Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
Thursday April 27, 2023, Iyar 6, 5783
Moments of Inspiration
Sefira, taking the steps of holiness to receive the Torah.
Be mindful of what you say and do not say something you shouldn’t say.
Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, treating others with respect
Not embarrassing another person.
Rav Dovid’s “Point of Life”
Being discreet about a bug.
Today, there are multitudes of Rabbonim, Rebbetzens and Professionals who
are role models for Klal Yisrael
Mr. Solomon Rubin zt”l was such a role model years ago
Living Up To Your Potential
Sefirah teaches us that when things seem overwhelming, just take it step by step. This is especially important when we want to change certain behaviors or character traits. Bnai Yisroel came out of Mitzrayim and were in mem tes shaarai tumah ( 49 steps of defilement) yet each step that they took towards becoming holy, prepared them to receive the Holy Torah.
From A Vort from Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith Artscroll Series Mesorah Publicaitons Ltd Page 143 “Arrogance” The Gemara (Archim 16a) says that one of the seven possible causes of tzaraas is gasus haruach, arrogance. Every person has the inborn need to be special, which is an expression of the unique tafkid (mission) which he has come down to this world to achieve.
Some people are able to attain greatness. Others stand out in a lesser way as they strive to find their “niche” in life that makes them feel special and fulfilled. There are others who satisfy their need to feel accomplished in a different way. They derive pleasure and elevation by degrading those around them. They criticize the shortcomings of their friends and acquaintances and belittle their attainments. They feel uplifted when they can deflate others. The method of doing this is usually through loshon hara and other violations of the laws of proper speech.”
A person has to have feelings for others. One must be careful not to embarrass another person. I was once in a well-known delicatessen, (kosher of course) and while looking at the various items in the showcase, I noticed a bug. I immediately went to the side of the room and motioned for the salesperson to come to me. I told him what I saw and suggested he remove the entire food tray to remove the bug and do whatever was necessary with the food. He was going to stick his arm into the showcase to remove the bug in front of customers standing nearby who did not notice what I saw. The manager was grateful for how I handled the situation. I was discreet and spoke to the salesperson quietly so the other customers who were standing nearby were not able to hear what I was telling him. The manager was also pleased that I did not speak loshan hara about the bug to the other customers. Such information could have cost the loss of those customers at that time. They could have spread what happened to others, causing an even greater loss of other customers and business.
From Lilmud Ullilameid From The Teachings of Our Sages by Rabbi Mordechai Katz Jewish Education Program Feldheim Publishers Ltd. “The Chofetz Chaim once paid a visit to a prospective supporter of his yeshiva. When he arrived, the man, a wealthy businessman, was in the midst of preparing a telegram to his business partner. He rose to greet the Chofetz Chaim and engaged him in conversation. Soon it became apparent to the Chofetz Chaim that the discussion was leading to talk about a certain individual, and that Loshon Harah might ensue.
The Chofetz Chaim suddenly arose and glanced at the telegram on the man’s desk. “It looks as if you had carefully though out every single word here,” he commented, for you’ve rewritten this several times.”
“I certainly have,” said the man. “Every unnecessary word here will cost me extra money.”
The Chofetz Chaim marveled at this. “If only everyone was as careful as this when choosing what to say !” he noted. “Don’t they know that every unnecessary word they speak will cost them dearly in the World to Come?” “Keep your mouth from evil talk and live a life of peace.” (Derech Eretz Zuta). The Chofetz Chaim’s caution in avoiding Loshon Harah was legendary. He wrote several seforim devoted to the subject, and his essays on it have been compiled in English under the title of Guard Your Tongue. They are required reading for every Jew interested in self-improvement.”
Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l was immensely careful not to speak loshon harah, nor breach the confidentiality of information shared with him even by members of the same family. I have shared many of such examples of Rav Dovid’s keeping confidential what others have shared with him in previous issues of Inspiration of the Moment. He was also careful not to be mevazer, embarrassing anyone in private or in public. Should someone be embarrassed publicly, that could possibly lead to having anyone who noticed the embarrassment to spread loshan harah to others.
From Reb Dovid The life and legacy of Rabbi Dovid Feinstein by Yisroel Besser Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd Page 175 and 207 “The Rosh Yeshiva, says a talmid, did not expect his talmidim to know as much as he did. “But he did expect us to reflect his being adam lachveiro, how we treated other people. In that area, he wanted us to strive for perfection.”
The door would often open in the middle of shiur, and a local vagrant would come in and start interrupting the Rosh Yeshiva. One of the talmidim sat near the back of the beis medrash, and he knew that if he gave the unwelcome visitor a dollar or two, the man would leave.
One day, the door opened and the talmid turned to see the familiar visitor. He handed him his usual donation, but this time, the man began to shout at the talmid, embarrassing him. Furious, the talmid stood up and hissed, “You are disrespecting the Rosh Yeshiva, get out of here.”
Reb Dovid continued delivering the shiur as if nothing had happened, but later, he called the talmid over and said, “I think you probably hurt his feelings. Please apologize to him.”
“By Mincha one day, the chazzan made a mistake in Chazaras HaShatz, and then another mistake a moment later. People were correcting him, but that only made him more flustered. Reb Dovid waved to the people to stop correcting the baal tefilah and looked encouragingly at him.
Then the baal tefillah concluded the beracha with the wrong words, and the shouting started up again. Reb Dovid, who was never to speak during Chazaras HaShatz, called out, “Leave the kid alone,” and it was silent.
After davening, one of the older congregants came over with a Mishnah Berurah, eager to show the Rosh Yeshiva that the corrections were in place. “I know the Mishnah Berurah,” Reb Dovid said, “but what about malbin pnei chaveiro b’rabbim, embarrassing another person in public?”
Mr Solomon Rubin zt”l was known for his eidelkeit, his gentleness, his kindness, his concern for others and his tremendous honesty and sincerity. Many of his clients were Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbonim. His love of the Ribono shel Olam and the Torah was immense. Whenever he had a moment free, he would be learning. He was a soft-spoken person. His relationship with Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l and the Yeshiva Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem was special. In fact, his law office was across the street on East Broadway from MTJ Yeshiva. When he davened for the amud on the Yomin Naraim, tears would flow from his eyes, beseeching rachamim and brachos for Klal Yisroel. He was respected throughout the Lower East Side community and beyond. He was able to bring cases in many of the courts throughout New York State and beyond. including the Supreme Court of the United States of America as well as the US Military courts. He was very makpid not to speak loshon harah, speaking ill of others nor embarrassing anyone. I looked up to him as an example of how a person can be a professional, a Talmid Chacham, and a Tzadik all rolled up into one. He was also a wonderful uncle and role model. Today, there are multitudes of Orthodox Jewish men who are Rabbonim, Talmidei Chachamim, Tzadikim and professionals in many fields. There are multitudes of Orthodox Jewish women who are Rebbetzins, Tzidkanios, very learned and professionals in many fields as well. They are the present day roles models in many ways for Klal Yisrael.
It is incumbent for Klal Yisrael to seek opportunities of doing gemilus chasadim. It is important to find opportunities to make shalom bein adam lechaveiro. It is important to seek out ways of being helpful. It is important to seek the opportunity to inspire and enhance mutual understanding and friendship amongst one another. It is also important to know how to make others feel good.
In the book Reb Dovid by Yisroel Besser, Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd, there are many instances showing the care he had for others and how considerate he was. From the chapter “To Be Pleasant and Humble “The Rosh Yeshiva looked for opportunities to make others feel good.” “The pasuk refers to the ways of the Torah as “darchei noam,” ways of pleasantness. “If it is not noam, if the behavior of one who learns Torah is not sweet, then what he is learning is not Torah. He should sit down and learn the sugya again” When a person closes the Gemara after learning, the Rosh Yeshiva would say, “then he should be a bit kinder, a bit more compassionate, and a bit more selfless than when he sat down to learn.”
“Reb Dovid and the Rebbetzin had a schedule filled with weddings, and they would generally leave the Lower East Side at a relatively early hour in order to arrive with time to spare before the chuppah. Their driver, a close talmid, knew how precious the Rosh Yeshivah’s every moment was, and he suggested that there was no reason to leave so early; they could leave a half hour later and still easily arrive on time for the chuppah at most weddings.
Reb Dovid thanked him for the suggestion but did not change his practice.
One evening they ran a bit late and ended up arriving at a wedding after the smorgasbord had already been cleared away. They stayed for the chuppah, as usual, andthen got into the car to head back to Manhattan.
But the Rosh Yeshiva wanted him to make another stop first. They drove down 18th Avenue in Boro Park and Rav Dovid asked him to park at a particular corner, and then the three of them left the car and walked into a certain restaurant.
Rav Dovid and the Rebbetzin joined the talmid at a table and insisted that he order dinner, at their expense. At that moment, he realized why they left early for chasunah: The talmidim who drove the Rosh Yeshiva were usually bachurim, and he wanted them to be able to eat supper. Since Rav Dovid did not generally remain for the meal, by arriving early, the driver would have a chance to enjoy the smorgasbord and eat.”
“An aveil new to year of mourning was davening from the amud at MTJ, and in his nervousness, he mistakenly did not wait for the Rosh Yeshiva to finish Shemoneh Esrei before starting Chazaras HaShatz.
When davening was over, he approached Reb Dovid to apologize.
“Let me tell you something,” Reb Dovid said, “tomorrow, you will get it right, don’t worry!”
The talmid stood there in amazement, realizing that Reb Dovid was worried not for his own honor, but for the confidence of this talmid.”
“One morning, the Rosh Yeshiva was sitting in the pizza shop with his close talmid Norman Schmutter when he noticed a certain person passing by.
Reb Dovid waved the man over, greeting him especially warmly.
“Can you help me?” he asked, and then quoted a few words of a pasuk. “Where does this pasuk appear in Tanach?”
The man’s face lit up and he immediately replied with the name of the correct sefer and perek.
Reb Dovid thanked him profusely, and the gentleman walked on, still smiling .
“It was clear to me that the Rosh Yeshiva knew the right answer,” reflects Norman, “but he saw an opportunity to make another feel good, and to him, that was the point of life.”
At the beginning of this article, I quoted Rav Pam who describes those who only seek the positive and those who have the need to seek the negative by what they say and do. Rav Dovid showed us by example how he saw an opportunity to make another feel good, and to him, “that was the point of life.” There are many examples in the book about Rav Dovid and how he took the initiative of helping others. He sought the assistance of whomever he felt could be of help to someone in a specific matter. He often would pick up the phone in his office and make a call asap to someone who could be of help and not wait for the next day. Rav Dovid as many or our role modes showed by example the importance of living up to one’s potential.
From Motivated by the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd. Page 65 “Living Up To Your Potential” “Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a”h had great simchas hachaim. She also had tremendous strengths, especially the ability to inspire people. Rebbetzin Jungreis had a very close relationship with her husband, Rav Meshulam. He had a heart of gold, and although he wasn’t an outgoing personality like she was, he gave her the chizuk to accomplish what she did. When he passed away, in 1996, she was very broken. In her book, Life Is a Test, she writes that after her husband’s death, she couldn’t even look at the papers he had left; it was too painful to even see his handwriting. One of their children eventually went through those papers, and found what they realized was Rabbi Jungreis’ message to his wife: a thought that enabled her to read the rest of his papers, and that carried her through the rest of her life. Rabbi Jungreis has written, “A long life is not good enough, but a good life is long enough.”
Rebbetzin Jungreis wrote,” The goodness cannot be measured by the length of our years, but by how we live those years, The goodness is not about what we amass, but what we give. It’s not about having more; it’s about being more. For in the end, our lives are judged not by the fortresses or the businesses or the house or the portfolios that we’ve built, but by the lives we’ve touched and made better.”
That’s a description of who she was, of what life is, and of how to live that life. Not having more but being more. That brings simchas hachaim, because then you aren’t living for yourself, you’re living for others, and that is fulfilling and gratifying.
Rav Izele Volozhiner, the son of Rav Chaim Volozhiner, wrote the introduction to his father’s sefer, Nefesh HaChaim. He states there that his father always gave him mussar if he did not become involved in the problems of others, because, as his father said, “This is what man is all about: Lo le’atzmo nivra, you were not created for yourself!”
Everyone of us is created with certain talents, but H didn’t give us those talents to become rich and famous. H gave them to us to use for others. That’s what Rebbetzin was saying. You want simchas hachaim? Then stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others.
There is so much to do and so much to accomplish. If we focus more on others that we do on ourselves, we will become elevated, inspired, and happy with our lot in life.”
May we all be zoche to inspire others with the meaning of life and the point of life. May we all be zoche to have gezundt and simchas hachaim.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank
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