Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
917-446-2126 rablenblank@gmail.com
<><><> Thursday March 24th, 2022, Adar Sheni 21,5782<><><>
Kindness, Respecting, Honoring Ones Wife.
Seeking ways to lessen anxiety before Pesach for a wife.
How a rabbi, rebbetzin and chaplain can be empathetic, listening,
supportive and offering comfort during the days before Pesach.

Being considerate and being courteous are important attributes and
can help be Mekadeish H.

Be true to your heart. TLC Tender Loving Care.

The teller and the listener of the story.

Appreciation with gratitude to H.

The importance of not saying, “I know how it feels”

Having a guest at the Seder who misses his/her loved one.

Several personal reflections/


There are many true-life stories about Rav Avraham Pam ztl, Rav Dovid Feinstein ztl and Rav Chaim Kaniefsky ztl regarding the care, respect, and honor they gave their rebbetzins. Rav Pam did not feel it was below his dignity to help his wife with various house chores. When a husband was seeking advice from RavPam regarding shalom bayis, that helping his wife at home would take away from his learning, not only did Rav Pam share the importance of helping his wife but set an example for this young married man to see what he was doing. Rav Dovid would often go shopping for Shabbos, help set the Shabbos table and other things as well. When going together by car, he would first make sure she was comfortable in the front passenger seat, and then would close the door for her then get into the car in the rear seat. There are many other instances of the kindness, respect, and honor he gave his rebbetzin sol zein gezundt. Rav Shlomo Kaneivsky in a video interview about his father mentioned how he was makpid to eat two meals a day (lunch and supper) with his wife. He would not eat any of the meals without her. He would rather go without eating then eat without her. His son also mentioned when he and his siblings were younger, in addition to all the learning their father would review with them, he enjoyed taking walks with the children and telling them many stories. He always had a story to tell, and they couldn’t wait for him to tell it again and again. The son mentioned his father was a great storyteller.

Preparing for Pesach can be stressful for those who take it upon themselves to feel the burden is on their shoulders especially the wife. Of course, strategy, deciding in advance as much as possible how many meals, how many will be present at those meals, a menu for each meal, what groceries are needed, including chol hamoed, and what items are need for the Seder. Will paper goods be used or regular silverware and dishes? What absolutely are the areas in the apartment or house that must be cleaned for Pesach. It is important to recognize the difference between Spring Cleaning and those areas that have been exposed with chametz. In other words what needs to be cleaned and what does not have to be cleaned. An important recommendation is delegating different responsibilities. All the above are just suggestions to be shared with families who are prone to becoming stressed out. One might ask, well after X number of years, wouldn’t families, especially the husbands know what to do. Perhaps, I should say yes.

I was speaking to a husband whose wife is quite anxious even without company other than those who are home. Especially with company whether it be married children or other guests. I listened to his concerns about his wife, I felt for him as I did for several others who have asked for my advice or thoughts that could be helpful. I asked if it were possible to find a quiet place in the house or even for a walk, a drive in the car, anything that might be conducive to a relaxing discussion. What are his wife’s fears, anxiousness about Pesach and then reflect on what her thoughts I also asked if the husband would consider purchasing something special for his wife for Yom Tov whether it be jewelry, a trinket, or anything that would put a smile on her face for your appreciation for her? Many wives really do not know what cleaning must be done, where one could be lenient, and where is not necessary to clean. Perhaps, she might feel the entire Pesach is her responsibility. Would she prefer rather than preparing some or all the food, to purchase ready made. Would she prefer going to married children rather than they coming to you and ordering everything ready made. If cost is not an issue, would she prefer to go to a hotel for part or all the Yom Tov. Of course, a wife and a mother take pride in Pesach preparations, but gently listening and encouraging by giving the wife the opportunity to share her fears, her concerns, what is deep down causing her to feel so anxious is important.

These are just some of the variables that can cause friction, machlokes, and other concerns affecting shalom bayis. Of course, being organized is helpful. What is truly vital is to show and give TLC tender loving care. To be understanding, respectful, loving, and giving the kavod both husband and wife deserve. Be considerate and courteous to each other.

There is no simple solution. Every household, the makeup of every family is different as is the relationship between husband and wife and children. Often, there is not enough time for a family or caregiver to ask halachic questions in a hospital or hospice. Orthodox Jewish Healthcare chaplains have a background in halacha and the resources of a posek for halachic questions should it be necessary. They are familiar with what a posek would offer his halachic decision as to what should be done for a patient or themselves. Rabbis and rebbetzins should avail themselves to contact the chaplain as he/she are very knowledgeable about healthcare facilities, visiting, bikur cholim, food and “millions” of other concerns that might arise before or during a Shabbos and or Yom Tov especially for Pesach.

I have been asked what was it like in my apartment? My wife A”H was very organized. When any of the children were still at home or if we had married children, everyone chipped in to help. She would delegate responsibilities and by the time Pesach was around the corner, she had everything needed for the Sedarim and entire Pesach. Most of all she gave lots of TLC. She was so loving of every member of the family with simchas hachaim even under the usual stress. Everything was with such kindness and filled with tremendous goodness. Shopping began in advance of Pesach. When it was cooking time, she first baked tons of cake and refreshments for everyone who was coming to be with us to have what to eat if hungry or to nosh on while helping. I can write pages of what pre, during and post Pesach was like, but not this time. The very last Pesach was totally different. Family cooked, baked, and brought so many good things to have. We were alone as many were during the COVID. Yet, we enjoyed every moment, every part of the Seder with singing, telling stories and so much more. Unfortunately, she was limited to what she was able to eat and drink. Her condition was slowly deteriorating. The IV fluids I was giving her were slowly being reduced due to her edema caused by the spread of the cancer to her liver. Nevertheless, our relationship continued to flourish, as it did unil her last days in May. Do I miss her? Of course. But my grief Boruch H has dissolved over the past almost two years. I am truly fortunate that I am not home alone. There is me, myself and I and that other person who I see in the mirror. I am grateful to the Ribono Shel Olam, to my wonderful children, stepchildren, other family members, neighbors, and friends for being who they are. Of course, there are times in the evening when emptiness is there, but for most part, I have integrated my life with all that I do and being with family and friends. Knowing my wife, A”H is in Gan Eiden in Hawolam Habaw is comforting and reduces the emptiness. She, her neshama is not alone and for the most part, I am not alone,

Every family is different as I mentioned above. There will always be some type of stress. How to deal with it, how to overcome the many emotions is not for this article, but the impact a rabbi and a rebbitzen can have by listening to the concerns of a congregant be it the husband or the wife. Giving uplifting encouragement can go a long way in helping to make Yom Tov special. Chaplains offer tremendous support for the patient, family, and care givers who might not have anyone else to turn to in the medical facility. The chaplain is sought after for his/her advice, care, and support. It is also important to be diplomatic when dealing with a healthcare facility staff. The right approach can make the difference for a loved one who is the patient and a Kiddush H. There are many Jewish chaplains who are from diverse affiliations who take much pride helping their fellow Jew. A Jewish chaplains can be an excellent liaison between family, care givers, the medical and nonmedical staff. It is always a good idea for a congregant to request from his/her own rabbi for his contact information in case there is a halachic question he/she would feel comfortable asking him. Especially if they will be away for Yom Tov.

Another aspect of listening. “To Tell and to Listen” from Rabbi Yechiel Spero new book, “What A Story” Published by Artscroll Mesorah Publications {pages 11 -13}. “There is LISTENING AND THERE IS LISTENTING.

Stories have been a part of our history since the beginning of time. The world begins with maaseh Bereishis, the story of Creation. The Jewish people are born as a nation through sipper Yetzias Mitzrayim, the story of our Exodus.

Many wonder how it is that there are so many stories. Where do they all come from? The truth is that if the Jewish people exist, there will always be stories. Every time a Yid overcomes adversity, there is a story in the making. Something special and inspiring. Something worth sharing. Since it is his personal story, he may choose to keep it to himself. But if he decides to share with others, it will most likely inspire, helping those in similar situations grow from his experience.

Perhaps that is the allegorical meaning of H’s instructions to Avraham (Bereishis: 15:5), “U’sefor hakochavim,” Simply understood. He was telling Avraham to count the stars. But maybe there is more. The word u’sefor has the same root as sippur story. H may be instructing us to tell our stories, the stories of the Jewish people, who are compared to the stars.

Every Yid glistens and glows. Each one shines. But though they burn brightly, stars are far off in the distance, millions of miles from us. How much can we really appreciated them? Could it be, though, that the stories of our stars are closer that we think? Maybe…

In every story, there is the teller and the listener.
The tellers seek to transmit the story to the best of their ability. If they succeed, then not only will their listeners appreciate the story, but they will be transported; they will feel very much a part of the tale. Almost like another character, watching the story unfold- in real time and in real life. The great maggidim of yesterday sought to achieve this, camouflaging their messages of mussar in stories and parables, turning their listeners into more than onlookers.

Rav Shalom Schwadron did not always intend to be a maggid.
But he was once asked to substitute for one of the maggidim who gave a weekly shmuess in the Zichron Moshe shul, which he did. The next day, he met one of the attendees, who admitted that he was going through a very challenging time, and the stories and messages Rav Shalom had shared the night before had changed his perspective. And eventually his life.That feedback changed Rav Shalom’s, as well. Little did he know, he would impact generations.

One story. But you need to listen. When you truly listen to a story, it can make an indelible mark on your neshamah.

When Yisro heard the news that the Jewish people had been miraculously saved, he blessed H (Shemos 18:10), “Baruch H…The Imrei Emes asks: How could he have made such a beracha? Doesn’t the Mishnah (Berachos 9:1) state explicitly that one may only recite a blessing on a miracle that happens to Benei Yisrael if he sees the exact spot of the miracle? Yisro wasn’t in Mitzrayim at the time of the miracles, which should have precluded him from reciting the blessing. The answer, says the Gerrer Rebbe, is that if one really listens to a story, “achein nimtza sham-he is indeed there.” Period.

There for the story. There for the lesson. There for the impact.
There for the story to do what it is meant to accomplish.
Nothing in this world happens in a vacuum. “Sham,” there, is
our destination. It is the place we are meant to reach.”
Rabbi Spero is sharing in his introduction the importance of telling the story and the person who should be listening the story.

Everyone has a story to tell about what is going on in their lives. Their challenges, their sadness, their happiness, their misfortunes, and their good fortunes. Their stories which a rabbi, a rebbetzin and of course a chaplain
listen to and then, determine what type of response is appropriate or needed. It is important to be empathetic, caring, and sincere. We observe the nuances, body language, the choice of words and or expressions. We all have memories of what Pesach was like in our youth. Often, we like to compare the differences from then and the present. For the senior citizen, there are the “Golden Years”. They can share many stories of what Pesach was like growing up and through the years. For some, there is the loneliness of not having any family to visit, or family at all. For many, it is difficult making their homes or apartments Peisadik due to their lack of strength or energy. Giving a helping hand is so important.

For those who lost a loved one, as with any holidays or event, brings many memories. Patience, understanding, and sensitivity is very important. There is a well known saying “I know how you feel” should never be used. I have shared this in previous articles. A person can feel for another person, can be empathetic for another person, but it is impossible to know the pain, the anguish, the sadness, the loneliness, the emotions of another person. If two people prick the same fingers, each person can feel pain, and can feel for the other person. However, neither can say I know how your pain feels like. It isn’t appropriate for a visitor to tell a mourner at shiva, who has lost a parent, I know how you feel especially since that visitor’s parents are still alive. How then can that visitor know how it feels?

So, what do you say to someone who’s loved one died and maybe will mention how he or she is missing that person even at the Seder table? The first thing is to listen, to share that you feel for that guest, or I hear what you are sharing with me/with us. I’m so glad you are here with me/with us. May the neshama have an aliya. It is also possible that person might start crying. Give him/her some space. You can wait a few moments or slowly go on with the Seder. When appropriate, a gentle hug, holding the hand is another type of support. In a quiet way to share you are there with that person. Perhaps that person would like to excuse him/herself for a while and when ready, return to the table.

There are many who whose loved ones died from COVID and from other illnesses such as cancer. There are many whose loved ones died years before, but they still remember that special person in their lives. This does not mean a person has complicated grief. The following is from MJHS Hospice” When You Are Grieving – A Guide to Understanding Loss”. Grief is such a hard journey that some grieving people think they are suffering from depression. But feelings of grief will ease over time for many. One day, they will be able t accept their loss and move forward.

It is important to know the difference between normal grief and clinical depression. Many of the therapies used to treat depression will not heal grief. Grief is a normal reaction to loss. Depression is generally caused by a chemical imbalance.

However, for some people grief does not get easier over time, Feelings of emptiness and despair can stay intense for a very long time. These people feel stuck in grief.

This is known as prolonged grief disorder (PGD), or complicated grief. Some experts compare this to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an intense emotional reaction to trauma, such as war or disaster.

Regular grief has ups and downs. It’s like and emotional roller coaster. PGD does not have any ups at all. You may feel constantly hopeless, worthless, and empty. Or you may seriously thing about suicide.

If you have feelings like this but they come and go, you are probably experiencing normal grief. Reach out if you’re unsure. A professional can tell if what you are feeling is normal or if you have PGD” It is important to remember not to be a therapist. To be understanding, supportive, compassionate, and empathetic. If you know in advance a guest you will be having is dealing with some type of grief, reach out to a mental health professional for advice. It is not unusual for a person long after any mourning observances will a person miss and remember a loved one. I know of an individual who was married for many years. His wife died and he eventually remarried over fifteen years ago. This present marriage has been a blessing to him as he is happily married to someone he loves. However, whenever there is a yartzeit for his first wife who died, brings back how special she was. He is doing well in the work he does and a meaningful relationship with his present wife. All he needed was moral, spiritual, emotional support and not to feel guilty for remembering his first wife. He will not be lighting a candle for his first wife. Her family will be doing so.

May the Ribono Shel Olam give us the wisdom, the strength, the abilities to fulfill all the forthcoming preparations for Pesach with ease and happiness. May we bring joy, kindness, and goodness to our families, to all those we offer care to, for each other and yes, ourselves. May we be zoche to continue to be Mezan Klal Yisrael with all our Avodas H. May we be able to be a calming voice bringing comfort and helping to reduce stress in the lives we care for. May there be Shalom Al Yisrael. Peace in the world and look forward to the coming of Moshiach. May we be zoche to be Mekadeish H.
Thank you. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank