Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
=-=-=-=Thursday December 8, 2022, Kislev 14, 5783=-=-=-=
The Gadlus of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l
teaching and inspiring us with the importance of
hakaros hatov through their actions.
“Chayim Aruchim helps families with hospitals ethics committee meeting.”
Another special article of importance I received from Chayim Aruchim.
Following Moments of Inspiration.
Rav Moshe would often give his hakaros hatov to the Yeshiva cook.
He offered his thanks and appreciation for those who would give him a ride in their car. The same with Rav Yaakov. In fact there is a marvelous story of both having a discussion about who should be sitting in the front seat -Rav Moshe or Rav Yaakov. This is from Growth through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin Benei Yakov Publications Page 41 “After a Chinuch Atzmai meeting, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein stood outside a waiting car discussing who would sit next to the driver and who would sit alone in the back seat. Rav Yaakov took the front seat. After Rav Moshe alighted from the car, Rav Yaakov explained to the driver, “We were clarifying who would be getting off first. That person, we decided, would sit in the back. If he would sit in the front, the longer-riding passenger would be in the back leaving you alone at the wheel, making you look like a chauffeur. But that is not the case. We appreciate your importance and did not want to compromise your dignity.” (Rabbi Nisson Wolpin; The Jewish Observer, May, 1986, p16)”
A similar story is told in the FJJ Newspaper November 24, 2022 page 132
of Reb Yaakov in The life and times of Hagaon Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky by Yonoson Rosenblum, Artscroll Hakaros Hatov “ Nothing anyone ever did for him was taken for granted, When one of the women in Monsey whose family was close to Reb Yaakov drove him somewhere, he insisted on sitting in the from seat so that she would know that he did not view her as a chauffeur-i.e., someone required to do what she was doing-but rather as the generous benefactress.”
The following are some additional stories of Reb Yaakov from the FJJ Newspaper November 24, 2022 page 132.
“ Someone once drove Reb Yaakov to a meeting of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah. When he stepped out of the car, one of the members of the Moetzes, who had not seen him in some time, rushed over to greet him. The driver meanwhile drove away. Reb Yaakov was very disturbed when he realized that the driver had gone without having been thanked. He immediately asked someone to get him all the numbers where the driver might be reached so he could call him to thank him as the meeting was over.”
When he said danke (thank you), says Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, one felt all 248 parts of his body behind that single word. Rabbi Berel Wein was once driving on a tollway with Reb Yaakov. At one of the tollbooths, Rabbi Wein did not have the exact change and had to pay an attendant. Having received his change and driven away, he was embarrassed to hear himself reprimanded by Reb Yaakov: “ You must say thank you.” To this day, says Rabbi Wein, he cannot go through a tollbooth without hearing those words in the back of his mind.”
It never occurred to Reb Yaakov that whatever obligation of hakaros hatov he had incurred could be satisfied with a simple expression of gratitude. When someone did something for him, he made it clear that he never forgot it. In 1953, he was hospitalized for thyroid surgery. One of his students and his wife, living in nearby Washington Heights, brought him kosher food during his entire stay in the hospital. Reb Yaakov continued to mention their efforts on his behalf at every opportunity over the next thirty years, much to their embarrassment.
Nor was he content with mere verbal expressions of gratitude. He exerted himself physically for those who had rendered him any kind of aid. Besides his enjoyment of Jewish simchos and his desire to accommodate anyone who invited him to their celebration. Another reason that Reb Yaakov seemed to be at virtually every simchah was that his sense of obligation to others ran so deep. “ How can I not go, he did such -and- such for me” or “his father did such-and- such for me” were virtual refrains in his mouth. He would walk up a steep hill in Monsey on Shabbos night for a shalom zachor or fly to Detroit for the wedding of the son of one of his close circle in Monsey.
On one of his frequent visits to Toronto with his second Rebbetzin, an old acquaintance came to ask a few halachic questions. While they were talking, the Rebbetzin went out shopping, leaving Reb Yaakov home alone with her young granddaughter who was home sick from school. Reb Yaakov realized that there would be a problem of yichud once his visitor departed and asked him if he would mind remaining until the Rebbetzin returned. When the man agreed, Reb Yaakov suggested that they learn something together. But his visitor soon made it clear that he preferred general discussion to learning, and Reb Yaakov spent the rest of the time until the Rebbetzin returned conversing with him. As he as leaving k the man asked Reb Yaakov why he had not simply continued learning and left him to read a newspaper or otherwise occupy himself. “ Chas veshalom,” he replied. “You were doing me a favor and I could not let you sit there like a piece of furniture without honoring you for your kindness to me .”
“ Reb Yaakov was a living embodiment of the degree of hakaros hatov which the Midrash holds up as the ideal. As an example of how far the obligation of hakaros hatov goes, the Midrash (Shemos Rabba 1:32) interprets the statement of Yisro’s daughters that “ an Egyptian had saved them” as referring to the Egyptian overseer whom Moshe had killed. As a consequence of that killing, Moshe was required to flee from Egypt to Midian, where he rescued Yisro’s daughters from the shepherds at the well. Reb Yaakov indeed possessed that same heightened sensitivity to every little benefit anyone conferred upon him and remembered it forever.”
Most of all, we give hakaros hatov to the Ribono shel Olam. We all go through many trial and tribulations. As Rabbonim, Rebbetzins and Chaplains, we see, we hear, and at times we can say we experience through our feelings the challenges of those who we offer our care to . I personally have received phone calls from individuals who are going through medical challenges, in pain, and concerned what the future has in store for them. Several have spouses who are also not well. They share their worries, their concerns and their fears with me. We search for that which would bring them comfort. They shared their medical, their spiritual and their emotional thoughts with me. Yet, we have been able to find rays of hope and less despair. I listen. We join hearts together and are able to find common grounds of emunah and what we have hakaros hatov for. They feel uplifted and with kindness even amongst the difficulties they have. As Rabbonim, Rebbetzins and Chaplains, we are grateful for whatever wisdom Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives us to offer our compassion, our care, our goodness, and whatever inspiration we can give to those in their time of need.
From Perek Shirah The Song of the Universe Translation and insights by Rabbi Nosson Scherman. Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd page 53.
“The Apple Tree Says” Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the sons. In its shade I delighted and sat, and its fruit is sweet to my palate.” ( Song of Songs 2:3) “ When the Patriarch Jacob came to receive the blessings from his father Isaac, the scent of a blessed “field” came into the room with him. It was the scent of an apple orchard, the Sages teach, the scent of the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. A scent is not only a reflection of the person from whom it emulates, it deposits its fragrance on his neighbors as well. This is why we eat an apple on Rosh Hashanah to inspire ourselves not only to personal growth, but to have a positive influence on others.”
From The Gentle Weapon Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments Timeless Wisdom from the Teachings of the Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Jewish Lights Publishing.
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
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank
Center for Culturally Sensitive Health Advocacy & Counseling
A Project of Agudath Israel of America