From the desk of Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
<><><> Thursday, January 27, 2022- Shevat 25, 5782 <><><>
THE WORRIES THAT RABBI’S, REBBITZEN’S AND CHAPLAIN’S OFTEN HEAR
I’M PETRIFIED – I’M AFRAID- I DON’T WANT TO DIE- I DON’T WANT TO GET SICK,-I’M A SENIOR CITIZEN AND DON’T WANT TO BE A VICTIM OF A ROBERY OR SUCKER PUNCHED- I STILL AM NOT GOING TO SHUL- PEOPLE I KNOW KEEP ASKING HOW I CAN SURVIVE- I’M SO SAD ABOUT THAT SWEET SMILING YOUNG POLICE OFFICER SHOT AND KILLED WITH A FELLOW POLICE OFFICER – I AM FEELING SO DEPRESSED- LSTENING TO THE RADIO, WATCHING THE TELEVISION, READING THE NEWSPAPERS OF CRIME HAPPENING EVEN IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD-SO MANY ADS ABOUT SEGULOS, FOR SHIDDUCHIM, FOR HEALTH, MAYBE I SHOULD GIVE MORE MONEY- OH MY GOSH, I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO- I FEEL SO LONELY- I FEEL SO HELPLESS – I AM SO AFRAID ABOUT THE PROCEDURE I HAVE TO HAVE. MY DOCTOR SAID NOT TO WORRY, BUT I AM WORRIED– WHAT IF SOMETHNG GOES WRONG? I’M NOT THAT OLD AND YET, READING SO MUCH ABOUT THE SHIDDUCH CRISES, FEEL LIKE I’M LOSING HOPE- WITH THE AWSOME CHALLENGES I HAVE CAN I BE SUCCESSFUL? -HOW CAN I HAVE ANY EMUNAH, HOPE, FAITH WITH SO MANY THINGS I FEEL ARE AFFECTING ME AND THE WORLD AROUND ME? WHAT GOOD IS HOPE AND EMUNAH GOING TO DO FOR ME?
Life can be a bowl of cherries. The fruit is delicious and enjoyable to eat, even with the pit inside. In previous articles I have made mention about the challenges we all are having, but in recent weeks, in the city, nationwide and worldwide negative events are getting worse. The degree of fear is magnified just by listening, reading, or watching the news. I have often would speak to individuals who are fearful of attending davening, going shopping, attending a simcha, concerned about having a procedure done even when it appears to be a minor one. There is no simple answer. There is no magic wand. When a person is hurting inside, fearful about something, concerned about what might or might not happen just telling that person to have emunah, faith and hope might not be helpful and in fact raises even more doubts and questions.
I personally experienced the ever-changing events in a person’s life due to a traumatic illness. I never shared this, but there were times when my wife had gone into the pretreatment room and I was in the waiting room on a number of occasions, relatives of other patients who were also waiting for their turn for treatment, would come over to me asking if I could share with them how I could cope as a caregiver From the onset of her diagnosis, through the 3 ½ years of treatments, the times when a treatment was no longer working, the various tests to show any or less progress or relapse of her condition was heart wrenching. Yet, we knew we could not give up hope. My wife did not want to give up hope, and I would do anything for her day or night as she was such a precious human being and my wife. She was so concerned about me and shared how much she appreciated whatever I did. Though she felt sorry if she was ever a burden especially in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning to which I immediately would respond – absolutely not. How could I ever repay all the goodness she did as a wife, mother, and grandmother. The ups, the downs, the changes, the many difficulties, the ever-changing symptoms. The various procedures. The many different medications, the pain, the anxiousness and how things quickly changed for the worse the last months of her life. Where was the hope, where was the faith, how was it possible to survive 3 ½ years, the roller coaster week after week, month after month, year after year. There were so many wonderful times we had together, with our children, grandchildren, mishpacha, close friends and many others. How was it all possible? First and foremost, was the consistent faith my wife had. The love she had for the Ribono shel Olam. She never once asked why is He doing this to me? She might have asked as her symptom’s became more prevalent, why is this happening to me? Yet, she always had such will power to bounce right back never giving up hope even until the end of her life. Her hope would be with the Ribono shel Olam who will decide when the time will be. Our children the entire Brady Bunch plus one was so loving and caring. They all were so remarkable with their love and respect for both of us. The grandchildren were just so super. Our relationship was truly special and made the difference in the loving, emotional and spiritual support she received from myself, our mishpacha and those with whom we were close. Rav Dovid ztkl and Rebbitzen Malka sol zein gezundt till – mamesh until the very end were so, good to us and the mishpacha giving us the needed spiritual support we needed. The chizuk was ever lasting. I was asked especially the last months of her life what it was like, which I have written extensively in prior articles as a husband. There was never a doubt that it was a zchus to give any and every amount of TLC with much kindness from the heart. Never to say, “the pain and symptoms will get less or go away” or “you have to have hope and faith to go on.” No false comments. It just does not work like that. No fibbing, no making it up, be realistic, be practical, be honest as best as possible, be supportive, be caring and yes, be sincere. There is a saying, “patience is a virtue.” There is no question on how important being patient and having patience, especially as a caregiver and a spouse. Together with the medical and pain staff we worked together to find solutions and to find relief. There were many times when we would have no choice but to go to the Sloan’s Urgent Care. Being calm, understanding, patient, under all circumstances was so important, but always with encouragement and a dosage of hope and of love from the heart. Private bakshos to be able to be the pillar of strength of care without the tears. Yes, emunah, faith and hope are needed by all. Until there was no longer anymore that could be done, there was always the thought there must be a light at the end of the tunnel for each difficult juncture and it always seemed to work. I have mentioned in the past of my appreciation to Dr. Norman Blumenthal for his remarkable and sincere professional guidance which he gave my wife and me. It is important to seek professional help when necessary. My wife had very close friends- like family to her and to me -too many to mention at this time. One of our neighbors Mrs. Chaya Gunsberg had developed an extra special relationship who spent many private times with my wife including at the very end when I requested for her to join my stepsons and I to give her private moments with my wife giving last moments of her support before my wifes neshama left to Hawolon Haba and Gan Eiden. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful to the Ribono shel Olam for giving my wife the love and care necessary for her to be strong during all she endured during her lifetime and for her eventual journey to Hawolom Haba. Life can be frightening. So many challenges, so many pitfalls, roller coaster days and nights, with love, with kindness, with those extra ounces that can be shown goodness and the meaning of life, much can be overcome. With the appreciation of the brachos we received, strength of not giving up, the belief of how much we can and did overcome the obstacles of doubt, and desire to be loved by H, was so vital to us both. The fears we all could and do have, cannot be whitewashed, but our desire to overcome any weakness and pursue the kindness, strength and goodness of H will remain strong. I pray that I can continue giving kindness, hope and meaning of life to others as well
There are spouses who are concerned about their loved ones getting ill or wives who are concerned and request their husbands to daven at home. Shalom Bayis is especially important. Not only should the husband be understanding, but to be grateful for having a wife who is so concerned about her husband. Yes, there are many who do watch television or their computer for the latest news, listen to the radio, or read the newspapers about people of all ages being sucker punched, robbed and even worse- in broad daylight and in populated areas. It is vital not to belittle someone who feels strongly about wearing a mask or for someone who does not wear a mask for whatever reason he/she might have. It is important to respect the feelings of another person even if it is different that another person’s beliefs. There are individuals who are afraid of dying- from illness, a crime, a minor medical procedure, a ride on a city bus or train is truly considered more dangerous than years ago. Who would ever think there would be shootings on a city bus with other passengers on board? These people and others are really petrified to go out into the world, not even in their own neighborhood.
Being a good listener, caring, sincere, showing an interest in the congregant or those who a chaplain is ministering to is truly meaningful. Knowing the appropriate words, advice and support is very important. Recognizing when someone is feeling down and depressed (not clinically depressed- that is a diagnosis amongst other types of diagnosis a mental health professional can determine), overwhelmed, just in need of the right support is important. A helping hand, to know the person is not alone in this world. Sharing verses from our tefilos and Tehilim, singing a song with that person can all be comforting and reassuring. Offering words of hope, a periodic phone call, an invitation to a simcha, a Shabbos meal (not with other guests, but a time when this person can feel special. Include in shul on at a Shabbos drasha the importance of chesed, being kind to others, mido tovos and not being a stickler about issues such as mask wearing or vaccinations and getting into machlokes with each other. There are still comments people make about those who feel wearing a mask or social distancing is important to them. The same goes for those who do feel strongly about mask wearing or social distancing. Regarding shidduchim, be mispallel for those who do want to get married or remarried. You could do so from your hearts and be supportive should someone share with you their desire to get married and the lack of shidduchim being offered. Of course, everything is up to H. It is important to be empathetic about many if not all a person’s concerns Regarding shidduchim, knowing someone who might know of a possible shidduch or whom to seek a shidduch would be meaningful. Nevertheless, being mispallel for others goes a long way.
Chaplains know very well the essence of why listening is so important. We all don’t have the answers, and we surely cannot fix things in life. but the fears people have been real and cannot be brushed away, swept underneath the carpet, or put away in the closet or drawer. Chaplains who are trained, educated, and experienced know how important for a patient to really believe the chaplain is sincere and cares about him/her giving whatever support is needed and possible. Though not required, I volunteer for the NAJC Chesed Committee. Some of our goals is to give support to fellow chaplains in their time of need. Even chaplains need support and a sincere person listening to their concerns, seek a blessing for themselves, a kind word and someone to seek guidance as needed or possible. We all need each other.
Tehilim37:3“Trust in H and do good; dwell in the land and nourish yourself with faithfulness and delight.”
Tehilim 13:6 “But as for me, in Your kindness I trust; my heart will exult in Your salvation. I will sing to H, for He has dealt kindly with me.”
Midrash Tehilim 104:1 “Bless, O my soul, H, H, my G You are very great.”
Tehilim 33:20-22 “Our soul longed for H; our help and our shield are He. For in Him will be gladdened our hearts; for in His Holy Name, we trusted. May Your kindness, H, be upon us, just as we awaited You.”
Devorim 4:29-31 “From there you will seek H, your G and you will find Him, if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return unto H, your G and listen to His voice. For H your G, is a merciful G, He will not loosen His hold on you, and He will not destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant of your forefathers that He swore to them,”
Tehilim 104: 34 “Sweet to Him, may my words be I – will rejoice in Him “.
Tehilim 71:23 “Joyously sing shall my lips when I sing to you, as well as my soul that You have redeemed.”
The morning tefila of Mah Tovu (Translation from the Artscroll Siddur Mesorah Publishing Ltd) “How goodly are your tents, o Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel. As for me, through the abundance of Your kindness will I enter Your house; I will prostrate myself toward the Sanctuary of Your Holiness in awe of You. H, I love the shelter of Your House, and the place of the residence of Your glory. I shall prostrate myself and bow, I shall kneel before H my Maker. As for me, may my prayer to You, H be at a time that is favorable; O G, in the abundance of Your kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.”
This is from the Monday and Thursday Vehu Rachum Tefila “You, H do not withhold Your mercy from us; may Your kindness and Your truth always protect us. Save us H our G and gather us from among the nations, to thank the Name of Your holiness, and to glory in Your praise.”
H is a loving and a forgiving G who loves us, loves Klal Yisrael. We might not see, understand or be aware of His kindness, but it is truthfully there for us. We don’t know the answers, nor can we always’ see His kindness, but it is there. We have gone through difficult and challenging times in the past and will continue to not just survive but be successful and our tefilos answered. Not everyone can do it alone. Many need that extra support, help and TLC. Klal Yisrael should be zoche to do the same for each other and in a sense, to be able to follow in the derech of H.
From The Power of Hope the One Essential of Life and Love by Maurice Lamm. Rawson Associates Scribner Simon & Schuster Inc. New York “Hope is natural. We all possess it. It needs only to be uncovered, not discovered.” (Page 23)
“Six Ways to Beat the Odds
- Do not trust statistics; the ones you see quoted may not apply to you at all.
- Do not waste your energy denying there is a problem-use it instead to find the solution.
- Always leave a door open-in fact, leave as many doors open as you can.
- Study others who have succeeded in doing what you want to do. For now, ignore anyone who failed.
- Hook up with G- His partnership can save your life.
- Never say never.”
“One of the magical qualities of hope is its ability to silently reformulate itself to adapt to changing conditions. It defies logic; presses for life when life is impossible; turns us to the future when we are tempted to stop and wrestle with the past, and then moves us to begin that future. It makes us talk success in the presence of fear; encourages us to leap over obstacles; enables us to recoup it after we lose it; and then miraculously adjusts itself to suit our every change!”
May we be zoche to be given the wisdom to share the appropriate words of comfort and care to those who seek our counsel, our advice, and our blessings. May we be blessed to be a pillar of strength for those in time of need. May we be zoche to participate and ourselves be mekayeim simchas hachayim. May we be zoche to bring Klal Yisrael together with tremendous achdus and be Mekadeih H with all our heart, our souls, our might. Let us remove any kaiva and be mekayeim mitzvos lesheim shamayim. May we be zoche the geula sheleima venomar amein.
I have added this to my article and that is honorable mention about two members of the New York City Police Department, Officer Jason Rivera and Police Officer William Mora who made the supreme sacrifice and were killed in the line of duty. Having served as a Uniformed Police Chaplain for the NYC Housing Police Department and as a present chaplain with the Fraternal Order of Police, feel the sadness shared by law enforcement throughout our Country, especially the thousands from the New York City Police Department. The first funeral to be held Friday January 28, 2022, for Police Officer Jason Rivera and the second funeral for Police Officer William Mora to held Wednesday February 2, 2022. Both funerals will be attended by thousands of brothers and sisters of police departments from throughout the USA. We hope and pray there will be a turn about through the efforts of NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell where crime will be reduced if not eliminated with the changes in crime reduction and all elected officials joining together for the common cause of protecting, defending and enhancing the quality of life of all men, women and children who reside, work or visit our Country.
Thank you. Sincerely. Rabbi Yehuda Blank