred, the relationship of Unesane Tokef and the prayer of Avinu mentioned above. The Ribono Shel Olam loves Klal Yisrael, but we too must be strong. Finding strength and hope in our prayers with appropriate pastoral, spiritual and when necessary, mental health counseling with TLC is so important. Or perhaps just to have and give reassurance. Emunah is not in limbo.
In Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s latest book, Yamim Noraim with the Maggid Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd from “Unconditional Belief” Vechol Ma amim Shehu Keil Emunah ,All believe that He is the G of faithfulness piyut in chazzan’s repetition of Mussaf) (page 193-194) “ In Yerushalayim in the summer of 2017, I had the privilege to meet Mrs. Risa Rothman, author of the heartbreaking book, Terror and Emunah in Har Nof (Artscroll/Mesorah). She told me of the terror, suffering, and horror she went through from the morning of November 18, 2014 when her husband, Chaim, was among those brutally axed in the Kehilas Bnei Torah shul in Har Nof. Five victims, among whom was a Druse Israeli police officer, perished immediately, but Chaim remained in a coma for close to a year. Throughout this nightmare of epic proportions, Mrs. Rothman maintained her emunah and connection to the Ribbono shel Olam. Tragically, Chaim eventually passed away. Mrs. Rothman told me that throughout the months after the horrendous attack, she prayed and hoped that her husband would survive. However, people often asked her if she felt she was in limbo, waiting for the matter of life or death to be resolved. What she wrote in her book (p.251) befits a Torah scholar steeped in the study of mussar. “No, there is no such thing as limbo. Jews are never in limbo, whether they are waiting for a shidduch, a baby, or any other yeshua. They are exactly in the place they are meant to be to serve H, and that is true for all Jews at any time or place on their journey”. As we say the piyyut vechol ma amimim, let us pause for a moment and think of David HaMelech, Chavakuk, the Ramban, Rav Yerucham, and Mrs. Rothman. Our people have been referred to as ma mamimim bnei ma aminim, believers children of believers Are we ever!
“The Effort in Everlasting Endeavors” (ibid p 199-200)” Let there appear before You the Akeidah when Avraham, our father bound Yitzchak, his son, upon the altar an he suppressed his mercy to do Your will wholeheartedly, (Mussaf, Zichronos)” Prior to Agudas Yisrael of America hiring its full-time attorney in the early 1980’s, the Executive President of the Agudah, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, was deeply involved in legal matters, particularly the constitutional issue of separation of state and religion. In 1973, the Supreme Court struck down four basic types if assistance to religious schools. Parents sending their children to parochial schools could not receive tuition grants or tuition tax credits. This affected all parents whose children attended Jewish schools. Though Rabbi Sherer had strenuously fought the ruling as it made its way through the lower, courts, the Supreme Court was the final word. He had not prevailed and was deeply disappointed. Soon after that blow, he received a letter from Rav Yitzchok Hutner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, a letter he treasured for the rest of his life. In his eloquent, poetic Hebrew, Rav Hutner, writing from Yerushalayim, penned words from the depth of his heart. (See Pachad Yitzchok, Maamarim U’Michtavim, Letter 152, and Rabbi Sherer, p312-313 Artscroll/Mesorah). The letter is classic. To my beloved and esteemed friend, From the moment I heard of the court’s negative ruling, your image has remained constantly before me……Even from the distance I feel the pounding of your heart, which reverberates in my spine. I feel impelled to write you words of encouragement and cannot rest until I share these thoughts with you. Remember Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s three rules of Klal work: Nisht beiz verren, nisht farmattert verren, und nisht vellen oisfirren-Don’t become angry, don’t become tired, and don’t become obsessed with prevailing. Rav Hutner continued that we pray to H that we be protected in the merit of the Akeidah, yet Avraham Avinu did not actually sacrifice Yitzchok Avinu at the Akeidah. Nonetheless, that does not detract one iota from the merit that is accrued to him and his descendants. “ Ah mentsch darf tohn, nisht oiftohn-man is commanded to act, not to accomplish, :Rav Hutner wrote, “The rest is up to H.” Rabbi Sherer was inspired and guided by the laudatory words of Rav Hutner for his efforts. It was a life lesson. (continued) As Rav Hutner consoled Rabbi Sherer with the words of Rav Yisrael Salanter, it is the effort and commitment to do His will that H seeks from us. It is why on Rosh Hashanah during the Musaf Shemoned Esrei, the longest Shemoneh Esrei of the year, we bessech H , May You mercifully remember today the Akeidah of Yitzchok for the sake of his offspring”.
Our rabbonim, rebbbitzens, chaplains are here for all of Klal Yisrael no matter what Jewish background or affiliation. offering strong words might be beneficial for certain Jewish men and women, but offering words with honey, love and care, are wonderful for so many of all of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Hope, faith, emunah, sincerity, are so many virtues and attributes. Being Mekadiesh H with sincerity is so important.
The Jewish yartzeit already took place This years 9/11 will take place this Shabbos. In previous articles I shared my own experiences . I was on active duty as a chaplain for the NYPD. I was near ground zero before the Twin Towers imploded. In previous articles I shared what my experiences were then. I will share some of them next article. Let us pray there will be no further 9/11.
I would like to conclude with the following which has been often quoted through the years
including the column found in “Secrets for a Sweet New Year” The Yated Ne eman magazine section September 6, 2021) “ A question of Identity” Rav Moshe Feinstein was already frail and confined to a wheelchair on that Erev Yom Kippur when he entered the elevator of his apartment building. He was on his way to the Yeshiva of Staten Island, where he intended to spend the fast. Also in the elevator was a bare-headed secular Jew, who recognized Rav Moshe. After a moment of hesitation, the secular Jew quietly said, “ A happy New Year, Rav Moshe.” Rav Moshe looked up and, smiling, returned the greeting. The secular Jew then said, less shyly, A healthy year too ! Rav Moshe warmly replied, “ May you also be blessed with a healthy year-one filled with success and nachas from your children. And may you merit to greet Moshiach.” The elevator doors opened. Rav Moshe was wheeled to the waiting car, The secular Jew looked after the gadol hador, amazed. “the rav can see I’m not religious, “ he said to one of Rav Moshe’s relatives. “Yet to Rav Moshe, I’m a somebody”! When the relative later repeated those words, Rav Moshe explained the warmth he had displayed during the encounter by saying , “But he is a Jew.”
May we all be zoche to be inscribed in the good books. May we be forgiven and look ahead to the future filled with opportunities bringing us closer to the Ribono she Olam. It is time to look ahead for maysim tovim, good health, happiness, joy and simchas hachayim. May any difficulties in life, be replaced with strength, determination filled with hope, emunah , kindness and goodness. Let us look upon these holy days as wonderful opportunities to seek achdus and friendship. Let us be zoche to see success in shidduchim and parnasa. All my very best with thanks to one and all. Amain.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank