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 June 8, 2023, Sivan 19, 5783<><><>
The other side of the bed part 5

The old saying is, “It’s not what you say, that counts, but how you say it. Well, that is not always the case. What you say does have an impact one way or another. Rav Gershon Edelstein zt”l Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh was makpid as you will read below on what one says, not just on how you say it. This is an important follow up to my previous articles which included how patients and care givers should speak to medical, nursing or supervisors in a hospital, skilled nursing facility or a sub- acute facility. Rav Edelstein’s derech was always to follow the Torah way. When giving chizuk, musar etc. he felt strongly that the words must be positive. That is what I learned from my Rebbe, from my parents and from my wife a”h.  Whatever I shared in my previous “On the other side of the bed” articles were not self-made or self-taught. Yes, that is my demeanor, learned from our Avos and our Emahos. They had a definite impact on my way of life. If I was an ambassador of good will, and not just seen as a nice person, but a positive reflection of my faith and teachings, then I can hopefully say, I made a Kiddush H. I was overwhelmed and very touched by those who felt I was a kind person willing to engage staff and patients of diverse backgrounds.  I remember a staff person who shared with me the reasoning behind the tattoo on her arm.  They were in awe of the interest I took in what they did and that I would share my own professional and personal background when they asked me. I am also grateful for the opportunity of meeting members of the administration who shared their interest in developing positive relationships with the community and perfecting the good care of their patients at Gouverneur. I shared my positive experiences and my history with Gouverneur. I was a member of the Community Advisory Board under the leadership of Dr Jerry From and even served as a Vice-Chair at a special event. I was familiar when Gouverneur was originally at its conception, a hospital. I also mentioned that one of their CEO’s some years ago Dr. Martha Sullivan and I served on a panel at a conference together and we knew each other from other events as well. They were also interested in hearing about the work I have done in the past and at the present time. 

After going through different stages of my recovery I finally was in the next stage of going home. The thought of leaving a safe and social environment now that I was on the verge of going home, was a little nerve racking. My room at the sub-acute had become my home, my bedroom, my dining room, my sanctuary of learning, davening and working, as some of the staff said my office. I worked on my laptop for my articles and forthcoming June 13th seminar. My laptop also kept me abreast of the world outside. At night, when I was in bed and the lights were off, until I was ready to fall asleep, I looked at the large television on the wall opposite the bed. Mind you, I do not have a T.V. at home so one would think I would be excited watching one.  I would fish the channels to find something appropriate. I ended up with basketball, baseball, or  food programs. My progress in recovering, especially due to the fantastic therapy I received, brought me through challenging times. Progress was steady, building up my abilities and my confidence to the point I was ready to be discharged. I wondered what it would be like at home alone, without the nursing staff taking my vitals, giving me my medication, and ensuring I was comfortable. At home I would be on my own. No call bell to request any assistance or help. The rehab therapists reviewed everything that would keep me safe at home. The day I was to leave, I had the usual breakfast that was nourishing and a lunch of eggplant parmesan. All my personal items were packed the night before and I was ready to go home with one of my daughters. Goodbyes and farewell were said by many staff the past few days before my discharge and on the day of my discharge. They wished me well and I was very touched when they told me how much they would miss me, my stories, kind words, friendly and positive attitude. Many of the patients I would meet each day from my floor or in the gym would give me a smile and wished me well. One of the Cantonese speaking patients that I mentioned in my previous article, she waved to me as she did every day, gave me a big smile and said to me bye bye. Returning after one month to my apartment building, I felt trepidation. I entered my building with my rollator walker with confidence in my walking. I headed to my apartment. I’m home, I called out, but there was no one home to respond to me at that moment. I unpacked and got reacclimated to being back home. My daughter restocked the apartment with food. I made an order from the local take out for Shabbos, with challah rolls from the local bakery. Thursday evening, I baked a gefilte fish loaf with a crusty top and flounder in a parve cream sauce. Though I wasn’t planning to do so, I wanted something that was homemade. This was going to be my first Shabbos home in a month. I had plenty of food, fruit, vegetables and drinks. I was comfortable in my own bed, which of course is different than a hospital bed. Friday, I set the Shabbos table, set the blech, got dressed for Shabbos and then it was time to light the Shabbos candles. Though I was alone with the exception of a few visitors on Shabbos day, it was a good feeling to spend the holy night and day in my own apartment. Havdalah was different because I was making a bracha on a lit Havdalah candle, for the first time in a month. Since my wife’s petira three years ago, Shabbos has not been the same. Of course, I miss having a wife, but life continues. At Gouverneur I enjoyed the socialization even on Shabbos. I also had the various rituals I made up for myself each day. What was important for me,was to have faith in the Ribono shel Olam and to remember all the brachos and good wishes I received. How we meet the unknown challenges in life, the unexpected things that come our way, can be difficult at times. From my heart, I beseech the Ribono shel Olam. I say my bakashos, my Tehillim, and remember the Shechina is with me.

I shared my experiences with my readership, hoping it will give another perspective of the patient on the other side of the bed or for that matter, any person going through challenging times whatever they may be. As chaplains, rabbis and rebbetzins, we must be empathetic, understanding with open hearts for those we a caring for. We are not able to fix their lives, though we can be a source of help in many ways. We ourselves must be mispallel to H to say the right things, give the best advice and most of all, be in the present for whoever needs our assistance and a listening ear. Personally, I am grateful to H that I have been able to persevere with an uplifting countenance and positive demeanor even as a patient. I am proud I did not lose my touch of bringing goodwill to others with sincerity even with my own challenges along the way. I am mispallel for my own simchas hachaim, but at the same time, I am also mispallel for others as well. Even when I was a patient, I received phone calls from those needing a refuah for family members or themselves going through difficult times. We all have to care for others as that is the way we all should be. I hope my inclusions in my articles of the other side of the bed have offered meaningful insights of that other person on that other side of the bed. Baruch H I have had various simchos this past month even though I was not able to attend. Three lechaims and three vorts of granddaughters and a grandniece but hope to attend their chasunahs. I am looking forward to returning to shul, shiurim, taking a walk in the park, attending events and meaningful meetings. Though with the laptop and my cell phone I was able to learn, work on my articles, programs, and outreach. I am looking forward to once again being out there in the world as they say, breathing in the fresh air (and doing my own shopping, cooking, and baking. Well, I already started with my delicious baked gefilte fish loaf and the flounder in parve cream sauce this past Thursday evening). 

The following is from the Yeshiva World News June 2, 2023.  We can see it does matter what we say and not just how we say it. 

“Deputy Minister Uri Maklev paid a shiva visit to the sons of HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, z’tl, on Wednesday evening. 

Maklev was a talmid of the Rosh Yeshivah, z’tl over 50 years ago and was a close friend of his sons, with whom he learned while he was at Ponevezh. During the visit, Maklev told them about his last meeting with their father, z’tl.

Maklev had met with the Rosh Yeshivah, z’tl, about a week ago to consult with him on a specific issue. After receiving the ruling on the matter, the UTJ MK asked the Rosh Yeshivah about the increasing incitement on the secular street against the Torah world.

“The Rosh Yeshivah didn’t hesitate and told me: ‘We won’t be mevateir on קוצו של יו”ד in everything related to the budget for the Torah world. Universities and archeology are fine but not the Torah HaKedoshah given at Har Sinai?! Our Torah is older than their archeology.’”

Maklev added: “Everything by the Rav, zt’l, was in the most pleasant way although he insisted on his opinions – Da’as Torah without compromise.”

“A few years ago, when the issue of the ‘Supermarket Law’ [a law preserving the status quo of keeping supermarkets and other businesses closed on Shabbos] was at stake, they wanted to issue a letter from the Gedolei Yisrael on the issue. Someone wanted to write that ‘מחלל השבת מות יומת’ but the Rosh Yeshiva wouldn’t agree and as usual insisted on wording it in a positive way that Shabbos is the mekor habracha.”

Maklev said that during the coalition negotiations, there were differences of opinion between the Likud and the Chareidi MKs. “However, the Likud MKs knew that when instructions were issued from the Rosh Yeshivah, zt’l, they would not be able to oppose it.”

“There was lots of pressure from every side. But everything was done pleasantly, not with threats – this was the message we received as his talmidim,” Maklev said.

From Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith Published by Mesorah Publications Ltd Parshas Nasso Page 163-164 “One of the giants of the previous generation characterized the Chofetz Chaim as a “normal Jew”, People did not see unusual display of piety or strictness in matters of halacha or behavior. He followed what was written in the Shulchan Aruch. His trait of guarding his tongue was not through radical gedarim (safeguards) or chumros (stringencies). He did not separate himself from society or undertake long periods of taanis dibbur (verbal “fasts”). The Torah dictated his behavior, what he was permitted to say and what was forbidden, and what, at times, he was required to say, even if it would normally be considered lashon hara (see Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus 9:1-8).

The Chofetz Chaim would stress that a Jew must live his life with simcha. It should be a joy to fulfill the Torah and mitzvos, not an unbearable burden that a Jew much of necessity carry if he desires to earn a share in the World to Come. When people would cite the behavior of holy Jews who ate their meals with kabbalistic intentions and deep thoughts of elevating the “sparks of holiness” the foods contained, the Chofetz Chaim said that he was a simple Jew and could not do such things. “I don’t know any special kavanos (intentions), “he said. “I eat in order to be healthy and to have koach to live. If one is healthy, he can accomplish something for the honor of H.”

“H wants His creations to enjoy life in this world. Obviously, it must be in a permitted manner, according to the guidelines of the Torah. The ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness (Mishlei 3:17) and when a person obeys the Torah, he will be successful in this world and the World to Come.”

It is truly important to feel the love of H, to be mispallel for our needs and to meet the unknown challenges that we may encounter with strength, determination and especially with emunah and betachon. We are not super humans, but simple men, women and children whose faith in our Torah way of life brings us meaning of life. There are many opportunities of doing chasadim, of making a Kiddush H and being wonderful ambassadors of goodwill- ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael. May He give us that strength and may His love for us and our love for Him continue with much simchas hachaim, good health and happiness for years to come.  Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank