Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
Thursday July 7th,2022, Tammuz 8, 5782
Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l A normal American kid who became the Rosh Hayeshiva of one of the largest yeshivos in the world. He developed thousands of talmidim and affected the lives of all Klal Yisrael. He developed Parkinsons disease and despite his tremendous challenges, continued with immense emunah and betachen in the Ribono she Olam not to give up. The feature film of “The life and legacy of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt” l by the world renown Rabbi Yaakov Moskowitz can be found towards the conclusion of this article.
Can everyone reach many heights and overcome difficulties in life? Yes, but in their own way. As rabbis, rebbetzins and chaplains we come across so many who struggle with everyday life. Whether it be illness, financial, shidduchim, raising children, adolescents with their own challenges of life etc. We have an obligation by the mere fact of who we are and our positions H Yisbarach has given us to help those in need however possible. Even just offering kind words, listening to their troubles, their fears, their concerns, their aspirations, their wishful thinking. Offering appropriate resources, a helping hand, and maybe a shoulder to lean on. Hope is not a magical word. Empathy is not just about having feelings. To find the right words that are truly appropriate is important. What does one tell a mother with a still born child, or the birth of a child who is missing a limb? What does one say to a person going through a serious monetary crisis? What does one say to someone whose shidduch just seemed to fall apart? What does one say to a spouse when their loved one is slipping away due to Alzheimer’s or Dementia? What does one say to someone who has been a victim of a crime? There are professionals who deal with specific issues, concerns, and crises. I hope to be bringing presentations dealing with many of these issues. However, just listening, offering kind words of support, having a heart filled with love, understanding, sharing the essence of emunah and betachin is meaningful. Not everything is rosy, but it really is possible to find sweetness and goodness. Helping to wipe away someone’s tears, and when the moment is ripe, to find even a little brightness and hope is so valuable.
I once asked my rebbe Rav Dovid Feinstein zt” l how he could shoulder the burden of so many who share with him their tzores. His respond to me – the Ribono shel Olam.
From Nishmas Song of the Soul The glory of an exalted prayer, through commentary, stories, and inspiration. By Yisrael Besser. Artscroll, Mesorah Publications Ltd Pages 34 -38 “Ein lawnu Melech [ozeir vesomeich] elaw ataw- We have no king [helper, or supporter] but You. When someone has nowhere else to turn, no recourse or solution, he is like an orphan and H has mercy on Him. this is a constant struggle, for even a person engages in business, attempting to earn a livelihood, he must realize that he cannot depend on any person or force. Only Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives strength and wisdom. Discernment and success is from Him, and Him alone (Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, Ohr Yechezkel).
Podeh umatztil…bechawl eis tzaraw vetzukah, ein lawnu [veozeir vesomaeich elaw atzaw-Liberator, Rescuer—in every time of distress and anguish. We have no king [helper, or supporter] but You.
The words bechawl eis tzaraw, in every time of distress, seems to be a continuation of the preceding words, referring to the fact that H is podeh umatzil, Liberator, Rescuer, in every situation. But there are those who suggest, writes Rav Yaakov Emden, that they are the start of a new phrase: bechawl eis tzaraw elaw awtaw – In every time of distress and anguish, we have no king…. but You.
“In my younger years,” Rav Yaakov Emden reflects in his siddur, “I thought like the first understanding. But as I developed insight, I was certain that the correct understanding is the second approach,”
The first understanding is that it is a praise for Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who stands by a person during his most difficult hour, but the second is that it is a praise to the Jew, who, even when life is fraught with challenges, turns nowhere else but to the only King.
Others understand the words to mean that it is specifically when life is difficult, and a person feels besieged by problems that he can sense H’s proximity and presence.
Sometimes, when it is darkest, it is the time of greatest hashgacha, Rav Elimelech Biderman compared this to someone knocking at a door, hoping to be allowed entrance into a house. When the keyhole suddenly becomes dark, the person on the outside knows that he is being watched, the host studying him through the hole.”
H is always watching and caring for us, even in the darkest of moments, He is there for us, and we can help to share that love and care of H even in most difficult and challenging of times. A person might feel alone, but he/she is not alone. H is with her/him.
There is a famous saying in response to a person who would say who will marry me? I am a certain age. or I have flat feet, or this and that – so on and so forth. Aside from the fact that no one is perfect, if the Aibershta wants a shidduch to come true, then it will. He is the King of all. Just this week someone showed me a picture of a couple the wife who is in her fifties married someone in his sixties and they are happily married. I will be attending Please G the wedding this Sunday of the couple I wrote about who both are cancer patients and both in their senior years. They have such emunah, such trust in H and much love for each other.
In one of my articles, I wrote about a woman who was devastated she was diagnosed with fibroid in her abdomen and would have to abort the fetus as she would be unable to carry a full term. She and her husband were not of the Jewish faith. This is when I was interning for my CPE(Clinical Pastoral Education) at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC now part of the Mount Sinai medical system. I was assigned to that unit and was requested to be the chaplain for that patient. We spent much time discussing their feelings, their concerns, what about their future without a baby to care for and watch grow up. Most of all, will not be able to have their own baby in the future. There were many tears, but we searched for any hope and the love they had for each other. I listened to them, I was supportive and encouraged them to find comfort in their religion and culture as they belonged to a certain church. They said their prayers and requested an inspirational prayer from me. They asked if I could remain in her room with them for as long as possible. When they felt stronger, I was requested to return before she is discharged for that extra boost of encouragement to help them in their future journey.
I would like to share the following interaction I had I with an older unaffiliated man who I know. He uses a cane and has several medical issues. He mentioned his wife who he has a close relationship with was away on a trip with a friend of hers. He misses her. He often feels sadness about his age, his medical concerns and taking care of himself while his wife is away. He enjoys talking to me, appreciates my respect for him, listening to his concerns and for sending time with him. He said I make him smile and always says wonderful things to him. I asked if I could share something positive, I noticed about him? He said of course but what could I find positive about him. I asked if he is ok when he arises in the morning? Why should I be? What should I look forward to? If I could find at least three things to be grateful for, would he be willing to say Modeh Ani giving thanks to G for those three things with me? His response was yes. I bet you I could find more than three things. When he gets out of bed in the morning and goes to the bathroom. I asked if everything is working, ok? He said yes thank goodness. Ok there is number 1. I noticed he was clean shaven. I asked why he shaves. His response he does not like to have stubbles. I asked if having a clean-shaven face feels good? His response,he likes to look good especially when in the company of other people like me. He also like to groom his hair which also makes him feel good. Another two points. I asked even though he misses his wife who went on a trip with some of her friends, is he able to makes for himself meals, have clean clothing etc. Not only did he respond yes to everything, but he also mentioned he is happy to be able to take care of himself for which he is grateful. He told his wife he will have difficulty taking care of himself while she is away. He mentioned he never thought about those things which makes him feel good about himself. Would then thinking about all those things he mentioned, feel at least a little more positive about himself and willing to concede he has been able to take care of himself. Also, feel more up beat of what he is able to do and maybe even give thanks to G for what he shared with me and his friends. He said yes. Did you ever think that G would be happy that you feel good about yourself and can find things that are positive? He shared he never gave those ideas any thought. He mentioned he is not a religious person. But he just feels so comfortable with me, never once making him feel not religious even when meeting him and his friends in a local park on Shabbos on the way to shul and with a smile . I did suggest when his wife returns to share how much he missed her and all her care she gives him. He agreed. It is so important to share the positive value of another person and yes, to acknowledge any difficulties or challenges a person might be going though or experiencing.
One other story. There is an older woman who whenever she meets me in my neighborhood, shares with me her “tzores.”. Whenever I meet her, she is having difficulty walking even with her walker and looks so sad. She mentioned to me her latest concerns in life such as her getting older, not feeling so great and not happy she has to take so many medications. She is happy whenever she meets me, because I listen to her concerns, always find pleasant things to tell her with a smile. She likes the blessings I give her and always finds something good and meaningful to share with her. I made a request and that was to look in the mirror and tell that person I said she is precious and an important person. She told me that was a good thing to do. It means a lot to her to be considered an important person – to me.
The Ribono shel Olam, loves us and we love Him. He loves Klal Yisrael . So we surely can love our fellow Yid and bring goodness to their lives as Rabbis, Rebbitzens, Chaplains with achdus and sincere care we can give for each other. Our Torah is our guide and our prayers we beseech the Ribono shel Olam for His guidance. We also pray to be Mekadeish H and bring kindness and goodness to one and all.
From Tehillim/Psalms 119 Taf “Approach may my prayerful song to Your Presence, H, that in accordance with your word, You grant me understanding. Come may my supplication before You, in accordance with Your word rescue me. Speak will my lips praise when You teach me. Speak will my lips praise when You teach me Your statutes, Proclaim shall my tongue Your word. All because Your commandments are righteous. Let [be ready] Your hand to assist me for Your precepts have I chosen. I crave Your salvation, O H, and your Torah is my preoccupation, Let my soul live and it shall praise You, and Your ordinances will assist me. I have strayed like a sheep, that is lost; seek out Your servant, for Your commandments I have not forgotten,” Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd.
AND NOW THE FEATURE FILM “THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF RAV NOSSON TZVI FINKEL ZT” L” BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE RAA/IGUD. RABBI YAAKOV MOSKOVITS IS THE PRODUCER OF “THE GROWTH THROUGH OUR GEDOLIM SERIES. THIS FILM AS WITH ALL OF RABBI MOSKOWITS PRESENTATIONS ARE TRULY INSPIRATIONAL. THIS FILM WILL SURELY ENHANCE THE DESIRE FOR RUCHNIYUS IN THE DAYS AND MONTHS AHEAD.
Thanking all the readers of my articles. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank