Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
=-= Thursday March 9, 2023 Adar 16, 5783 =-=
This past Monday was Rav Moshe Feinstein’s zt”l yahrtzeit. One of the emails I received from the Agudath Israel of America included an English translation of an address Rav Moshe Feinstein gave in 1978 at the 56th Agudah Convention on the importance of speech that was printed in the Jewish Observer. (See below)
Agudath Israel of America
Strengthening Torah Life. Advocating for the
Community. Serving Each Individual.
CLICK BELOW FOR THE LINK TO RAV MOSHE’S SPEECH
From Kol Dodi on the Torah by Rabbi David Feinstein Artscroll Judaica Classics Mesorah Publication Ltd Page 139 “Parshas Tzetzaveh “And I shall meet there with the Children of Israel and I shall be made Holy in My Glory (29:43) The Mishkan (Tanernacle) had kedusha (holiness) only because of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) which dwelt there. Beautiful and elegant as this structure was be itself, without the Shechinah it had no feelings of holiness.
When one builds a beautiful house they, he can appreciate its beauty, but the four walls of a builing cannot impart an atmosphere of holiness in and of themselves. When the Shechinah rests there, however, anyone who enters it feels the awe and reverance which are due to H. This is the implication of our verse: Even the Mishkan becomes holy only when it contains the glory of H. This tells us that we must strive to inject an awarness of H’s Glory into all our activities, whatever and wherever they are.”
(ibid) Parshas Ki Sisa Page 141 “When you will raise up [count] the heads of the Children of Israel, each man shall give a redemption for his soul to H in their counting (30:12).
“The phrase When you will raise up the heads of the Children of Israel, arouses a lovely image in our minds. The Jews were lifted up to a very high level of holiness by the census that was taken. (See also our comments in Parshas Bamidbar.) Indeed, their level was so high that the census took the form of a tax of half a shekel per person, to be used in the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and, in later years, for the purchase of communal offerings in the Beis HaMikdash. This was an atoment for any impure motives that may have crept into their actions.
This has implications for all of us in our daily affairs. When someone undertakes a particular project, he should declare from the very beginning that his purpose is purely for the sake of Heaven and pray for help on that basis: “I’m doing this only for You, H therefore please grant me success.” One should be wary of undertaking projects simply because he feels enthusiasim about them, because it is easy to deceive oneself about whether a project is really necessary or worthwhile. Also, one has to realize that his own abilities are never adequate, and that he will accomplish his goals only with help from Above. This process of involving H and directing all of one’s activities to His purposes is what the Torah refers to as redemption for his soul.”
This is what our Sages meant in the Mishnah (Avos 4:14): Every assembly that is dedicated to the sake of Heaven will have an enduring effect, but one that is not for the sake of Heaven will not have an enduring effect. If the leaders of the assembly have pure intentions, H will grant them success at what they set out to accomplish. But if they allow personal goals, such as building reputations or gaining personal power, to color their actions , then they will not benefit from Divine help.”
From Darash Moshe by Rav Moshe Feinstein Artscroll Judaica Classics Mesorah Publications Ltd. Parshas Terumah Pages 131-132 “and let them take for Me a gift; from every man whose heart motivates him, you shall take My gift (25:2) The word take in this verse suggests that the donations for the Tabernacle were to be taken by force, but we will see that, to the contrary, the donations were given with willing hearts and in excess of the required amount. Why does the Torah hint at coercion here?
Perhaps from this we may derive an important lesson. This lesson affects those mitzvos that require generosity such as tzedakah, acts of kindness or supporting the Mishkan, or others that are dedicated to bringing H’s Presence to dwell in Israel. It is wrong to do these mitzvos our of a sense of obligation or coercion, to think, “ I really don’t want to give this money but what can I do, H commands me to do it.” Rather, when we are presented with such mitzvos, we should arouse in ourselves a positive desire to give. Often this requires an effort not just to overcome the objections of our yetzer hara but to force it to actually agree with this generous attitude we must strive for.
This is the inner meaning of “and let them take for Me a gift”: We should mobilize our yetzer tov (good inclination), the Torah we have learned and the merit of the good deeds we have done, to make fundemental changes in our very nature, to make ourselves want to be generous in doing mitzvos. Thus, the compulsion suggested in this verse is to be used to force our yetzer hara to agree to this generous attitude we are to cultivate. (cont page 133) Thus, we must all strive to learn Torah and do the other mitzvos, that have no prescribed measure, with great enthusiasm and intense love of H, because the more one loves mitzvos, the greater is his obligation to do them, and greater by far is his reward for their performance.”
What we say, how we say it, our enthusiam for H, the Torah and the mitzvos, are so important to consider in life. What is in our hearts, what do we truly desire and how we wish to emulate Hakadosh Boruch Hu is up to each of us.
From Toward A Meaningful Life The Wisdom Of The Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson Adapted by Rabbi Simon Jacobson WillIam Morrow and Company Publisher. “ Why do good and evil exist ? Pages 258-259 ; 262 “We all struggle to fathom how a good and righteous G could allow so much suffering and could permit such atrocities in the world. The age-old question inevitably arises: Why did G create evil, and how can we reconsile it with His goodness?
To answer this, we must take one step back and ask a far more basic question: Why did G create life? For without life, there would be no evil in and no pain.
G created our material world because He wanted us to refine it and make it His home. In order to achieve this, we must first perceive ourselves as an independent realitiy. So each of us was granted free will, the ability to choose between selfessness and selfishness, and between good and evil, to follow G’s instructions or not to. This freedom is the greatest gift G gave us. Without it, there would be no point to life.”
G does not want evil, He wants us to do only good. Nor does G ever commit evil, only man commits evil. But in order for man to be a true partner in life, he must have the autonomy to choose. Even though G cannot bear the pain when one man causes another to suffer, it would be even more painful to take back the free will He has given us.
So we have the potential to do either good or evil. And by overcoming the temptation to advance ourselves at any cost, we reach a far higher plane than we otherwise could have. The greater the challenge, the more strength it draws out from us. And just as a light in the night seems brighter and is more appreciated than the same light by day, an act of kindness shines with all that more intensity when compared to the wrong doing we could have committed instead. There is a certain risk in G’s having granted us such a choice, but risk is inherent in growth. For a child to learn to walk, he or she must be allowed to fall.
This explains why there is potential for evil, but how can evil exist in the face of good and omnipresent G? This takes us back to the method that G used to create our physical reality. In order to allow us our independence, G concealed His presence, challenging us to see beyond the “container,” the physical world in which we live, to find the G’dly “light” within.”
(ibid) “A rabbi once entered a rural synagogue and heard a preacher rebuking his congregation. The people were wailing in guilt as they heard of the terrible punishment that awaited them for their bad deeds.
Afterward, the rabbi approached the preacher. “There are two ways to prevent a thief from pursuing his vocation,” he said. “One is by imprisoning him so he cannot go out and rob. But this doesn’t really correct the problem, because the thief remains a thief and he will likely steal again once released. The second way is to rehabiltate the thief by teaching him how inappropriate it is for him to live this way.
Teach him a respectable vocation and evoke in him a sense of pride and dignity that it is beneath him to stop to being a thief. In the long term, it is always’ better to inspire rather than to criticize, to encourage rather than demoralize.”
We are truly fortunate to have the Torah as our blueprint guiding us in the proper way of life. The opportunities of conveying , inspiring and encouraging our love of H and the Torah to others is endless. Making a Kiddush H, developing achdus, sincere actions of kindness, goodness, and down to earth erlichkeit is so important. Our actions such as what we say, how we say it, our generosity, our gemilus chasadim can never be taken for granted. We are a holy nation, and should be proud of who and what we are. We must never forget the importance of being role models not just for our own communities but for everyone who we are in contact with day and night. It is essential to understand the essence of being an erliche Yid and to thank the Ribono shel Olam for the love He has for us. We should always be mindful to acknowledge and attribute any of our achievements and accomplishments to Him.
Our Rabbis, Rebbetzins and Chaplains are to be commended for all that they are involved in enhancing the quality of life for Klal Yisrael. There are so many challenges dealing with difficult and trying situations. Just in recent weeks, a day has not gone by without reading or hearing about tragadies, trauma situations, and many other catrasptophies. Boruch H we have remarkable organizations and professionals whose expertise are bringing vital relief and help in more ways than one. Their success stories are absolutely phenomenal. Yet, with all the resources that are available, we always return to our Rabbis, Rebbetzins and Chaplains for their leadership guiding Klal Yisroel in the Derech of H. We are fortunate to have in our midst Gedolim we all could turn to for their saintly advice and continue to learn from those Gedolim who are no longer here.
I would like to share with you one of many special lessons we learned from Rav Eliyahu Moshe Shisgal zt”l a son-in law of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. A talmid once mentioned to him how he admired the loving way he would remove and return a Gemara to the bookcase always with a kiss to the sefer. Rav Shisgal mentioned that in those Gemaras are his Rabbeim who he learns from as if they are with us in the present. They are filled with our living Torah which he appreciated and loved so much.
At Shabbos Mincha we say this tefilah, “As for me, may my prayer to You H [be] at a time that is favorable O G in the abundance of Your kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.” (Translation Artscroll Series Schottenstein Edition Siddur Mesorah Publications Ltd).
May we continue to develop a kesher with the Ribono shel Olam. May we be zoche that our maysim tovim, tefilos, our needs, will be met and we will have Shalom Al Yisroel. May Mashiach Tzedkeinu come Bimheira Beyameinu Amein Sela.
Sincerely , Rabbi Yehuda Blank