Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
Thursday, May 5th, 2022, Iyar 4,5782
Never judge a book by it’s cover.
Two great Torah leaders
Rav Zechariah Wallerstein zt” l and Rav Nutta Greenblatt zt” l
A picture of Rav Dovid and Rav Greenblatt
A personal reflection – My neighbor and the Shabbat Candles
Their style was unique. Each was known for their gadlus. Yet, if you were to describe their greatness, you might have expected to see them looking in the style of many Roshei Yeshivos. Both were revered for their immense accomplishments, their tremendous Kiddush H. and how they brought Orthodox Judaism into the hearts and souls of Klal Yisrael in many diverse ways with tremendous Ahavas H, Ahavas Torah, Ahavas Yisrael. Please read below a partial description of both Rav Wallerstein ztl and Rav Greenblatt ztl,
(From Yeshiva World News and Matzav)
(Yeshiva World News) Tehillim was requested for Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, who was suffering from an illness for the past few years. Sadly, he was Niftar at his Flatbush home at around 5:00AM, Monday morning.
The Niftar had become an icon in the Jewish world, delivering thousands of speeches around the globe. He had an over-three-decade career in chinuch. A dynamic educator-with his trademark passion, clarity, and love, touched the hearts and souls of thousands of students from all shades of the religious spectrum. Around 15 years ago, upon grasping a profound paucity in the spiritual and social resources available to today’s Jewish women, Rabbi Wallerstein dared to step out of the box-and founded Ohr Naava, at a time when no comparable center existed. With his legendary foresight and gumption, the center has since mushroomed into a panoptic umbrella organization, composed of numerous programs addressing the gamut of Jewish women’s needs, including Ateres Naava Seminary, Tiferes Bnos Yisroel Seminary, Ateres Miriam Seminary, Bnot Chaya Academy, Hakaras Hatov Initiative, Ohr Naava Shidduch Initiative, The Yutta Zicherman Crisis Center for Intervention, and the therapeutic Ranch at Bethel.
He is survived by his mother, Charlotte Bunim, his wife Estee, who was a partner in all his endeavors, his five daughters, grandchildren, and the thousands of people whose lives he touched.” The Levaya was held on Monday at 11:00AM at Ohr Naava, located at Avenue V and East 22 Street and attended by many rabbonim and hundreds of others.
(Matzav) Before his passing, he asked that he be buried with his tallis bag seen below. Why? The explanation is astounding.
Rabbi Wallerstein proudly had a collection of nose rings and other rings and piercings that he placed in and on his tallis bag. These were rings that he convinced courageous girls to remove – forever. He inspired them to change and leave their rings and piercings behind, as they drew closer to Hakadosh Boruch Hu.
And that is why he wished to be buried with that special tallis bag. Those rings were – and are – indeed priceless, a testament to a lifetime of influence and inspiration, drawing neshamah after neshamah back to their source.”
(Matzav) “It is with great sadness that Matzav.com reports the petirah of Rav Nota Greenblatt zt” l, av bais din of Memphis, TN and noted rov and posek. He was 96 years old. Rav Greenblatt was born in 1925 in Washington, DC. In 1928, his parents moved to Ellenville, NY, where his father, Rav Yitzchok, a native of Brisk, became the rov of the shul. Rav Yitzchok then became a shul rov in Newark, which had a large Jewish community. Rav Yitzchok was not only a talmid chochom who wrote seforim, but was also a maggid, traveling around and speaking. In 1943, Rav Yitzchok started the first day school in Newark, which was the second religious day school to open in New Jersey.
Rav Nota Greenblatt was born in Washington but spent the years age 8 to age 12 in Israel. He returned to the US by himself at the age of 12 in 1937 to study under Rav Dovid Leibowitz at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim on South 9th Street in Williamsburg. The mashgiach of the yeshiva was Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg. Rav Greenblatt learned with bochurim who were much older than him and was able to hold his own due to his in-depth, Yerushalmi chinuch. He spoke a fluent Yiddish, which helped him become close to Rav Dovid. Rav Dovid told him, “If you are sincere and you know where you want to go in life and have a plan, you’ll never fail. You will always succeed.”
Rav Dovid passed away in 1941 and Rav Greenblatt decided to join a private kibbutz organized by Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik and his cousin, Rav Michel Feinstein, in Boston. Rav Greenblatt was the youngest in the kibbutz, only 16 years old.
After a year, the kibbutz broke up. Rav Michel Feinstein went back to New York and became a rosh yeshiva at his uncle Rav Moshe Feinstein’s yeshiva. In 1942-3, Rav Greenblatt joined Rav Moshe Feinstein’s yeshiva, Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim, and became one of a small group of his prized talmidim. Rav Greenblatt was close throughout his life with Rav Michel and Rav Moshe. In those years, when a phone call came for Rav Moshe, a yeshiva bochur would answer it. If the question was simple, the bochur would answer it, and if it was difficult, he would pass the phone to Rav Moshe. Rav Greenblatt fielded the phone for the three years he was there.
In 1946, Rav Greenblatt took the first boat allowed by the US government to travel to Palestine after the war. It was packed with hundreds of meshulachim who had been stranded in the US during the war. The boat stopped at the Azor islands, 1,500 miles west of Portugal. Rav Greenblatt got off and decided to look around and see if there were any Jews there. He asked around and a priest took him to a forest, where he saw a store with a sign “Goldberg’s Jewelry.” He went in, met a native girl, and asked her where Goldberg is. She pointed to the back. Rav Greenblatt went to the back, opened the door, and saw a Yid with a black Litvishe-style yarmulka sitting and learning Mishnayos while his wife stood nearby. Rav Greenblatt told him, “Shalom aleichem!”
Goldberg became excited. “You speak Yiddish?” “Yes.”
Goldberg hugged and kissed Rav Greenblatt. He was the first Yid he had seen in 5-6 years. Goldberg had come from Kovno on one of the last boats to Palestine. When the war broke out and it was too dangerous to continue traveling, the Azor islands took in the travelers, and he was stuck there for five years. Now he was waiting to get approval to go to Palestine, but an entire year had passed without the longed-for certificate arriving.
He told Rav Greenblatt that he had not eaten a piece of kosher meat in five years. Rav Greenblatt offered him a kosher salami sandwich and the man’s eyes lit up. When Rav Greenblatt asked him what he had eaten all these years, the man told him, “Seeds and grass, like the birds.” A year or two later, the Goldbergs finally made it to Eretz Yisroel.
In Eretz Yisroel, in 1946, Rav Greenblatt studied with Rav Michel Feinstein. Rav Greenblatt studied for two years in Chevron and was a chavrusah of Rav Aharon Cohen, later rosh yeshiva of Chevron. Once, during the seder, Rav Greenblatt heard something while learning that aggravated him and he stamped his foot and made a hole in the floor. The yeshiva decided not to repair it, because, they said, “This is how you should learn Torah — that you get so excited that you even make a hole in the floor.”
Rav Greenblatt came back to the US in 1948 because his father was sick. In 1949, when his father felt better, Rav Greenblatt saw an ad in a Jewish paper looking for an assistant rabbi and a Talmud Torah rebbi in Memphis, Tennessee. His father encouraged him to take it. Rav Greenblatt spent the next few years until his father’s petirah going back and forth between Memphis and New York.
When Rav Greenblatt visited Rav Moshe to ask his advice about the position, Rav Moshe encouraged him to take it and wrote him a semicha as he walked out the door. Rav Binyomin Kamenetzky, who went on to open Yeshiva of South Shore, drove him to the train in February 1949. It took a day and a half to reach Memphis by train.
The shul was called Anshe Sfard and members of the congregation were Jews who were born in Memphis. The only Jewish education in town was the Talmud Torah run by Rav Stampfer.
While Rav Greenblatt started out teaching in the Talmud Torah, his long-term goal was to replace the Talmud Torah with a serious Torah Day school. Six months later, he started the Memphis Hebrew Academy with the help of others. It was the largest opening at the time that a day school ever had – 34 students. Rav Nachum Lansky, a rosh yeshiva in Ner Yisroel, was in that first class.
Rav Greenblatt wrote the first check and, a year later, when he needed to borrow money, he borrowed thousands of dollars from Rav Binyomin Kamenetzky. He couldn’t charge tuition, because almost no one would have come. It was hard to get kids to come even for free. The school didn’t charge tuition for 15 years. Today, it is still open and going strong after 70 years.
One day in shul, Rav Greenblatt heard two Jews talking. “I feel bad about the Kaplan girl. She comes from a poor family, she keeps Shabbos, and she doesn’t go to the singles’ parties. She has no way to meet a boy and will never get married.” Rav Greenblatt said, “Who are you talking about? I’m looking for a girl like that.” Rav Greenblatt took the Kaplan girl on a date on the city bus, and they went for a walk. They married in 1949.
When Rav Greenblatt married his wife, there were family members who protested that he was an illustrious Torah scholar and could have married a daughter of roshei yeshivos instead of the daughter of a simple Memphis baal habayis. Rav Greenblatt later explained that his wife was virtually the only shomeres Shabbos in town, her family didn’t have money and led simple lives with strong Jewish values, and he had heard that her grandfather, who had come from Lithuania, had a store in a non-Jewish neighborhood that he kept closed on Shabbos. He didn’t trust himself to decide when to open it up after Shabbos, so he would ask a child if he saw three stars in the sky before going to open his store. Rav Greenblatt respected that ehrlichkeit.
Mrs. Greenblatt became a local rebbetzin, spending her time raising their five children and helping in the community.
In the early 1950s, Rav Greenblatt got a phone call from a woman in Clarksdale, Mississippi, named Mrs. Abramson. She had some questions to ask him about taharas hamishpacha. Rav Greenblatt was surprised and asked who was keeping these laws in Clarksdale. She told him that she made sure that local women were following halacha. This began a friendship between Mrs. Abramson and the Greenblatts. One result of this friendship was that Rav Greenblatt became the mohel who performed brisos all over the south.
Rav Greenblatt also started writing gittin. He traveled all over the US for 60 years to ensure that secularly divorced Jewish women receive a get. In addition, Rav Greenblatt built mikvaos in many cities in the south. He also worked for the OU and oversaw shechitah in the OU kosher meat plants in Iowa. He helped establish the Jewish high school in Memphis. He was a shul rov for 18 years and for the next 50 years maintained a minyan in his home every Shabbos.
He was also a rabbi’s rabbi, fielding questions from young rabbis around the country. Rav Greenblatt is survived by a wonderful family carrying on his legacy. His son, Rabbi Dovid Greenblatt of Lawrence, has founded and administrates several large charity funds, notably the Davis Memorial Fund, and is the author of “Call Heard ‘Round the World.” His other children are Rachelle Lapidus, Lea Fink, Jacob Greenblatt, and Joey Greenblatt.”
I had the zchus of meeting Rav Greenblatt when he came to speak to Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl and Rav Dovid Feinstein ztl in the yeshiva. His Levaya was held at the Yeshiva MTJ, and his Aron was brought into the Beis Medrash. He was a close talmid of Rav Moshe. There was a question asked who was the Talmid Muvak of Reb Moshe, Rav Nisan Alpert ztl or Rav Nuta Greenblatt ztl or both?
Amongst the many rabbonim, and those present were also talmidim and others who were from Memphis. The Beis Medrash was filled and overflowed into the hallways and outside of the building.
Rav Wallerstein and Rav Greenblatt inspired Klal Yisrael with much enthusiasm and their own kesher with the Ribono shel Olam. There is no question of the thirst so many had for true Yiddishkeit. Rav Wallerstein and Rav Greenblatt were able to quench their thirst with Torah Lishmaw to different populations and in diverse ways.”
This picture by Rabbi Yehuda Blank of Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l and Rav Nutta Greenblatt zt”l in the MTJ Beis Medrash, Sunday, January 12, 2020.
There was a young woman who had moved in an apartment right before last Shavuos on my floor. I gave her flowers for the Yom Tov. Whenever we would meet on a Shabbos, or Yom Tov would always greet me with a Shabbat Shalom or good Yom Tov or Chag Sameiach. This past Friday, with tears in her eyes informed me that the owners of the apartment she was subleasing from was moving back in and she had to move with her friend. She brought me a cake from a local bakery and even offered to give me the name of the kosher supervision. I wanted to give her a present that would be meaningful and then decided to give her my two crystal candle holders, glass inserts and a box of candles. I told her why they were special to me and should bring her blessings when she would light the Shabbat candles. I mentioned my wife A”H had two candelabrum is, two lichters, one which she owned before we got married and another which was a wedding gift. My wife wanted to light candles for both of us and all of our children- the Brady Bunch plus one. Before she died, she decided who to give them to when she dies (which would be a week later). I lit all the candles for a month to be a zchus for her neshama. After that month, I gave the lichters as she requested. We had two small crystal candle holders with glass holders for candles I lit every Shabbos and Yom Tov from then on. I decided to give them to her with my blessings. She accepted them with sincere appreciation. I lit two tea lights. On my return home from shul Motzei Shabbos she was in front of our building bringing items to a van. She still had things to move. When she saw me coming, she was waving me to come, as she had something nice to tell me. She told me she lit the Shabbos candles that I gave her. She thanked me and said goodbye. I repeated to her the blessings she will get lighting the Shabbat candles. No strings attached. I gave them to her with a full heart and she not only had accepted them but was proud and happy she lit them Friday for Shabbat. She was sincerely grateful. She had shared with me about her room mate. I was not intrusive nor asked her anything of a personal nature. My private bakashos to H to help her continue to light the Shabbat candles inspiring her to have a desire to learn more about Judaism and the beauty of the mitzvos related to Shabbat and the many other wonderful paths of Yiddishkeit.
INSPIRATION from Handbook of Jewish Thought” There are a number of ideas that form the backbone of Judaism. Without knowledge of these ideas, it is virtuall impossible to know how Judaism came to be as it is today, or how it functions, Unfortunately, however, the more important the idea, the less the average person knows about it.” The Handbook therefore comes to fill this void. “By Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. (I have taken parts from chapter 6)
(Page 83) “6:1 Although G created man to live on a physical plane. He did not close off the spiritual completely.
6:2 G arranged creation to that even while in the physical world, man would be able to open a door to the spiritual and experience the Devine. This would constitute the highest perfection that a mortal human can attain.
6:3 G also used this spiritual experience as a means of revealing His will.
6:4 One of the foundations of our faith is the belief that G grants such inspiration and thus reveals His will to mankind.
6:5 Since G created the universe for a purpose, it is inconceivable that He would not communicate this purpose to His creatures.
(Page 84) 6:6 The only way that man can approach G is by striving to achieve Hi purpose as revealed by Him,
By our love in H, our continuous love and learning of the Torah, the desire to fulfill the Torah and the mitzvos, we can be even more worthy of His inspiration. The encouragement we give ourselves, our mishpacha, to others gives us even more abilities of inspiration. We are mispallel to be able to inspire others as well. Rabbi, rebbetzins, chaplains have so many opportunities of inspiring so man others. Those others may not be rabbis, rebbetzins, but All can have immense faith, tremendous desire, and encouragement to also fulfill those requirements that will help them continue to inspire others as well.
Kiddush H. All Klal Yisrael can be Mekadeish H. I was in the local supermarket standing by the cashier when I noticed a woman holding one item waiting patiently for be to begin registering my numerous items. I requested the cashier if she could put my order on hold while she rings up that woman’s one item. That woman said,” aw you don’t have to do that for me” I replied, “why not? I too could be nice to another person. Both she and the cashier not Jewish comment how genuinely nice and considerate I was and thanked me several times. Both she and other people on the line also smiled. I mentioned to one of the store managers how friendly, helpful, and friendly the staff are to me including the cashiers. They are patient when I asked if a certain item was on sale went to that location to check it out for me. The manager went at once to tell the cashiers and others what I had said to the cashiers and other staff of the supermarket. They stopped to thank me as did the manager. They do not always have customers do that and to be honest when asking if a certain was on sale or not rather than insisting the item is on sale when maybe if is not.
Being sincere, being truthful, showing kindness and being kind, be complimentary when appropriate, showing care, just being a nice person is so important and not difficult to be Mekadeish H which you can be. Let us be mispallel of our bakashos, wanting achdus and Shalom al Yisrael. If an opportunity avails itself of something positive, have the attitude that everything is possible. It truly is up to Ribono shel Olam. All my absolute best!
Thank you very much. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank