Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
⬄Thursday May 11, 2023, Iyar 20, 5783⬄
The other side of the bed. Personal reflections Part 1
Hakaras Hatov, sincere appreciation,
with remarkable simchas hachaim.
The importance of being an ambassador of the Ribono shel Olam.
A good deed never forgotten. Appreciation after many years.
Several hakaras hatov stories from Reb Dovid zt”l.
The five rules of kindness.
For approximately five weeks, due to a difficulty with my left hip, I found it challenging to walk without pain. As time went on, it became even more challenging, not being able to attend minyanim and having difficulty with daily living activities. Yet, with strong perseverance, determination, stamina, and most of all for my love of the Ribono shel Olam, I was able to do whatever was necessary. I found ways to compensate and devised ways to prepare and have meaningful Shabbasim. I have a wonderful orthopedic doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital 10 Union Sq East. David Perna . However, the time came when no more could be done accept a hip replacement. He recommended a superb Mount Sinai Hospital surgeon, Dr. Edward Adler, and so on May 1st I had my surgery. The care I received was wonderful. I had many opportunities to make a kiddush H, to give hakaras hatov, and to be an ambassador of H and Klal Yisrael. I want to give hakaras hatov to Dr. Barry Grossman who when he was in private practice was instrumental recommending various doctors to me and my wife a”h. He is now a doctor affiliated with NYU Langone Medical Center.
Yossie Hecht has been a magnificent inspiration to me, bringing to light his magnificent Asher to the Yatzar program throughout the world. He has shown tremendous courage and fortitude facing the challenges he has overcome.
My dear son and daughter-in-law Aryeh and Tzivia Blank who has two children diagnosed with a rare medical diagnosis are a true inspiration to all who know them. Their simchas hachaim and their positive and loving attitude have created a warm atmosphere for their four children. Through Yossie, Aryeh and Tzivia I have gained the phenomenal ability to take the bull by the horn and make life as meaningful as possible.
More hakaros hatov to my dear parents a”h, my sister a”h and my dear wife Keila a”h who inspired me to go on in life despite any challenges I might encounter. My Rebbe zt”l also inspired me in millions of ways some of which I continue to share with you.
I have tremendous hakaras hatov to my children, nephews, nieces, entire mishpacha and friends.
The morning of my surgery, I made sure to daven. I arrived at the hospital at 8:00 AM Monday morning. As I was being wheeled through the hallways, I said good morning and have a good day to everyone I saw. It was amazing to see the response of every staff member who stopped what they were doing to give me a smile, say thank you and wished me a good day too. In the surgical admitting area, I had an opportunity to say other Tefilos and Tehillim. Most of all, I said my bakashos and my hakaros hatov to the Ribono shel Olam. The rest is history.
Throughout my hospitalization I received good wishes from staff members including housekeeping who I acknowledged for their kindness. It is important to be sincere and nice to the hospital staff. Many liked to hear about my experiences in the various positions I have held.
The transition of being independent prior to the hospitalization to becoming a resident at a rehab can be challenging. It is easy to feel challenged with new or different ways of doing things. The opportunities of kiddush H are immeasurable. How one conveys a person’s concerns or questions can go a long way. One of the first things was to be weighed. Since I was not yet evaluated for weight bearing and unable to move my left leg due to post surgery, one of the CNA’s was going to weigh me using a Hoyer Lift. As soon as the lift began, I was in such pain I asked the CNA to please stop, which she did. After all the preliminaries, I requested to speak to her privately. I told her that though the Hoyer Lift was painful it surely was not her intention. I told her I forgave her and that there was nothing she should feel bad about. She was so gracious in her thanks to me. She grabbed my hand with both her hands to say thank me for my care and understanding.
From the Kashruth Magazine January 2018 Page 35 “Food for Thought” “At 88, Rebbetzin Sarah Pam, z’l (wife of Rabbi Avraham Pam, zt”l Rosh Yeshiva Torah Vodaath) was moved by this piece that she had found in print and shared it with us. The Rebbetzin passed away, in 2011, at the age of 93. One need not be old to learn this important lesson.”
“A Good Lesson For Life” A 92 year old, frail, well-poised, and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, perfectly shaven and with his hair fashionably coifed, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.
His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making his move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told that his room was ready.
As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of the tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.
“I love it,” he stated the enthusiasm of an eight year old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” he replied.
“Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like the room; just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” he replied.
“Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like the room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind.
“I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend a day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that can no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories that I’ve stored away, just for this time of life.
Old age is a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for filling my Memory Bank. I am still depositing.”
The five simple rules to being happy:
Free your heart from hatred.
Free your mind from worries.
From 102 Stories that changed people’s loves. By Rabbi Tzvi Nakar
Volume 2 Tzfutza Publications” A Good Deed Never Forgotten” Pages 59-61 “This is a story about a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer, and although she started treatments and the doctors did everything they could, her prognosis was dim. Eventually they sent her home, instructing her family to make her as comfortable as possible. They estimated that she had only a few hours left, and there was nothing more they could do for her in the hospital.
Her husband gathered the family together so that they could say goodbye. Their mother was sleeping, and everyone sat by her bedside, eyes swollen from crying. They sat with her throughout the night, certain that at any second her final moment would come. But nothing happened, and she remained stable.
Morning arrived, and their father said that he was going to daven vasikim. If he went later, and his wife were to pass away that morning, he would become an onein and he wouldn’t be permitted to daven. He asked them to call him if anything changed in their mother’s condition.
When he returned home from davening, the sight that greeted him almost made him faint and he had to grab on to the doorknob to keep from falling. His wife, who for months had been lying in bed, too frail even to sit up, who had been on the verge of dying only that morning, was sitting in a chair.
“What’s going on here?” he asked in shock.
“Let me tell you a story,” she said with equanimity.
He sat down and waited.
“You’ll recall that during the Arab riots of 1929, we were still a young couple living in Chevron, and I had just given birth to our eldest daughter. Among those slaughtered was a couple who left behind an infant, and there was no one to raise her and care for her. I told them to bring her to me, but she had been wounded and was too weak to eat. I sat patiently and, using a medicine dropper, fed her some milk drop by drop. I didn’t consider the fact that I myself was a new mother with a newborn infant, that I needed to recover my strength. I only knew that here was a baby who needed someone to take care of her, and I was the only one who could step in.
“Slowly she grew stronger, and after several months I gave the baby to one of her relatives who had agreed to adopt her. Last night, when I was lying in bed, the parents of this girl came to me in a dream. ‘We have stood before the Heavenly court with a complaint,’ they said. ‘How can you take this woman who sacrificed so much to take care of our orphaned baby and restore her to life? Her whole family is crying. Where is your compassion?’
“The Heavenly court accepted their claim and tore up the decree.
They guaranteed that I would live for many years to come. When I woke, I was able to get out of bed.”
Rabbi Goel Elkarif, a popular speaker for the Hidabroot kiruv organization, heard this story from Rav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky and recorded the story in his sefer. “I’m astonished by this story,” Rabbi Elkarif wrote. “The 1929 riots happened more than seventy years ago, ‘The woman herself had forgotten about the good deed she had done. But Hakadosh Baruch Hu didn’t forget!”
From Reb Dovid the Life and Legacy of Rabbi Dovid Feinstein zt”l by Yisroel Besser Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd “ One of the talmidei chachamim in the yeshiva’s Kollel developed an innovative chiddush one afternoon, and he very much wanted to share it with the Rosh Yeshiva. Later in the afternoon, Reb Dovid came to the beis medrash to get his coat and as he headed for the exit, the talmid followed.
He stopped Reb Dovid at the door. “I wanted to share a chiddush,” he said, and launched into his vort.
Reb Dovid heard him but did not respond, and he certainly did not engage with the talmid as he normally would. He nodded politely, and when the talmid finished the idea, Reb Dovid thanked him and left the building.
The next day, the talmid wondered where the Rosh Yeshiva had been rushing to, and he asked the driver.
“Oh,” the driver replied, “the Rosh Yeshiva had chest pains, and we were hurrying to the hospital to get his heart checked out.”
The humility and pure goodness fused when it came to hakaras hatov. He saw himself as undeserving, and his gratitude to anyone who helped him, in anyway, ran deep.”
“For many years, Reb Dovid spent several tranquil hours each afternoon at the back of Otzar Hasefarim store on the Lower East Side, where he was given privacy and access to any sefer he might have needed.
He was very close with the owners Jack and Gloria Goldman. A few years after Jack passed away, Reb Dovid was speaking to his close friend, Rabbi Stanley Bronfeld, who had lost his own wife. He thought that Rabbi Bronfeld and Gloria Goldman would be a nice match, and they were soon engaged.
When the shidduch was concluded, Reb Dovid spoke to his friend about the attributes of the kallah.
Then he said something else. “And Stanley, don’t forget the deep hakaras hatov we have to Jack.”
He did not explain, but Rabbi Bronfeld reflects: “The
Rosh Yeshiva did not elaborate, because he didn’t have to.
Reb Dovid had hakaras hatov not just for the friendship, but for the fact that they had given him the greatest gift possible- they had given him a place to learn Torah!”.
I am sharing with you different aspects of hakaras hatov including in my personal reflections. Most of all I have hakaras hatov to the Ribono shel Olam for every opportunity He has given me and continues to give me which often leads to kiddush H and immense simchas hachaim.
I hope to share reflections from the other side of the bed in future articles and show how our appreciation and kindness to others can make them happy.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank