Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
^^^^ Thursday December 22, 2022, Kislev 25, 5783^^^^
MOMENTS OF INSPIRATION
The importance of having a good heart.
A great party a great life. by Mr. Avi Shulman zt”l
“The Brocha of Benevolence.”
A heartwarming encounter between an eight- year- old boy and
Rav Elya Meir Sorotzkin zt’l Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Tiferes Boruch of Springfield
A truly sensitive story of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe “The Post Wedding Shmooz”
Rav Elya Meir Sorotzkin’s advice to husbands.
Chanukah: Some thoughts of what it means to be a proud Jew.
Is it only about lighting the Menorah, eating latkes, giving gifts,
and spinning the Dreidel ?
This is something not everyone thinks about,
but if possible, it is really nice to do.
(Read below to find out what it is ),
From “Candle -light” A collections of thoughtful insights by Mr. Avi Shulman A”H. ( Mr Shulman was not only a master teacher, he was on the staff of Torah Umesorah, head the Torah Umesorah’s S.E.E.D Program as well as various teacher training programs. Mr. Shulman produced audio-visual materials used in schools world-wide and has lectured throughout the USA, England and Canada on topics of interest to parents and teachers. He is the author of many works on self-help themes. Mr. Shulman was sought after for his tremendous insights, for his sincerity, his uplifting spirit of caring for teachers, parents and most of all the talmidim always with a heart of gold. There is much we continue to learn from Mr. Shulman and how we could apply his themes to our own lives.
From Candle- light Chapter 27 pages 123-125” A Good Party-A Great Life” I had the opportunity to attend an unusual wedding. The parents of the chasan and kalah were close friends, and I knew the young couple as charming people. The happy guests, the food and music, the beauty of the banquet hall, all contributed to the ambiance of the simcha, a feeling of total joy, For those few hours I forgot about problems, petty annoyances, disputes, and arguments. Forgotten were unfinished work and unpaid bills. For that evening, I was in a controlled environment of good feelings.
On the way home I wondered what would happen if we could invent a way to capture this special sensation of total well-being and somehow package or bottle it and have it available for future use.
Allow your mind to do some creative dreaming. Can you imagine a spray can of “good feeling” that you could open and use whenever you felt under the weather? If someone ignored you or insulted you, instead of getting angry ( or, as the bumper sticker says,” Don’t get angry, GET EVEN”) you would be able to inhale some magic spray and feel better! If you walked into a meeting and found a group of people with sour faces, you’d just spray some “good-feeling” into the air and in a few seconds everyone would brighten up! We would have an instantaneous best seller, a product that would sell in the millions in the course of a month.
As I was entertaining myself with these thoughts, I remembered a phrase in Mishlei where King Solomon uses two words-mishtei tamid, a constant party, to describe the level of continuous joy. Mishtei tamid brings to mind a person who lives a life of daily anticipating one party after another, enjoying them, and glowing in their warm memories. No time wasted to worry, just constant pleasure.
How does one achieve a life of consistent pleasure? The beginning of the phrase reads, lev tov mishtei tamid…- a good heart is a constant party. Here King Solomon opens a new understanding for us. Mishlei promises that each of us can achieve a quality life similar to being at a constant party simply by learning to develop a good heart.
A person who has a good heart is not suspicious, jealous, or hateful. He is not envious or resentful. He is not upset, or angry. He is pleasant, accepting, empathetic, sharing, and kind. He enjoys an openness in his relationships with people and tends to see the good side and positive potential of everyone he meets. A person with a good heart radiates cheerfulness and hope. He is gracious and almost always in a good mood. People look forward to his company and counsel.
In four words Mishlei teaches us the secret of the “good life.” It isn’t building large houses, acquiring expensive toys, or going on exotic vacations, It isn’t controlling people. It is simply developing a good heart to the point where your life becomes a constant joy.”
From the Yated Ne’eman December 16, 2022 page 66 about Rav Elya Meir Sorotzkin zt”l “ The Brocha of Benevolence” “ Tzvi was standing next to the rosh yeshiva when a father walked in with his young son. Father and son gave shalom to the rosh yeshiva. Then the father asked the rosh yeshiva to bless the eight-year-old boy.
“What would you like a brocha for?” the rosh yeshiva asked.
“Could you please give a brocha for my sister?”
The rosh yeshiva looked incredulously at the boy and asked, “You want a brocha for your sister and not for yourself?”
The boy replied, “ My sister really needs a brocha now.”
Upon hearing this, the rosh yeshiva gave a deep warm brocha for the sister, and then he looked at that eight-year-old boy who though of his sister’s needs before his own and was deeply effusive.
“This child should grow up to be a gadol b”Yisrael..,” he said, and he kept plying him with brachos.
The fact that this boy has such a tov ayin- a good eye that saw the needs of other and was able to transcend his own wish on behalf of his sister- meant a great deal to the rosh yeshiva.”
From the Yated Ne’man December 16, 2022 page 22 “The Post Wedding Shmooz” by Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger “Yaakov was a widower who was marrying off his son, and before the wedding, he visited the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak, Rav Yisrael Hager, for a brocha. Prior to departing, he was surprised when the rebbe made a request of him:” The night of the simcha, after the wedding, please come to see me.”
R” Yaakov explained that it would likely be very late at night, and he wouldn’t want to inconvenience the rebbe, so perhaps that conversation would wait for a different time. But the rebbe was adamant. Whatever time it would end up being, said the rebbe, he should come.
The night of the wedding, after the simcha was over, it was already quite late, but R’ Yaakov headed to the rebbe. The rebbe instructed him to sit down and begin discussing all the details of the wedding: What time did the chupah start? Who came? Who received kibbudim at the chupah and sheva brachos? How was the food? How was the music? Who was the badchan?
R’ Yaakov was surprised by the rebbe’s interest in these seeming mundane aspects of the wedding, but he respectfully answered each question, describing in detail the various goings-on at the chasunah.
At the conclusion of their conversation, the rebbe gave R” Yaakov a heartfelt brocha and he left.
Those close to the rebbe were flabbergasted. What was the rebbe’s intention with this late-night schmooze about such seemingly unimportant things? And why couldn’t the conversation have waited for a more earthly time?
They asked the rebbe and he explained: “In general, when people marry off a child, the parents return home after the simcha and speak amongst themselves about the wedding all that transpired. They talk about who came, what happened , and how everything turned out. This becomes part of the simcha experience. This Yid, having lost his wife, has no one to speak to when he goes home. He has no one with whom to shmooz about all that went on at the chasunah. I though that it would be good for him to have someone with whom he could discuss the particulars of the wedding, so I invited him to come here to speak to me.”
It’s not just the time that the rebbe spent with the man that is so moving, but his sensitivity in recognizing the human need to review and rehash the happenings of a simcha, understanding that this type of conversation is an integral part of the experience. It takes a person who thinks of others to realize this and react in this way. ( Heard from Rav Shlomo Zalman Friedman Rav of K’hal Zichron Elazar- Santov of Lakewood).”
From the Yated Ne”eman December 16, 2022 page 64 about Rav Elya Meir Sorotzkin zt”l “ Advice to Husbands” “ One of the fundamental points the rosh yeshiva would tell chasanim was that one must command his wife’s respect, not demand it.
When a talmid got engaged, the rosh yeshiva made sure to tell him, “ I always clear my plate from the table after a meal. In the unlikely event I am in a big rush, I don’t leave without first asking my rebbetzin, “ I’m in a big rush today. Could I trouble you this time to clear my plate?”
Another talmid who had a growing young family once got a phone call from the rosh yeshiva. “ Boruch,” the rosh yeshiva’s voice boomed through the wires, “ your rebbetzin has several young children at home. I hope you realize that helping your rebbetzin is one of the things that is in our mesorah… Our custom is that everyone cooks. Cooking is not only the realm of the rebbetzim. When necessary, the husband must also know how to get into the kitchen and cook.”
When his talmid, Reb Zev, was offered a teaching position in a yeshiva, he was not sure whether he should accept it. He went to discuss it with Rav Elya Meir.
The first thing the rosh yeshiva asked him was, “What does your rebbetzin say?”
In every conversation with his married talmidim, the rosh yeshiva only referred to their wives in one way: He always called them “rebbetzin. The rosh yeshiva felt that the word “rebbetzin” emphasized the exalted status of a Jewish wife and mother, unlike the word “wife.”
Chanukah: Some thoughts of what it means to be a proud Jew. Is it only about lighting the Menorah, eating latkes, giving gifts, and spinning the Dreidel ?
It means having a heart of gold. Of caring about others with sincerity, compassion, understanding the feelings of others. All of these plus many other reasons, not just because it is the right thing to do or be, but because the Ribono shel Olam want us to follow the Torah with Ahava Chesed and Yiras Shamayim. Whether it be the young eight -year old, the immense understanding by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and the needs of the widower, or how a husband must (not should) be to his wife, are all part of the framework of a Jew. Our Taryag Mitzvos are an integral part of our lives.
Chanukah is about how the Jewish men, women and children who wanted to keep the Torah alive not just in their hearts, minds and souls, but to fulfill as many mitzvos as possible. When the Maccabees overcame their adversaries, and were able to restore the holiness and beauty of our Holy Temple, the Beis Hamikdash, they discarded all the remnants of the pagan idols. They wanted to once again have the Menorah lit, but what kind of olive oil were they to use? They desired to light the holy Menorah with olive oil that was pure. Lo and behold, they found a flask of pure olive oil with the official seal of the Kohen Gadol. What was remarkable was that small flask of oil was meant to last only for one day. Yet, that small amount lasted for eight full days. A true miracle and a sign from H that He was pleased with their decision of using only pure olive oil and restoring the Beis Hamikdosh to serve Klal Yisrael once again.
Yes, we are proud to be Jews and are grateful to Hakadosh Boruch Hu for being able to be mekayeim the mitzvos to the best of our abilities.. We can also be pure and holy. Mr. Shulman shared the importance of having a heart of gold and with tremendous simcha hachayim. May everyone have a freilichin and lichtik Chanukah. Enjoy, the latkes and the doughnuts. Have fun spinning the Dreidel. If a gift is important then gezunta heit give a gift even though for generations, it was Chanukah gelt that was given to the young ones. When making the brachos and lighting the Menorah, give it some thought of the tremendous efforts of the Maccabees wanting to restore the Beis Hamikdosh and overcome the laws imposed on the Jewish people at that time, forbidding them to practice their religion, their Judaism freely. Let us pray that freedom of religion will prevail in one of the greatest countries of the world, here in the United States of America and we will continue to be able to fulfill Torah, Avoda, Gemilus Chasadim and in peace- Shalom.
The stories I wrote about were truly inspirational. They are wonderful examples of how to show us to be caring with sincerity of others. Though there are only four days left of Chanukah, it is good to enquire and not assume that all congregants have had the opportunity to light a Menorah . Share Chanukah tasty delights with them.
Two more thoughts I would like to share. If you know someone who might be homebound, or maybe was not at minyan give that person a call to make sure he or she is all right. If you happen to meet someone even on the street who might have a relative not well or in the hospital, ask how that person is. Why not ask what you could do that will make him/her feel better. An act of kindness can go a long way. Offering a brocha, or a kind word of concern, can be very meaningful.
Rabbonim, Rebbetzins and Chaplains help spread the light of kindness and truly make the difference in the lives of those they offer care to
“Give thanks to H for He is good, for enduring forever is His kindness!”
Have a wonderful Chanukah. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank