Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
917-446-2126 rablenblank@gmail.com
===Thursday, January 12 ,2023 Teves 26, 5783===
Don’t add fuel to the fire. Loshon Horah will only lead to sinas chinam.
The importance of not taking sides.
The importance of not agreeing to something you do not believe in.
The challenges a chaplain has when visiting a patient
who is adamant in his or her opinion.
Remaining neutral. Non adversarial.
How do we inculcate and imbue patriotism, respect for government leaders when hearing or reading about situations that are not pleasant and contrary
to the spirit and ways of life our children are used to?

Let us not forget the importance of kindness and to be sincere.

Another version of, ‘is the glass half empty or is it half full”.


Parents have asked rabbonim, educators and mental health professionals what to tell their children about being patriotic and respectful of government when often there is much animosity, speeches of hatred and anger, not just disagreeing between various leaders. Most of all, the taking of nekama/revenge. We see this taking place even today not just in our own country of the USA, but other countries as well including monarchies such as in the United Kingdom.

We too must not add fuel to the fire. We should be mindful of conversations and discussions that could possibly enflame a dialogue that would lead to loshon hara and Heaven Forbid to sinas chinam. It is not an easy task to remain neutral. It is very easy to get pulled into a conversation that is not appropriate. Often in wanting to be a friend rather than being a foe, a person will agree to something one might not believe in. When I was a rabbi of a shul, it was not uncommon (not during davening of course), when several of my congregants would ask my opinion about a certain topic of current events, such a politics. I would listen, but if I felt the topic or conversation was not appropriate for me to delve into, would politely explain why I prefer not discussing it – no matter how much they wanted my opinion. I would find a diplomatic and respectful way to direct the discussion that was more meaningful and acceptable to all of us.

A chaplain for instance, could find him or herself in a situation being challenged by a patient, family members or others discussing religion or other areas of contention which could easily become a difficult situation. The wisdom of a rabbi, rebbetzin or chaplain surely comes in handy when dealing with sensitive discussions. I remember when I was doing my CPE internship one of my patients whenever I came for a visit would challenge me about my feelings of his savior. No matter what he said, I never lost my cool, or tried to give my own opinions. Rather, I listened to him, gave him space and respect. His response was I was a cool dude who would not get angry or upset at him. He told me I have his invitation to visit him often. At each visit to this patient, he mentioned that he was comfortable sharing his fears and concerns and was hoping his savior would guide and advise him. He felt that since I represent G, could speak to G on his behalf and maybe even throw in a good word to his savior who must be busy with all the patients he has to visit and care for. The patient felt he could trust me initially wondering how I could still be respectful and like him after all of his rough comment. In fact, while writing about this patient, I remember him asking me if I was about to run out of the hospital room and yet, I remained cool and calm. After listening to his fears and concerns, realized why he was speaking to me in the way he was doing. He appreciated my kindness to him – in a caring manner. The importance of not being adversarial was so evident.

How we respond to others is very important whether it be a congregant, friend or as a parent to one’s child.

From A Vort from Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd Parshas Vayechi Page 80.” To See The Good” “ But Yosef said to them, “Fear not, for am “I instead of G? Although you intended me harm, G intended it for good.” (50:19,20) “The Seforno comments on the words, Am I instead of G?: Am I, then, a judge in H’s place that I should analyze His decrees and punish those who acted as His agents? It would be as if I were presiding over a court that has the power to annul His decrees. You certainly acted as His agents, as I told you, It was not you who sent me here, but G (45:8).

Yosef was stressing that if he would wreak vengeance on his brothers, it would be as if “I were overriding the judgment of H Himself and His heavenly court. Moreover, how could I take revenge for what ultimately turned out to be an enormous benefit? I owe you thanks, not revenge! Additionally, if I were to punish you, I would have to do it in a way that would bring you great benefit, just as you did to me. Am I in the place of G that I could do that?”

Yosef’s attitude has much practical relevance, The ability to see the good in an otherwise difficult situation can save a person much misery and heartache. What is there to be angry about if the evil eventually turns out to be a tremendous good?

True, it is not easy to be what is commonly called a “doormat,” which everybody can step upon and abuse at will. But if after he was mistreated, he realizes that all that happened was for his benefit, why allow feelings of anger and frustration to linger? This was the greatness of Yosef.”

From Kol Dodi on the Torah by Rav Dovid Feinstein Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd Parshas Vayechi Pages 85-86 “And do kindness and truth with me- please do not bury me in Egypt” (47:29) “Rashi explains that kindness shown to the dead is chesed shel emes, kindness of truth (i.e., sincere altruistic kindness), since there can be no expectation that the beneficiary will return the favor.

This comment, however does not seem to explain the meaning of our verse. The Torah does not say true kindness, it says kindness and truth, suggesting that kindness and truth are not the same thing. Actually, Jacob was demanding kindness, which is itself a form of truth, and not something different.

H created the world and gave it to us to use. The world, however, is not self-explanatory, and we would not know how to use it properly just by looking at it . Therefore, H, in His great kindness, gave us the Torah as a manual so that we can make proper use of the world to arrive at our destination, the World to Come.

We can understand this allegorically by thinking of someone who gives his friend a machine as a gift. If the donor is genuinely kind, he will make sure that the package includes the operating instructions for the machine so that its new owner will be able to use it properly. In the same way, along with the world, H gave us the Torah as a kindness, to enable us to derive the optimum benefit from the world.

A fundamental principal of the Torah is the requirement to do kindness to our fellows, We should not approach kindness as an optional way of fulfilling the Torah, as merely a way of increasing our reward. Rather, we must look at doing acts of kindness as a fundamental obligation that the Torah, the ultimate Truth, expects us to fulfill.

However, since we are flawed human beings, we can never know a kindness we have done was performed sincerely. Perhaps it was done to curry favor, or to earn future benefits. This is the question to which Rashi addresses himself in our verse.

Only when one does a kindness without any possibility of receiving reward can we know that his motive is purely to fulfill the Torah. This is why Rashi calls the mizvah of burying the dead a kindness of truth, because only in such a case is it certain that his kindness was genuinely for the sake of the truth of the Torah. The literal definition is equally exact. It is kindness of truth, because there is no element of insincerity involved.”

From Love Your Neighbor Veahavta Lereiecha Kamocha by Rabbi Zeleg Pliskin Aish HaTorah Publications Parshas Vayechi. Page 125 “ Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh explained that concept of truth (chesed shel emes) in regards to kindness in the following manner: People often do kindness because of emotions, without considering whether the kindness is a true kindness. Kindness with truth, however, is a love that does not forget what is essential when practicing chesed. For example, Avraham had the most ardent desire to see his son married. But if he would have allowed himself to be so dominated by this wish for his beloved son, that if he could not find a wife who was spiritually and morally suitable he would have allowed another to be chosen, it would have been an act of kindness but not a kindness with truth. Yaakov knew quite certainly that Yosef would bury him with all possible splendor. But he said: “with all the chesed do not forget truth.” Yaakov stressed his request not to be buried in Egypt. By this request was manifest that the homeland of the Jewish people is in Eretz Yisrael, although they had lived in Egypt 17 years. (Hirsch’s Commentary, on this verse). Whatever we do an act of chesed for someone, we must make sure that it is spiritually beneficial as well as physically beneficial.”

Here is another version of “is the glass half empty or is it half full”
From The Grandeur of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd Page 245-246 “Filled to Capacity” “ Rabbi Shlomo Farhi, a noted Sephardic speaker and Rav of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in Manhattan, told the following story.

A grandchild once brough Rabbi Avigdor Miller (1908-2001) a half-filled glass of water. “Zaidy,” the child asked, “is the glass half full or is it half empty?”

“Half full or half empty?” asked Rabbi Miller in exaggerated wonder. “The glass is totally full! It is filled half with water and half with air.”

The child smiled at his zaidy’s innovative perception. Rabbi Farhi, though, expounded on the depth of Rabbi Miller’s comment. Air is more important to man than water. One can exist for hours without water, but he would die if he were without air for more than ten minutes. Thus, in a sense, the “half empty” section is more valuable.

When we look at the “half empty part of a glass, we tend to feel there is nothing of value there, It’s the “ half-filled part that is of value, for that symbolizes the good we have: our family, our home, our job, etc.

Often, though, in the broad scope of life, the reality is that the “half empty” area represents the chesed that H has done for us, by not giving us what we thought was so important. This lack is merely an illusion of hollowness, but in reality, it is our greatest benefit.

It’s the care we didn’t buy, the person we didn’t marry, the job we didn’t get, the neighborhood we couldn’t afford; at the time we thought it was our loss, but H meant it for our good. We realize only later the great chesed H bestowed on us by not letting us have what we thought we needed.

At times, we are convinced we are missing things (the unfilled part of the glass), but in reality, we have what we need (the filled part of the glass).

When I shared this thought with my dear friend Sholi Rosenblum of Brooklyn, he told me of a homiletic interpretation he heard on a pasuk of Tehillim, David HaMelech writes Mi chacham veyishmar eileh veyisbonenu chasdei H, Whoever is wise let him note these things, and they will comprehend the kindness of H (Tehillim 107:43).

The word chacham can be an acronym for chatzi keli malei, “ A half-filled cup is [actually] full.” For when a person contemplates the total picture of what he has and does not have, he can come to appreciate the panorama of chesed that H has sketched for his life.”

May we appreciate all the kindness that H does for us. May we be zoche to receive all the kindness from H with much simchas hachayim, good health, happiness and to always feel and know that the glass is full.

Thank you. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank