Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
****Thursday November 24 ,2022, Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5783****
A follow up to being a caring husband as Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l
was to his Rebbetzin sol zein gezundt. All part and parcel of caring for
another person who is very precious indeed.
The importance of being respectful of those who wish to have
a Thanksgiving dinner. AND
the disbeliefs from those who cannot get over all the preparations that
a wife( and often the husband) does for the Holy Shabbos
throughout the year and before the Yom Tovim.
Most of all we give thanks to H everyday throughout the year.
Modim Anachnu Lach.
I have included an article by Rabbi Reisman “No, Could Have, Should Have, Would Have”. Maybe could have saved the life of one’s loved one. Maybe one’s decision could have, should have would have been different. Also the importance of a family seeking the advice from a rabbi, doing ones hishtadlis and ultimately and most important having betachon/trust in H.
This coming Friday November 25th, is the second day of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, which is also the yartzeit of the Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l . I have the distinct honor of including a special video of Rav Kotler produced by Rabbi Yaakov Moskovitz. The video has segments of well known Gedolim. The first scene by the way has Rav Kotler speaking at the Bialystoker Synagogue of the Lower East Side.
The link to the video and bio about Rabbi Moskowitz
can be found at the bottom of this article.
From Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin Aish HaTorah Publications Pages 46-47 “A husband should take care of his wife’s needs before his own.”
(Bereishis 12 : 8) “And he (Avram) removed from there to the mountain in the east of Beis El and pitched his tent.” “The word oholo (his tent) is written with the feminine suffix, the letter hei. The Midrash comments that teaches us that Avraham first pitched the tent of his wife, and then his own( Rashi). From here we see that when a husband needs to do something for himself and for his wife, he should take care of his wife’s needs first.”
“Rabbi Naftoli Amsterdam, one of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s closest disciples, moved to Jerusalem in his old age and married an elderly woman. Soon after their marriage, she became ill and he, a weak man of eighty, had to take care of her. He washed the dishes, cleaned the house, and did other household chores. Another man in his place might have felt sorry for himself, but Rav Naftoli cheerfully accepted his situation, for it was and opportunity to do chesed. (Maigdolai Yerushalayim, p 180).”
I mentioned in last week’s article about Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l how he cared for his Rebbetzin sol zein gezundt, I learned much from my father zt”l and how he cared for my mother A”H. I also mentioned in precious articles the importance of sincere love, respect and caring for a wife with a heart of gold and a heart of sincerity. These are important attributes for a meaningful marriage. Of course care and sincerity is reciprocal. It works both ways, between husband and wife. When I speak at a sheva brachos I give the Chasan and Kallah a bracha that the “chein” they shared and had for each other during their engagement, and will have at the beginning of their marriage should continue for 120 years.
Thanksgiving. There are definitely many opinions of whether or not to eat turkey or perhaps save it for a special Shabbos meal. Of course there are many opinions about having a Thanksgiving dinner all together. I am not discussing whether or not to have such a dinner, but rather to be understanding and respectful for those who choose to do so. Aside from the kosher establishments that advertise having Thanksgiving Day dinners, Super Bowl celebrations or even the secular new year dinners etc. it is important to be considerate should the topic of such meals arise or become known by the Rabbi, the Rebbetzin or Chaplain. I used to have Jewish neighbors who looked forward to having their family join them for a Thanksgiving dinner as that was one of the rare occasions family members were not working and able to come together for an enjoyable time together. Coming together for the Yom Tovim was no longer possible for this large family.
Let me share with you reflections of my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom Hakohen’s A”H encounters with her co-workers at a health facility she worked at. First I must share how respected and well liked she was for her kindness, how she spoke to others, her honesty, and respect for one and all. In fact, she was respected for being an Orthodox Jewish woman who never ever appeared to be holier than thou. She was admired for her sweetness, her wit and many sought her wisdom for their personal concerns. No one was insulted when she did not shake the hand of any man, Whoever knew her understood this was her belief that she held true. Actually, for many, it was refreshing to be able to relate with someone who was religious but not over bearing. Some had negative experiences dealing with religious figures, but found being able to relate with my wife meaningful. Anyways, getting back to the ranch, many of the women used to share all the preparations for the Thanksgiving Day dinner with my wife. This included all the shopping, cooking, baking, invitations, setting the table and so much more. There were co-workers who shared the importance of having at least one day to thank G and others who were focused on having family together. They of course, asked my wife about her preparations, and her stand on giving thanks to G especially knowing how religious she was. This included some who were Jewish but did not observe their Judaism. This was not unusual as my wife and I had many friends and neighbors who were not observant. Our relationships and encounters were always positive and uplifting without the I am holier that thou attitude. Ok you would like to hear (read) about what did my wife share with them about our Thanksgiving dinners. Let’s start with the meals. Her-co-workers were utterly amazed when she shared her preparations every single week for the Shabbat and whenever there was a Jewish holiday. They were “blown to pieces” with her response when asked how difficult it was. Were any of the guests bored with the same menu? Was she tired having to do the same every single week of the year? What pleasure did she have doing those meals? She explained that we give thanks to G even when we arise in the morning and everyday of our lives. Though it is praiseworthy even to give thanks to G one day of the year, it is praiseworthy to be thankful for so many different things G does for us all the time throughout the year. She also shared different recipes they might be interested in. But she complimented them on all the positive things they do and showed an interest in hearing about all of their preparations.
There are many people who are alone or don’t have the means of having such a meal. So when a Jewish organization like the Untied Jewish Council of the Lower East Side has a Thanksgiving Day meal, it is another opportunity for men and women to receive a delicious meal with all the nice activities that are offered. Of course they have something special as do many of the Jewish Councils and centers throughout the City where they have congregate meals and activities. This day has certain memories and meanings for many who are alone, are going through various challenges in life whether it be emotional, financial or spiritual. Many who are elderly. Not everyone has the same spiritual or religious background and even if they did, there are many who no longer observe or follow in the path of their parents or grandparents did years ago. It is important not to be judgmental.
Throughout the years I have been asked challenging questions about celebrating certain secular, non Jewish rituals, celebrations or prayers. I have been asked to share my wisdom or feelings about their relationships with G from the viewpoint as a rabbi in the community, synagogue or as a chaplain and at times at presentations I gave. I have given presentations to diverse groups on various topics, and following a presentation a question about spirituality could pop up at any time even when not the focus of the presentation or discussion. Having a pleasant demeanor, being tactful, sincere, caring and giving thought how to respond and what to convey are just some of those attributes that are important. Just like the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Dovid zt”l who would respond to shailos depending how and why it is being asked so too, I would give thought about how to respond to the question or inquiry being asked. There are wonderful opportunities to inspire others with our own emunah and betachon. Our own spirituality and beliefs in HaKadosh Baruch Hu. How and what we say can make the difference to others with our love of H. The impact and impression of all that Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu did conveying their love and beliefs in H to the multitudes of people who came from diverse backgrounds, will continue to inspire us forever.
We can decide for ourselves to eat or not to eat turkey and all the trimmings on any day of the week, or especially for Shabbos Kodesh. We can either make our own or purchase from a take out the turkey, stuffing and other delicious foods prepared for Thursday for those extra special Shabbos Kodesh delights. Also we can purchase from the bakery or home made, pumpkin or apple pie and some delicious parve ice cream for dessert. Oops, I forgot cranberry sauce.
From Parshas Chayei Sara Pathways of the Parsha Rabbi Yisrael Reisman, Compiled by Yehuda Kaufold in the FJJ Newspaper November 17, 2022 Page 126. “No “ Could Have, Should Have, Would Have,” Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life. (23:1-2). We humans tend to want to understand the cause-and-effect of life: why a certain person is having difficulty, why another has it easy, and so on, Even when someone passes away, lo aleinu, you’ll hear people asking questions at the shiva that bespeak their desire to determine out the “cause of death”- perhaps to placate their own anxiety that the same thing might happen to them. If someone died of a heart attack and the person asking has a healthy heart, he can go on living without worry.
In this week’s parsha, Rashi lets us in on a secret of cause-and-effect. He writes that the reason the narrative of Sarah’s death immediately follows the story of Akeidas Yitzchak, is because when she heard that her son had almost been slaughtered, he soul departed and she died.
So now we know-Sarah died because her son was almost killed, right?
No! For an ordinary person, this reaction would be understandable. But Sarah was even greater than Avraham Avinu in certain aspects! If Avraham was willing to go through with the Akeidah, how could Sarah die from fright when heard about it ?
In reality, we don’t see a cause-and-effect here at all; rather, we’re seeing a different secret of the world: the Satan’s ability to deceive us, which is one of his most potent tools.
Sarah was actually supposed to die at the precise moment she did, suggests the Ohr HaChaim, regardless of whether Yitzchak would nearly have been killed or not. She had been given 127 years to live, and her time was up. The Ohr HaChaim derives this point from the verse: Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life. Why does the Torah repeat the words Chayei Sarah? To stress that these were the years allotted to Sarah.
But rather than allow her to die peacefully, the Satan set up the circumstances of her death in a way that made it appear as though she had died prematurely, from fright. She saw an image of Akeidas Yitzchak, and she died. A clear case of cause-and-effect? No, it was actually more like sleight-of-hand by the Satan, who created an elaborate deception to make it seem as though Sarah’s death was linked to the Akeidah.
What was the purpose of this maneuver? To plant regret into Avaraham’s heart. Avraham leaves Har HaMoriah with a happy heart, having passed the last of his ten nisyonos, and he suddenly discovers that the Akeidah was the direct cause of his wife’s death. The natural reaction at that point would have been to feel overcome with guilt, and begin rethinking the whole Akeidah-and that’s what the Satan wanted him to do.
In 1986, my only brother passed away suddenly during an operation that no one dreamed would be life-threatening. Rav Pam came on the first day of shivah to console us, and he cited the Ohr HaChaim’s teaching. After a person passes away, he said, people often second-guess themselves and the decisions they made:” If only I would have done this, that, or the other, things would have gone differently.” Or, “It was a mistake to do the surgery.”
This type of talk is the work of the yetzer hara, Rav Pam stressed. If a person dies, it means that his time was up. The circumstances of his death were merely the Malach HaMaves’s method of taking his soul, and there’s no place for “could have, should have, would have.”
Because the Satan constantly tries to induce us into have misgivings over the good deeds we’ve already done, we daven each night, Remove the Satan from before us and behind us. We want to be shielded from the Satan not only before we embark on a mitzvah, when he tries to prevent us from doing the mitzvah, but also after we’ve already performed the mitzvah, when he tries to undo the mitzvah by making us regret our good actions.
Did the Satan manage to trip Avraham up and make him regret the Akeidah retroactively? No. The Torah tells us: And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her. In a Sefer Torah, the kaf of the word v’livkosa is small, signifying that the weeping over Sarah’s death was contained, or minimal. Avraham mourned Sarah the way you mourn a person who died at the proper time, without grief of “could have, should have, would have.”
I would like to add to the above the following. In hospice there were times when a person was sitting next to their loved one day and night, and as soon as he/she walked out the room the patient died. Why the patient died at that particular moment is not for us to understand. The fact is the death needed will occur. I have been involved in cases with family members having to decide whether to sign a DNR / DNI. Whenever possible I always recommended to discuss it with their rabbi. Every situation is different. Family members should always try to have informative discussions with the medical staff and whenever possible to have their rabbi included in their decision making regarding life and death situations. Of course, it is important for their rabbi to have an understanding of what the medical staff is discussing. The family or designated care givers must give authorization for the rabbi to discuss anything with the medical staff due to HIPPA. I personally was involved in many of such cases and would be a liaison between family, doctors, medical staff and the rabbi. Today, there are rabbanim, doctors and organizations such as Chayim Aruchim to call upon to help family members with their decision making and are able to converse with the patients medical staff. Having trust in ones PCP, primary care physician is of utmost importance. He/she could be extremely helpful with referrals, guidance and important advice for all medical decisions. If someone is having medical concerns, don’t wait to see if any of those concerns get better. Contact your physician right away or go to the ER for urgent symptoms.
The article from Rabbi Reisman conveys the importance of realizing when time is up for any loved one or family member. Second guessing which is so common will not and should not be part of any equation. Whatever decision is made should be with complete betachon/trust in H, for ultimately everyone is in the hands of H. Anyone involved with the care of a patient must do their hishtadlis, but once that has been done, they should realize that H is in charge and focus on their emunah and betachon.
From The Gentle Weapon Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday
Moments by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov Jewish Lights Publishing.
I can never thank You enough
for leading me toward
the path to wholeness
You’ve shown me how
to make my desires
akin to Your Will.
to rectification and renewal.
to deep solace and healing,
to meaning and eternal tranquility-
is only through
Thank You, G for leading me
to that understanding.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank
Biography of Rabbi Yaakov Moskowitz
Rabbi Yaakov Moskowitz serves as Director of Community Learning in Yeshivas Toras Chaim in Miami. He is the founder of the Growth Through Our Gedolim project, that creates vital, short, videos recapping inspirational stories from the lives of Gedolei Yisrael. As well, he is a dynamic lecturer, well known for his engaging shiurim, and his growth to greatness series, found on Torah Anytime and his numerous Whats App chats. He has touched the lives of Jews across the globe working in conjunction with formidable organizations such as, The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, Chazaq, and Guard Your Eyes.