Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
<>=<>=<>Thursday September 29 ,2022, 4 Tishrei 5783<>=<>=<>
I am dedicating this article lezeicher nishmas my sister Tehila Zelda bas Tzvi Aryeh Halevi A”H who was a phenomenal daughter mother, wife and sister.
Rebbetzin Malkie Machlis of the Lower East Side whose husband is the well known Rav Moishe Machlis (may he have a refuah sheleima Moishe ben Channa Esther) mentioned to me that my sister, Mrs. Zelda Finkelstein reached her potential and was able to enter Gan Eiden completely. She was able to accomplish much and I will share with you several of those things which made her so special.
She was a graduate of NYU and a polished pianist who loved music and singing whenever possible. Though in the secular world she was successful, in the Torah world, being a frum woman was of utmost importance. Years ago, she had worked for Beech -Nut Baby Foods in the advertising department and was well liked and respected. During the summer months, when my family would stay in a bungalow colony upstate New York, my sister wanted to be with the family for Shabbos. She was told she had to work until a certain time including Fridays. That posed a serious challenge as traveling by car or bus took at least 3 hours as there were no highways to the “country” as there are now. There was no way she would be able to arrive in time for Shabbos. The company compromised by giving her a lift to one of the upstate local airports via a company plane so she could work until a certain time on Friday and get to the country on time for Shabbos.
She fulfilled in so many ways honoring her mother and father and together with her husband a tzadik in his own right, cared for them through the years during any of their illnesses.
She was so well liked and I would even say loved by the hundreds and hundreds whose lives she touched, through the years even during any of her illnesses.
She was a president of the Yeshiva MTJ PTA and years later, took the helm of the Rivka Leah Blank Sisterhood with other distinguished women including Rebbetzen Malka Feinstein sol zein gevzundt. The Sisterhood was named after our mother A”H who was their president for many years. Rebbetzin Machlis sol zein gezundt reminded me how my sister reached her potential in life and surely after she was nifteres went straight to Olam Haba. Even though she was not well during the last months of her life, would not relinquish any of her responsibilities preparing for one of the last luncheons the Sisterhood was having that she would be involved in no matter how physically taxing it was for her. She was known for her chasadim, kindness, sweet personality, but especially for her love of the Ribono shel Olam. Her physicians admired her perseverance in not wanting to do anything that would reduce her abilities to function in doing mitzvos. Even towards the end of her life in the hospital, her breathing was labored, but she constantly refused signing a DNR and DNI. Some of the nursing and medical staff found it difficult to understand why she would not want to sign the DNR/DNI. She made it perfectly clear, she wanted to live no matter what. Her own doctors however were very supportive and respected her desire to live no matter how she physically was feeling. She kept on davening, saying Tehillim, reciting her nightly Krias Shema, and showering her children which included her daughters- in- law who she considered as her own daughters and other family members with immense love. My wife A”H and my relationship was extremely close with my sister. She was a tremendous Aizer Kenegdo, a phenomenal Ashis Chayil, her husbands chavrusa and a truly magnificent wife. She was also a wonderful mother. They were a fantastic inspiration to so many of the loving and caring relationship she and her husband my dear brother- in -law zt”l had for each other. Most of all for their tremendous erlichkeit, sincerity and honesty. She was such a good natured person. As Rebbetzen Machlis pointed out from Aishis Chayil “Piha Pascha Bechachma Vesoras Chesed Al Leshona” “Her mouth she opens with wisdom, and a lesson of kindness is on her tongue.” Her relationship with the Feinstein mishpacha and the Yeshiva was very close. Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l felt her levaya should be held at the yeshiva. The mishpacha requested the levayah to be held after the first seder so as not to disrupt any learning. Her Aron was right outside the yeshiva, but the hespeidim were held inside the beis medrash which was filled to capacity. The other rooms were also filled to capacity with many standing in the hallways and outside the yeshiva. Her kavod haTorah was very strong. She had a strong hakaros hatov, appreciation for the kindness of H and no matter what trials and tribulations, whatever challenges life had, her love for H never wavered. She and her husband brought up their sons with tremendous love of H, the Torah and doing many gemilus chasadim. She, together with her husband were wonderful role models who conveyed the essence of loving the Ribono shel Olam and the Torah with their heart and sole. Her husband my dear brother-in law was a well known CPA who embodied Ahavas Torah, Ahavas Yisrael, Yiras Shamayim and was always Mekadeish H. He was known for his tremendous honesty. My sister and husband had a special aura about them because everyone was held in high esteem, with respect for one and all. This carried over to those who were not of the Jewish faith, neighbors, clients, and others who they had any professional or other type of relationships. Amongst their many attributes were how humble and modest they both were. Their anivus was outstanding.
From Nishmas Kol Chai Song of the Soul by Yisrael Besser Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd. “ Until now Your mercy has helped us…Do not bandon us, H our G, forever.”
After enumerating the series of chasadim, kindnesses, that H has performed with us throughout our history, we turn to a tefillah that He not forsake us. This is because “hakaras” hatov doesn’t mean just expressing gratitude, but “recognizing ” the good-that without His kindness, we could not go on.”
From Darash Moshe(English) A selection of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s choice comments of the Torah, Artscroll Judaica Classics Mesorah Publications Ltd, Parshas Nitzavim Page 325 “ And you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring (30:19) Why do we need this verse to give us a reason for choosing the good? Does it not suffice to know that the result of choosing evil is death? Therefore we wish to say that this verse is intended to tell us what kind of good we are to choose; namely, a good that is powerful enough to leave a lasting impression on our children and students and make them also want to choose the good.
The Torah needed a special verse to convey this lesson because certain people, even though they themselves keep the Torah, do so in a way that discourages others from following in their footsteps. For example , some people give the impression that they do mitzvos only because they are required to, since they do, after all, believe that H created the world an commanded the Torah, They seem to devote their time and energies to more mundane pursuits, Their lives seem like and unending series of challenges which they must struggle continually to overcome.
Someone who keeps the Torah in such a fashion can only give his children the clear message that Torah is a heavy burden and the best we can hope for is to endure it. The children of such people are likely to feel that they lack their father’s will power and to think there is no point in even making an effort to keep the Torah, Obviously, this is not the ideal.
Instead, H wants us to study Torah and do mitzvos with joy and enthusiasm, as if our entire satisfaction in life comes from them rather than from the illusory pleasures with which the material world tries to exempt us. We must show our children through our behavior that the follies of the world are worthless compared to the eternal life of the World to Come, which can be attained only through Torah and mitzvos, and that it is worth giving up all the pleasures of this world just for the sake of any one of the mitzvos.
This then, is the true meaning of the Torah’s injunction, Choose life! We are to choose to live a life of Torah and mitzvos with such relish and enthusiasm that our children and everyone around us will want to follow our example.”
From Rav Dovid Feinstein on the Parsha by Rabbi Aaron D, Mehlman, Rav, Congregation Ohav Sholom and talmid of Rav Feinstein zt”l in the Flatbush Jewish Journal September 22, 2022 Page 20. “Atem Nitzavim Hayom Kulchem You stand this day all of you, before your G.” What is the meaning and intent of this posuk? Obviously, the Jewish Nation was physically standing together, receiving the divine message and entering into the covenant with H.
Answer: Nitzavim- the Torah emphatically states, “ Every Jew is influential!”
If we probe further, the posuk suggests that not only is every Jew “chashuv,” they are of equal importance.
But this idea is more profound still.
Nitzavim: You have all been promoted to the executive branch; you’ve become ‘officials’ in a new Jewish governmental body, distinguished office holders in the exalted government of G!
“All of you”
The message here is that every Jew is personally responsible for the success of the new government and future advancement of G’s holy People.
The continuity of H’s Nations hinges upon the scrupulous observance of mitzvos of each member of the tribe.
No person should ever think to himself or herself, “I am a nobody, I don’t count in the grand scheme of things and have no value in Klal Yisrael !”
The absolute opposite is true ! We are all Nitzavim, decorated, honored members of the elite ruling class.
But this great power comes great responsibility, Our ascendency to nobility dramatically intensified the achraius (responsibility) for upholding the Law and escalates the need for every Jew’s punctual adherence to mitzvos and customs of the new government and expanded Torah Nation.
Truly then, we stand this day, deputized, energized, elevated and proud to serve in the capacity of Nitzavim- and bring honor to H and glory to the Jewish People.”
Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l was extremely conscious of every word he said, careful not to speak loshon hara, the importance of achdus, and how vital to remember the importance of being Mekadeish H. We are always in the presence of the Ribono shel Olam, how we act, what we say, what we do, should always reflect that we are Yiddim.
Those ideals were of great importance to my sister and brother- in- law . So should they be for all of us especially in these days of Awe. They should reflect our love for H and be proud of who we are. My dear sister Tehilla Zelda bas Tzvi Aryeh Halevi A”H (known as Zelda) and to my dear brother- in -law Sender Zev be Moshe HaKohen Zt”l (known as Willie), left a tremendous void in Klal Yisrael with their loss, but their legacy, their mesorah lives on. My sister’s yartzeit was Tzom Gedaliah. She should be a meliza yeshara for her mishpacha and for Klal Yisrael. She truly met her potential and showed the way how we could all reach our potential.
We are living in challenging times for various obvious reasons. It is of utmost importance to convey hope for our future whether it be in Israel or any other place in the world. It is not suffice to have just emunah, hope and faith, we must have bitachon, trust in H. However, we must do our hishtadles, As the saying goes, H helps those who help themselves. Rabbonim, Rebbetzens and Chaplains have golden opportunities of giving encouragement, confidence and when possible help in finding solutions, giving needed assistance or even making a referral for professional help as necessary. Finding the appropriate words, using the helpful tact and most of all, knowing how much is in ones domain of giving help when needed is important to be aware of.
In many of my articles, I have shared stories, quotes, different scenarios of life, personal and about others with their permission of course. I have shared the essence of caring, of opening ones heart to understand the feelings, the trials and tribulations of others and often the challenges many go through. I have written about loneliness vs emptiness. The differences between having rachmanus, pity or caring for a person in a positive way. Life does go on, but there are opportunities giving to others in their time of need. What is their need and when is it time to offer a helping hand, a good word, a vote of confidence, a shidduch, a shoulder to lean or cry on? That is something within the realm of a caring, sincere and knowledgeable Rabbi, Rebbetzin and Chaplain.
From: Between Me and You Heartfelt Prayers for Each Jewish Woman. Compiled and adapted from the prayers of Rav Noson Sternhartz by Yitzchok Leib Bell. Nachas Books.
“Blessed G, help me pray to You
With concentration and energy,
So that through the vitality of my prayers,
I can find renewed life.”
“ Dear G, give me strength
To pray to You.
Let me never give up calling out to You
Or believing in the power of prayer.”
“ Dear G, bring me peace of mind
To choose wisely what I say,
And bring goodness into my words
So that they are heard and acceptable.
Please be there with me
Whenever I speak.
Then everything I say
Will be blessed by You.”
From : The Gentle Weapon Prayers
for Everyday and No So Everyday Moments.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Jewish Lights Publishing
You Who are full of compassion,
teach me to be like You.
Teach me to be kind and generous
just as You are kind and generous
to all Your creations.
help me develop true sensitivity
and genuine compassion
toward everything in Creation.”
Loving, caring G,
all the happiness and fulfillment
in my life
come only from You.
Knowing how absolute
is my dependence on You,
I find peace of mind.
suffuses my life,
caressing me with
hope, joy and love.
I’ve tasted Your love,
I’ve known Your compassion,
I’ve experienced Your patience,
and I am filled with
Wishing all a Gmar Chasima Tovah, a sweet and meaningful year, filled with good health, maysim tovim, simchas, and the ability to be good ambassadors of H and of Klal Yisrael. May our lives filled with simcha hachayim. May our tefillos and our bakashos on behalf of others for those who need a refuah, for shidduchim, for parnasah for much happiness and joy in their lives be fulfilled.
Sincerely , Rabbi Yehuda Blank