From the desk of Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS,BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
917 446 2126
November 4th, 2021 ****

We do not know why, but H does have His reasons.
There can be goodness with a smile on the face.
Hi, hello – how are you? Question or greeting?

From The Jewish Calendar Its structure and Laws by Rabbi David Feinstein ztkl Artscroll Series Published by Mesorah Publications Ltd (page 44). “The Blessing concerning the New Month is prefaced with a prayer that the new month should be filled with all good things including a long and blessed life, prosperity, good health, piety, and a love of Torah. This prayer is based on the one that the Talmudic sage Rav used to recite at the conclusion of his Shemoneh Esrei (Brachos 16b). The prayer ends with a plea that G fulfill our pleas letovah, for the good, because the blessings that are important to us may not truly be the best for us. Since only G knows what is ultimately good, we ask Him to bless us, but only in ways that are truly for our benefit. Though we recite it only once a month, this plea- that G fulfill our pleas” for the good”- applies to all our prayers. Rather than repeat it in every prayer, we recite it on the threshold of each month.

That is one of the many things I learned from Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl, such as when a request was made of him for a bracha that a shidduch proposed should be good. His response was whatever the Ribono shel Olam wants that is best for him. The same when hoping a certain position that sounds great, but does H think it is best? A person can be zoche and merit whatever he/she is hoping for comes true, but is that what H really wants for that person? His bracha was for this person to have whatever H wants for him. I mentioned this in previous articles how important it is to have trust in H. It just seems so overwhelming when things that happen causing grief and sadness. Yet, we cannot give up. A number of years ago, there was a kidnapping of a young Israeli. There were many prayer vigils throughout the world, many tefilos were recited. Yet, he was still missing. After a period, he was found murdered. The news was devastating and brought much sadness to Klal Yisrael. The father at a large gathering mentioned there were times when H answered his tefilos, his bakashos, and then there is time when H did not answer the prayers as in this case that his son be found alive and well. The father appealed to all, not to lose faith and love H. We often do not have the answers when someone we know, someone who is dear to us becomes ill or dies, but our belief that H does everything for a reason, we must accept, even though we might question and ask why? Yet, there are many instances when we do see and experience the positive when things do turn out in a meaningful way. We don’t understand why or how, but the good things do turn out bringing us much happiness and joy. In the Shemoneh Esrei there is a personal prayer for forgiveness, and there is a personal prayer for livelihood including other personal requests. In the tefilo of Veyitzen Lechaw Motzei Shabbos at the conclusion of Maariv one of the tefilos gives us another way to think positively “Transformation of Distress to Relief” “You have transformed my lament into dancing for me; You undid my sackcloth and You girded me with gladness. He did not consent H your G to pay heed to Balaam, and transform did H, your G, the curse to blessing, for does H love your G. Then will the maiden be in a dance and young men and elders together will rejoice; and I shall transform their mourning to joy, and I shall console them and gladden them from their sorrow.”

The trust in H, the bakashos we say, the tefios we recite, our words we speak to H, the love we have for H all must be with a sincere heart and truthful. Our relationship with G can be as close, as meaningful as possible. It truly is up to each person and how much or how close does a person want with H. When reading or learning about the many challenges of Avraham Avinu, Sarah Imeinu, the Avos and Imaho- their remarkable avodas H can lead us to meaningful times. I often speak to individuals going through difficult and challenging times due to financial, illness, the death of a loved one and other issues and concerns. When I think of Avraham and Sara gives me inspiration especially their love and trust in H. Rather than dwelling on any personal thoughts of everyday challenges, I can only think of how to bring simchas hachayim to others during their difficult times. I also find tremendous solace and meaning of life learning of the remarkable sometimes hidden strengths and determinations from those who have gone through or presently going through their difficult and challenging times. As we go through the winter months, the long nights, the chilly days can be difficult for those who live alone, are alone or feel alone, their days and nights can be difficult ones. Offering a listening, empathetic, compassionate, sincere ear and heart can mean so much to that person. A phone call, a visit, helping with errands, shopping – just being with that person(s) can make a tremendous difference in their lives. I was discussing this recently with a social worker who mentioned the difference it can make by being a caring person and when possible, taking an interest in someone who would appreciate his or her heartfelt interest in him/her and being able to share his/her concerns.

Chanukah is coming in just four weeks. If I said one month, that would seem like a long time away. But for many as with other holidays, Chanukah has become more than just fulfilling the mitzvos of lighting the candles or the oil and of course we cannot forget the delicious doughnuts. There are parties, family get-togethers, and many other joyful activities. For those who are alone and unable to attend, participate or even get invited. Chanukah can be a downer. Lighting the menorah with no one around can be an act of sadness. Last year was a doosy or is a doozie for thousands throughout the world not able to join with families or parties due to COVID 19. I was able to my join families via zoom. It was a great idea and lots of singing and delicious, delicious Chanukah treats. Only there is no invention I know of where they would have been able to zoom the food. Sure, it was lonely. I set up my living room just as it was the year before when my wife was alive, except lighting the menorah was just me, myself and I. Ok- no crying, anyone. But it does hit home, especially for those spouses and family members whose loved ones are no longer present. Life goes on and I myself am looking forward to a brighter Chanukah this year and pray for those who will be alone, to have as much simchas Hach aim as possible. Making a sincere effort to bring a smile on a person’s face goes a long way. Before bringing Chanukah treats to anyone, find out if the treats are ok for that person. He/she might not be able to have anything with sugar, carbs, fried, or allergic to certain foods or ingredients, dairy products (yes, there are doughnuts made like cheesecake) chocolate etc. What used to be jelly filled, sugar powdered, chocolate glazed doughnuts, some stores advertise twenty or more varieties. Oh, don’t forget those who are on a diet or prefer baked not fried doughnuts.

Question, statement, or greeting. I discussed this a long time ago. This is what I am talking about, I’m walking down the sidewalk on my way home and someone walking the other direction says to me “hi and then how are you, but instead of stopping to hear my answer, continues walking home. Is this supposed to be a greeting, or genuinely wants to know how I am? I have heard this greeting numerous times through the years. A person might say hi or hello, it is so nice to see you have a good day or evening. The person receiving the greeting will appreciate the response if given the appropriate amount of time to do so – if asked how are you?

I conclude this article with the following verse at the end of the Shamone Esrei, Yiheyu Lerawtzon = “May they find favor the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart- before You, H my Rock and my Redeemer”

Oseh Shalom=” He Who makes peace in His Heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel, Now respond: Amen” (Translation from Artscroll Siddur. Artscroll siddur Mesorah Publications Ltd.). Thank you. Sincerely Rabbi Yehuda Blank