Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
⬄⬄⬄Thursday November 3,2022, 25 Cheshvan 9, 5783⬄⬄⬄
Kindness, music, memories, joy, tears, sadness and uplifting.
What do all of the above have in common ?
On Sunday, I was nicham aveilos the family of R’ Alexander Zishe Rosenblum z”l. When I entered the room and came close to the brothers, R’Sholi Rosenblum recognized me from my grandson’s bar mitzva. He was so animated with a glow on his face sharing with those who were present who I was and about the bar mitzva. Though there was sadness of the loss of his brother, discussion of how the Tantzers bring so much simcha to the families of those in need of being uplifted and how much it means so much to the Rosenblum family. Everyone was in awe listening to R’ Sholi sharing the simcha of bringing happiness and joy to others. Whatever the Tantzers have done, are doing and will continue to do is a zechus for R’ Alexander. This brings much comfort to this family. Their father was comforted knowing how much happiness the Tantzers bring to others as it did to my son, daughter(in-law)entire mishpacha and most of all to Moishe the bar mitzva bachur.
Some time ago, on one of the Jewish sites there was a video shown during the pandemic in Eretz Yisrael friends of a Chasan and Kallah standing on several different balconies in a building singing to be mesameiach them as they were unable to attend the chasunah.
Music can be soothing, exciting, uplifting and can elicit different types of emotions. I would like to share some of those feelings especially to Jewish patients.I will go back in time during my years with hospice and share how music was an important asset to many of my visits. What instrument did I Use? Did I bring singers with me ? My phone was my concert, my singers, music of memories, music of the High Holy Days, music of rememberance, music of tears, music of where I knew my patients wished to be. I will share some of those visits of the Jewish patients some who though not Orthodox, but very Jewish in their hearts. Many wished to hear certain songs from various singers. They brought back memories that were very spiritual and comforted them.
Mrs. Rebecca Schwartz (not her real name) was a Holocaust survivor. Her husband was deceased a number years before. She was heartbroken to have a son who never married, seldom visited but remained Jewish. She shared many aspects of her family history and what it was like when she was a child. There were two songs she asked me to play which brought back special memories. One was “My Yiddishe Mama” and the other was Ani Maamin which brought back memories of the war years. She missed her mother very much. She often would ask me if she will be together with her again in heaven. But what if she did not keep her mother’s wish for her to never forget her religion. What did that mean? Through the years she no longer kept kosher on the outside of her home and even stopped going to synagogue, but she never forgot who she was. She married a Jewish man who also was proud to be a Jew, but like her was more of a secular Jew. “My dear rabbi, look what happened to my daughter Shaindel. She married someone not Jewish. What will happen to my grandchildren? What will become of them? Please rabbi, pray for me and my neshama. Please play My Yiddshe Mama when Sheindel comes to visit me. Please be here at my side when she comes. I am afraid I will burst out crying and I love her so much no matter what.” I told her I will do as she requested. I asked Sheindel if she could sit next to her mother’s bed and hold her hand. “Your mother would like me to play this song as it means so much to her. ”They both embraced with tears flowing. “My dear Shaindel, who is going to say Kaddish for me when I die?” Her mother asked. “Joseph my son (not his real name) will not and your husband (Bob not his real name) is not Jewish. “Why did you marry him?” “Please play the Ani Maamin. I want Sheindel to hear it . Mama, Shiendel said. I love you so much and Bob is willing for me to remain Jewish and I can go to the synagogue to say the Kaddish. But who will sit shiva for me after I die? I will Mama. You will always be my Yiddishe Mama and I will bring up my children, your grand children Jewish. And Mama, I will ask the rabbi for guidance and play in my house My Yiddishe Mama so as not to forget how much it means to you.” I asked Mrs. Schwartz in addition to Sheindel saying the Kaddish, would she like for me to say the Kaddish also. “Yes dear rabbi, please do that for me at least for awhile. “After she died, I said the Kaddish for one month. Sheindel did call me for advice and how to keep her word she gave to her mother. She requested I visit her at her mother’s home during the week of shiva and sure enough she was observing the shiva to the best of her ability with a candle burning. She would attend a local Chabad shul to say the Kaddish. She told me she would play My Yiddishe Mama and would try her best to instill in her children the meaning of being a proud Jew. Her husband would also follow certain Jewish customs she remembered as a child growing up.
Another patient before the High Holy Days would share with me how much he enjoyed listening to Barbra Streisand sing Avinu Malkeinu . He asked me to please sing that prayer with him and also the Kol Nidrei. When I am in the synagogue, I should also pray for him as he does not know how to say the prayers. Listening to those holy songs uplifts his spirits. He does not want to die without those holy words coming from his lips. He felt the singers sweet voice meant so much for him and the sweet prayers as if they were being sung just for him. Rabbi he told me, “I know she is not a cantor, but the words and the music mean so much to me. At least in my dying days, I can hear those prayers.”
I had patients who wanted to listen to the Barry Sisters, Moishe Oysher and others. This was their connection to their High Holy Days or in general, bring back the olden days growing up in a traditional and for some an Orthodox home. I had patients who wanted to hear Yossel Rosenblatt, Richard Tucher and Jan Pierce. There were times when I was requested to play Philharmonic classical concerts. There were also requests to hear chasunah music and dance the Horah holding hands while the patient was laying in bed or sitting on a chair singing Simon Tov Umazel Tov and other songs.
I used many diverse modalities, but music was especially meaningful and often moving. Whenever possible, I would request a Chasan and Kallah and family, a Bar Mitzva or Bas Mitzva and family when visiting to bring the music they recorded or to sing and maybe dance with their loved one .
There is so much we can bring life to those during challenging and difficult times. So many chasadim we can do. The most important thing to remember is being sincere. To have a heart of gold. Kindness not pity is appreciated. We must believe how much it means to the Ribono shel Olam. Avaraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu were so close in their love of H and how much H loved them. I have many stories through the years of interactions with others. Even as I write this down, I often thought about Avraham and Sarah and how much it meant to follow in H’s footsteps. I have been grateful to be in the daled amos of a wonderful mishpacha and also of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt:l and Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l It was so special being in the daled amos of an Aishis Chayel who was like a Sara Imeinu. I am grateful to be in the daled amos of dear friends who are absolutely amazing in their own relationship with the Ribono shel Olam. There is much to be grateful to the Ribono shel Olam in being able to follow the Taryag Mitzvos to best of our ability and share that love, that commitment with a continuous bonding of love for our Holy Father who loves us dearly. How special it is for us to be able to” speak to H from our hearts for those things we need. Our hearts should go out for those who might be going through difficult times, for those who are ill, for those who need sustenance and for those who want so much to marry. When I was with patients, I was mispallel to the Aibershta to help me give to them whatever assistance I could. I could share with you many stories. Here is one that came to mind as I was writing this article. One of my hospice patients who I visited was very close to her children, their husbands and grandchildren. She also had a close relationship with a local Rabbi and his Rebbetzen. Whenever I came, she would share with me many different things about her growing up and also her years in the Camps. She faced death many times. She recited Vidui many times during those years never knowing when her last day or night would be. She was in no need for any additional vidui as H had heard them many times. When her daughters were not nearby, she would share with me many things of her lifetime. She did not want any heroic actions for her to save her life as her life was saved many times, but would accept oxygen if necessary. She did not want to be rushed to the hospital. She faced death many times and was ready to face it again if that is the will of H. Her daughters accepted her wishes and reality of how ill she really was, but when I spent time with them they shared how much they love their mother and how much they would miss her. She found my visits very meaningful. One day, when I came to visit, the daughters mentioned their mother was quite weak and was in her bed and that it would not be a good time to visit. This would not be the first time that I arrived when a patient was not up to a visit. Though most of the time the family and even the patient would request my presence. Some how, their mother heard them talking to someone and she asked who may it be. When her daughters told her, she asked that I come up to her bedroom as she wants to speak to me. When I came to her room, she told me she already said the vidui – many times even today. However, she did not want to just talk to me. She shared her appreciation for my visits, all the time we spent together and for my understanding, and she wanted to give me a bracha which she did. She told me this might be the last time we will be speaking to each other and that she is ready to meet the Ribono shel Olam. I then left holding back my tears. The daughters thanked me immensely and gave me their own brachos. This was often repeated, even with my own family members- including my wife. As Rabbis, Rebbetzens and Chaplains, there is much to be thankful to H for every single opportunity we have to be there for someone whoever it may be. This feeling of caring, of being kind, of doing the mitzvos, gemilus chasadim with all of our hearts stems all the way back to Avarham, Sarah and all of our Avos and Imahos. The desire to make a Kiddush H is very important. Caring for a spouse is very important. Being happy for another person when he/she has a simcha is important. Not being judgmental is important. Caring for a fellow Jew no matter what his or her background might be and showing care for any person who might not be Jewish is very important. All with sincerity and if Heaven Forbid we might have slighted someone, to be able to say I’m sorry, please forgive. It is not enough to say I love someone, one must be truthful not just to the other person, but to ones self. What love Avraham and Sarah had for H and how much they loved and cared for each other.
From Between Me and You
Heartfelt Prayers for Each Jewish Woman
Compiled and adapted from the prayers of
Rabbi Noson Strernhaltz by Yitzchok Leib Bell
Published by Nachas Books
Mitzvot With Joy
Loving G, I want to serve you
And be really happy.
Help me come to great joy
Just in performing Your mitzvot,
And realizing how privileged I am
To fulfill Your will.
Let me be happy
Just in fulfilling Your mitzvot
With no thought of reward
In the next world.
But I ask, just send me
Another mitzvah to perform.
May my mitzvot
Tie me to You at all times.
Let me draw life to my very being,
And to the whole world.
Dear G, help me talk to You
About whatever is on my mind,
And especially about my desire
To be close to You.
Give me time to be alone,
To speak in my own words and language.
Let me pour out my heart to You
Sincerely and truthfully,
And build up my spiritual strength
Through my great longing for You.
From The Gentle Weapon Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments Timeless Wisdom from the Teachings of the Hasidic Master
Rebbi Nachman of Breslov
O loving G,
help me discover
all that is good,
all that is positive
in the world.
Camouflaged through they may be,
let me find
those elusive sparks of
Let me perceive all the beauty
hidden within Your Creation
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank.