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 15, 2023, Sivan 26, 5783:=:
Many thanks to the
Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Mordechai Willig shlit’a and Rabbi Dr Aaron Glatt, MD
for the many shailos they responded to on Tuesday’s seminar,
“Halachic Challenges of the Orthodox Jewish Healthcare Chaplain. June 13,2023
and to my seminar Co-Chair Rabbi Doniel Kramer, PhD, BCC
which was dedicated to the memory of
Rabbi David Keehn-Rav Dovid Yitzchok zt”l ben Akiva Yehuda yb”l
This seminar was presented on zoom and was video recorded.
Click here for the link to the video and the link to the seminar program.



Part 6
From the other side of the bed finally to the other side of the bed.

We cry to H as we do at Kever Rochel.

Living Emunah- A second chance.

Quotes from Rav Edelstein zt”l -The importance of recognizing and accepting
what might be difficult circumstances that are truly golden opportunities for us,
The importance of Mussar and Tefilah from the depths our hearts.

The art of listening.

My appreciation to the Ribono shel Olam.


My second Shabbos home. My roast chicken, baked gefilte fish and rice kugel with raisins all were absolutely delicious. Well at least I thought so. Afterall, I made them and since I was with me, myself and I, we all enjoyed the seuda. No, I’m not making light of being home alone the second Shabbos after the month gone by but realize that there is much to be thankful for and that I am not alone, but with the Shechina. I have spoken to others who shared with me their own challenges in life. Of course, I have my own deep thoughts when beseeching the Ribono shel Olam whatever my bakashos are for. I also have compassion for those who share their predicaments that are difficult for them to deal with, to face and to overcome with me. I give thanks to the Ribono shel Olam for the kindness He has bestowed upon me through the years. I am grateful for the mussar and chizuk I have received from Rabbonim and the wonderful words of mussar from the various sefarim and articles I have read. Many of those mussar stories I often cull from, weaving them into my Moments of Inspiration. Our tefilos from the depths of our hearts mean so much. Concentrating on the words we are praying with all our hearts only enhances the meaning of those tefilos. Chaplains, Rabbi’s and yes, Rebbetzin’s are often requested to recite a prayer or offer a blessing because it means so much to that person for whatever the reason might be. When I was at the Gouverneur sub-acute, a patient called out to me “Rabbi, I’m Jewish, please give me a blessing.” I was not doing chaplaincy. Afterall, there was a rabbi who made his rounds visiting the Jewish patients. There was also a patient who shared with me about the Jewish and other holidays celebrated at home. This patient was grateful that I was not judgmental but was sincere. He told family members about my good wishes and friendship and they came to offer their thanks.

The Ribono shel Olam gives us more than a second chance. We learn how much it meant to just a small group who came to Moshe Rabbeinu wanting to fulfill mitzvos that could only be observed on Pesach. H therefore gave them and for future generations another chance with Pesach Sheni. Sometimes due to circumstances for various reasons certain mitzvos are not able to be fulfilled person is a patient. Yet, there are opportunities of being able to do other mitzvos. What is important, is for a rabbi, rebbetzin and a chaplain to be able to listen and understand the concerns of someone who would like to do mitzvos but is unable. They should really feel for that person. How comforting it is for a patient to have someone he/she can confide in, share his/her difficulties and for the listener to be empathetic. I felt honored spending time with some of the patients, Jewish, and those of other faiths and cultures. I almost forgot I was also a patient. Often as chaplains and rabbis we are asked if G will give them a second chance in life especially if they are concerned about serious illnesses, end of life or chronic pain issues. They feel unsure if G will forgive them for something they might have done wrong.

Listening is more than just hearing what a person has to say. The desire to give advice, to try to fix a problem is not the first choice. There must be intent on paying attention to what the person is saying or trying to convey. It is important to pay attention to his/her nuances, the person’s fears, concerns and hopeful wishes. We are not supposed to try and analyze what the person is saying or trying to explain. Body movement and facial expressions are important to pay attention to as well. Body movement by the rabbi, rebbetzin or chaplain is also important to be mindful of. The person will be quick to notice and maybe even comment “you don’t seem to be paying attention to what I am saying.” Be empathetic and have feelings for that person. Show sincere concern for that person. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be judge and jury. Choose wisely what you wish to say and really pay attention to what the person is seeking or what kind of prayer or blessing the person desires to be said. It is not a time for kiruv, nor is it a time to think what I can accomplish or succeed in doing with this person. Being in the present also means I am here for you. Be mindful of how you feel. When visiting a patient and it is obvious, he/she has a tray of hospital food that is not kosher, or actually see that person eating the food, what are your thoughts, your body movements and facial expressions? The patient might say” please don’t leave and come back later. I wish to speak to you now,” while eating that food. Giving encouragement, finding rays of hope that are appropriate is important. It is better not to say anything than saying something that is not practical or appropriate. Just listening and showing intent on wanting to hear what that person is saying is crucial for a good and meaningful visit. Being a chaplain is not just coming to say hello, though sometimes that is all a person desires, to be recognized that he/she is not alone. There are many other thoughts about what listening means and could take pages to explain. Be sincere, show care and make that person feel he/she is the most important person in the world during your visit. Remember that person might come from a different background than yours, a different lifestyle, different culture, different affiliations, or no affiliation at all. Chaplains are trained in the art of listening. Many rabbis have taken pastoral care courses, but a lot depends on one’s own wisdom, not just on knowledge. We are truly fortunate to have our own mentors, our own Gedolim, and rabbanim to seek advice from. Most of all, we have our Torah to help guide us. We have tremendous opportunities of helping others and making a Kiddush H. We all need each other. Being kind and caring for others with sincerity is so important.

Since I returned home, I went outside for a walk in the park right behind my building, sat on one of the benches enjoying being outdoors. I also went for a little longer walk the next day and even bought some items. I will soon be graduating from my “chariot” rollader as my PT calls it, to only a cane. I am looking forward to dancing at forthcoming family chasunas (but maybe not the kezatzka). I shared in a previous article that I miss the socialization I had at Gouverneur, but soon there will be other opportunities in shul, shiur and other venues including attending simchas and happy occasions. Thinking about attending simchas such as weddings and returning home alone reminded me of a story that I read in the Yated Ne’eman several months ago. A well-known Chasidik Rebbe insisted that one of his chasidim come directly to the Rebbe after attending his child’s chasuna no matter what time of the night. Though the chasid did not want to bother the Rebbe so late at night, he had to listen, so he did. The Rebbe asked him all kinds of questions about the chasunah such as how the food was, the music, who received brachos, so on and so forth. The chasid at first wondered why the Rebbe was asking him all those questions, but he answered every one. After some time, the Rebbe wished his chasid mazel tov and thanked him for coming and sharing all about the chasunah. After he left, the Rebbe’s chasidim who were present asked why the Rebbe could not wait until a more reasonable time the next day. The Rebbe explained, when this chasid’s wife was alive, they would both be discussing many aspects of the simcha, something many married couples would do after coming home especially from a child’s chasunah. After this chasunah, who was he going to discuss the chasunah with. This Rebbe was very thoughtful and caring about his chasid. What a tremendous chesed the Rebbe did for this man who surely felt so good sharing the many aspects of his child’s chasunah even so late at night. After a simcha I will share my experiences with my family and close friends about the wonderful time I had. Times do change and life does go on. It is so much brighter if one can accept change which might lead to golden opportunities. A person who can accept changes can live an emotionally, physically and spiritually healthier life. Having emunah and betcachon truly helps.

Here is a very nice chesed to do at a simcha. If you are at a table at a chasunah or other simcha and you notice someone who is alone, it would really be a nice chesed to introduce yourself and include that person your conversation. Even at a noisy simcha with lots of guests, it can be mighty lonely sitting by yourself with no one to talk to.

From Meaningful Minute Yisrael Besser, Artscroll Compiled by Nachi Gordon (Also in the FJJ June 8th, 2023 Page 67) “A friend of mine told me how he joined Rav Chaim Shmulevitz at Kever Rochel. “Mammeh Rochel,” Rav Chaim cried, “H told you not to cry, to hold your voice from weeping. “But I, a child, Chaim Leib, am asking you, “Mammeh, please cry, don’t stop crying.” It’s true for Rochel Imeinu, but also for all of us: when we cry, when we are sincere in prayer, then there is no greater force in the world. Miracles can happen. By Rabbi Paysach Krohn”

From Parshas Beha’aloscha Living Emunah on the Parsha by Rabbi David Ashear, Artscroll, From the FJJ June 8th, 2023 Page 67. A Second Chance. “In Parshas Beha’aloscha we read about a group of individuals who became tamei (impure) and were unable to bring the korban pesach at its proper time. They approached Moshe Rabbeinu with a burning desire to do the mitzvah. “Why should we lose out?” they asked. “We are impure due to circumstances beyond our control. We still want to do this mitzvah.” Moshe asked H what to do and H replied that He was giving them a second chance. A new festival called Pesach Sheni would be permanently added to the calendar- a day that would involve numerous halachos, a day that would be imbued with kedushah- all because several individuals asked for it! The following modern-day story may help us understand the magnitude of this gift.

Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, was intubated and sedated for more than thirty days while sick with Covid-19. When he awoke, one of the first questions he asked the doctors was, “When is Pesach?” His medical team had to inform him that Pesach had come and gone and he had missed it entirely.
Imagine if, at that point, he would have prayed to H and said, “I feel so bad that I missed Pesach. Please give me another chance” – and H would have then mandated a new festival called Pesach Sheni so he could make it up!
That’s what it was like when the Jews in the Wilderness requested another chance. Why did H give it to them? Because He loves when we desire to do His will. He loves when we ask Him to help us in spiritual matters. (Cont.) “H loves when we ask for help with spirituality. That is our purpose in this world. Fortunate we who have H, Who is waiting to help us with it.”

Rav Gershon’s Marei Mekomos by Rabbi Dovid Chefetz, a talmid of Rav Gershon Edelstein zt:l From the Yated Ne’eman June 9th, 2023 Page 41 “There were some times in my life when I felt that I was in a situation that was a gezeirah from Shomayim, a decree of agony that was difficult to bear. Rav Gershon taught me to understand that these situations were golden opportunities for growth and personal development. He taught us to value every circumstance in our lives and to be cognizant of the fact that our situations might have been decreed as the best possible circumstances for us.”

“Rav Gershon taught us that even in the middle of a highly pressurized and demanding daily routine, it is possible to transform the entire day into an experience of serenity and contentment with a few minutes of learning mussar. Like a malach that struck us on the head to stimulate our growth, he exhorted us to remember that a person who learns mussar will naturally rise to greatness. His admonitions penetrated thousands of hearts and yielded copious sweet fruits. He taught us that a person should pursue mussar at all times, that it is the key to eternal life and the best means of withstanding the pressures of this world. If a person is firmly rooted in mussar, he will have the ability to stand strong against the forces that seek to harm him.”

“Rav Gershon taught us fascinating and highly elevating concepts of tefillah. He taught us that a person must always be davening- if not verbally, then in his mind. He taught us that a tefillah that emerges from the depths of the heart has the power to pierce the heavens, even if it remains within the heart. In every situation and at every time, a person has the ability to live up to the words of the pasuk “And I am a prayer.”

“Rav Gershon’s tekias shofar on the Yomim Noraim had a powerful impact on all of us. The sounds of the shofar blasts carried the tefillos of thousands of Jewish people to Shomayim. But Rav Gershon, in a sense, continued sounding the shofar throughout the year. We constantly heard his exhortations to improve ourselves, to arouse ourselves and to forget the futilities that surround us. He infused us with hope, and his heartfelt words pierced the hearts of his listeners.

A close talmid, himself a baal tokea for many years, once asked Rav Gershon to reveal the lofty kavanos that should accompany the sounding of the shofar. Rav Gershon replied characteristically, “Have kavanah only to help your listeners fulfill their obligations and to give them the zechus of performing the mitzvah of shofar. That is, the best possible intent.” Indeed, this was Rav Gershon’s attitude throughout the year. Like a human shofar, he sought to awaken us to the realities of the world, to motivate us to purify and to teach us about obligations in this world. And this was born of the selfless desire to do good to others.”

There is a famous saying, “life is not a bowl of cherries.” I always took it to mean how delicious and nourishing cherries are even though they have pits inside of them. There are many pitfalls, many ups and downs, many challenges, and difficulties in life, but with the help of H we can meet those challenges, those pitfalls and difficulties and find a silver lining in them. There are many golden opportunities. We not only have to make the best of those situations but find goodness in them. With our love in H, our tefilos and our mitzvos we can find happiness and kindness. When alone in our home we can find a private place to say our bakashos to H. For those who have had the opportunity of going to Kever Rochel, we remember the tears of Mammeh Rochel from the depths of her heart. We do not have to travel any distance because we are always in the presence of the Ribono shel Olam who hears our tefilos and knows what is in our hearts wherever we may be.

I hope reading my reflections parts 1-6, have given my readers another vision of what life has been like being on the other side of the bed and returning back to daily life. My hope is to make my life as fulfilling and rewarding as possible. I give thanks to the Ribono shel Olam for everything. I am mispallel to continue to accomplish many things in my professional and personal life and to be a source of helping others in their time of need. I am grateful for all those I have collaborated with professionally and those who mean so much to me personally.

May we be zoche for our tefilos to reach Shomayim from the depths of our hearts with all our love for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Amein.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank