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 18th, 2021


Before I begin, I would like to make a correction. Last week I mentioned Rav Heinken’s name as Rav Eliyahu Heinken. His full name was Rav Yosef Eliyau Heinken ztkl.

I have often written about the importance of achdus, about the feelings of others, proper and caring midos. I have often mentioned the gadlus of rabbonim who are looked upon as poskim such as Rav Shmuel Kamenetzy, Rav Hershel Schechter, Rav Mordechai Willig and others. The Daily News used to mention that a picture is worth a thousand words. Below is a remarkable video of Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky whispering to the chasan to first dance with his Zaida, Rav Hershel Shechter and then dance with him who is the Zaida of the kallah. (As seen in Matzav November 18, 2021)

Watch: Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, at His Granddaughter’s Wedding, Instructs the Chosson to Dance with His Zaide, Rav Shechter, First

Last week I shared many aspects about my father zl and next week will be my mother’s A”H yartzeit which I will share in next weeks article. When we speak about mesorah often we think about the passing of the torch, from one generation to the next. At the Yeshiva Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem and the Yeshiva of Staten Island annual dinner this past Sunday we saw and heard another passing of the torch, the mesorah of one great gadol Rav Dovid Feinstein to his elder son Rav Berel the present Rosh HaYeshiva and via a video of Rav Reuven Feinstein announcing his eldest son Rav Dovid Benish who will now also be a Rosh Yeshiva of Staten Island. Rav Reuven will continue to be the senior Rosh HaYeshiva. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu continue to give Rav Reuven the koach to continue to be mezakein Klal Yisrael with his tremendous gadlus.

Legacy. When I worked for MJHS hospice there was a wonderful program called the Story Corp. a legacy building program. Often, patients would be concerned who will remember them? How will they be remembered? What if any accomplishments can they be remembered for? Many were fearful they will not be remembered and will be forgotten. Patients, knowing their end of life could be soon would give thought what have they accomplished or years they feel have been wasted and on what? Trained therapists, social workers, chaplains, and others would help patients find meaning and purpose to their lives. They would give opportunities to have their patients share words from their hearts or from their tears about their lives. There could be music even in the background or the patients would sing the words they might have made up but reflected what and how they were feeling and their emotions. Patients were able to find not just a few, but many meaningful accomplishments some small, some big but all meaningful. Accomplishments they forgot or never realized the goodness they did. For those who felt they would have nothing to report to the angels of anything good they did, now were able to find comfort in the days to come. Chaplains especially in dealing with the spiritual aspect of patients lives, no matter what religion or background have been able to help patients find solace and comfort before death would arrive giving them a chance for forgiveness remembering what good in their lives. Of course, patients can share what they might have done and not so proud of. For those who can relive and retell their stories felt even stronger being able to put those stories via recordings, written or even together with photographs they or their loved one might have. Those who had no relatives or anyone in their lives or those who were estranged from their relatives felt very lonely. Who would read or listen to their stories? There were creative ways. Perhaps having their stories told at memorial services. Many also feared dying alone and never to be found by anyone. In the Jewish religion, there is the kaddish the yizkor the yartzeit, the memorial candle to be lit, the Torah learning lezeicher nishmas, the mesorah and the legacy that can be shared by others after one’s demise at those events in any synagogue. Of course, there are those who have fears and concerns what death will be like and what will happen to the soul, the neshama. But that is another discussion I will share in future article. Returning to the legacy, for many it was comforting being able to record one’s life either a recording, writings in a book, photo journals with narrative messages, scraps of items that brought comfort or meaning to a person. Chaplains are trained and educated especially via CPE how to utilize many avenues of helping a person realize his or her legacies which will be remembered by someone. Of course, a rabbi could arrange a siyum or even a tikum where words of praise, words of meaning will bring comfort to ones neshama including the prayers a kaddaishim. I remember doing a funeral of a resident (patient) from the snf I worked for. He was a brilliant scientist who had hundreds of patents for the US Navy. He was concerned who will write his epitaph? Who will know what to inscribe on his tombstone? When I arrived at the cemetery by his grave was a large matzeiva already inscribed except for the date of death. He made sure to have all burial arrangements made a long time before he arrived at the snf.

I would like to recommend for rabbonim in addition to dealing with end-of-life issues, burial arrangements, kaddeishim, yartzeits, etc., for those who do not have anyone to remember them after their death, or as many would say, “after they have passed on,” a legacy program. Perhaps a photo album, a recording, an album of messages, of saying anything they would like to be remembered. Perhaps as part of a yartzeit in shul to read some of what this person wants to be remembered. Even a prepared speech by the rabbi or gabbai on a persons yartzeit about certain aspects of this person’s life and prepared by that person together with the rabbi, rebbitzen or gabbai while he is still able to share those precious moments or accomplishments. Any rabbi or rebbitzen who would be interested in a legacy program or ideas, please contact me. Perhaps you might be interested in discussing these thoughts with a chaplain or social worker. Whatever the case, it is so important to offer hope, to share emunah, faith in H and faith in oneself. It is so important to find solace and something tangible for a person’s future. Life cannot be so bleak. Find worth with meaning in a person and of course his or her soul. Life is precious. A legacy can help uplift a person’s spirits.

I once again want to recommend outreach, or assistance with those who are alone this coming Chanukah making sure person(s) have a menorah, a place to set up the menorah in a safe place, delicious treats that cannot be beat. Chanukah is for 8 days. Helping to celebrate even for one day or night is terrific, but bringing, giving, sharing, Chanukah spirit for as many days as possible will mean so much to those who are alone or feel alone. What a wonderful mitzva helping to uplift someone’s spirits, especially during their time of need. Conveying how much they mean to others and that they are not alone in this world. There is hope. We can find goodness in the future Bezras H.

There is so much to be thankful for no matter how small or little. Modim Anachnu Lawch. We love the Ribono shel Olam and He loves us. We cannot see, nor hear Him, but we know we are in His presence. We dedicate our daily lives to the avodas H through our tefilos, our Torah learning, our gemilus chasadim, our achdus, our kindness, our goodness, our midos tovos, how we are Mekadeish H with all our hearts. We give meaning to our bakawshos to Him. During the week at the conclusion of the Chapter of Reverence for G Parshas Hayira we recite “May it be the will before You, H, my G and the G of my forefathers that you implant Your love and Your reverence in my heart and in the heart of all Israel Your people, to revere Your name that is great that is mighty, and that is awesome, with all our heart and with all our soul a reverence for the exaltedness of the Infinite One, blessed and uplifted be Your name, for great are You and awesome is Your name Amen Selah ( Translation Artscroll Siddur Mesorah Publications Ltd).
Thank you. Respectfully and sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank