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 July 20th, 2023, Av 2, 5783 *

Panim Yafos for a fellow congregant who spoke very little and had a strong odor.

The reason the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l began to sob.

More important examples of receiving everyone with a cheerful face.

Slowness to anger- the hallmark of Gedolei Yisrael.

The closeness between H and His people, the Mishkan is described as
Tocho ratzuf Ahava – its midst was decked with implements bespeaking love.

Our faith and trust in H. We don’t always understand why,
but our faith and trust in H helps us to accept.

                                                   Plan and Purpose


There was a man from the neighborhood who came to daven in the Bialystoker Center for Rehabilitation synagogue. He was known in the community but spoke very little. Unfortunately, he had a lot of difficulty with self-care and his apartment reeked from a strong order, so did he. Despite his odor and very little communication with other congregants, they were respectful and would greet him with sincere panim yafos. I befriended him and gained his trust and confidence so he was able to share to the best of his ability a very tragic incident that had a tremendous impact on his life, his daily living and his socialization. Therefore , he was not able to have any lengthy conversations with anyone. His brother was killed during a robbery which Mr. Schwartz was unable to prevent and he has held that guilt and scene inside him for all these years. I was in touch with the director of a community social service agency and collaborated with her to help Mr. Schwartz (that was not his real name). We eventually found out that he had a relative and with Mr. Schwartz’s permission contacted him. Mr Schwarts lived alone and his ability to care for himself was gradually getting worse. The social worker and I spoke to the building management to hold off on any eviction actions due to the strong ordor that was permeating the hallway seeping into other apartments on his floor. With a lot of TLC, empathy, good will and trust, Mr. Schwartz gave consent for the social worker and me to enter his apartment and to no surprise, we found it in horrible shape. We wondered how it was possible for him to live under such conditions. We got in touch with his relative who was willing to help out financially and took an interest in wanting to help him. The housing management consented not to proceed with any action towards eviction. Instead, management agreed to have the apartment fumigated, painted and were willing to fix any repairs that were needed. Kitchen appliances, refrigerator and oven were replaced. With the relative’s help, new bedding, furniture and other necessities including new clothing were purchased.  Food items would be replaced, and meals would be arranged with the social worker. Mr. Schwartz consented to become a resident at the nursing facility until his apartment could be ready and all social services in place including home aides and outpatient therapy. Fellow congregants and neighbors in the community were very happy Mr. Schwartz’s apartment was being fixed up and that he was getting lots of wonderful help. The cheerful and friendly faces gave Mr Schwartz a good feeling. In a million years, who would have thought that Mr. Schwartz’s condition was due to such a tragic incident that happened years ago.  But then again, who is to say that we must know the reasons or the causes and challenges in a person’s life. Mr. Schwartz had to endure many hardships, but he would finally get the help he desperately needed. If only we could be of help and bring comfort to everyone when it is needed the most. 

From Just One More Tear a Kinnos Companion by Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd. Pages 22-23 “ Bein adam la’chveiro knows no compromise. If the actions of the Jewish People toward each other elicit tears, the Al-mighty will collect retribution. (continued) One of the yungerleit in Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim became deathly ill, and was in need of a lifesaving operation. His friends gathered to say Tehillim, to shake the Heavens and reverse the decree. Just as they finished, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva, entered the room. He was in the throes of Parkinson’s disease and could barely walk, his body a shell of what it used to be. In a fragile and trembling voice, he began to speak about feeling the pain of another, portraying the severity of the situation and them, surprisingly, placing blame for the young man’s illness.

“I think that the guilt lies with one member of our chaburah- I’m the one at fault!”

Rav Nosson Tzvi began to sob. “I don’t feel enough for others. I don’t sufficiently sense their hurt and pain!”

He could no longer speak; he was too crushed to say another word.

Was there anyone more selfless? Anyone who did more for another? And yet, he felt it was not enough. 

From A Vort from Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd. Parshas Mattos, Page 197198 “In Shir HaShirim (3:10), which is an allegory for the closeness between H and His people, the Mishkan is described as Tocho ratzuf ahavah, its midst was decked with implements bespeaking love. When there is intense love between people, they give freely to each other unconditionally, totally devoid of any ulterior motives. This was why the funds needed for the building of the Mishkan were donated voluntarily. Moshe did not have to force anybody to give or institute a tax. Everything was donated bindivus haleiv, with unparalled generosity, until it reached the point where Moshe had to order a halt to the contributions (see Shemos 36:6).

Aside from the historical contrast between the two periods described in the Gemara, there is a practical insight as well. There are large poverty-stricken families who live happily in small, cramped apartments. Since the shalom bayis in the home is strong, they feel the Divine Presence in their lives. They may have very little, but they have each other! On the other hand, a family of three can feel cramped living in a large six-room house with all types of luxuries and convenience, if the shalom bayis is fragile, and the thirst for luxuries and “space” is in order to silence the emptiness and dissatisfaction they feel in their lives. 

Parshas Mattos is generally read on the Shabbos before the beginning of the tragic period of the Nine Days. It is a time to beseech H that H return us with the love of our “bridal days” and send us the Final Redemption, speedily and in our times.”

From Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd, Parshas Mattos Pages 189-190 “In the list in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (6:6) enumeration the forty-eight qualities necessary for a person to acquire Torah knowledge is slowness to anger. This trait has always been a hallmark of gedolei Yisrael. Those who were privileged to know R” Moshe Feinstein and R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky immediately recognized their perfection of midos. Their supremely calm, pleasant demeanors were legendary. When one considers the myriad communal problems that weighed on their shoulders and their sense of responsibility for the Jewish people, their serenity is truly astounding. They were blessed with very long lives and, despite illness and suffering, their menuchas hanefesh (tranquility) only improved with age. They were living examples of how crucial this trait is to attain Torah greatness, and , conversely, how the failure to control anger will be a great impediment to growth in Torah.” 

From Ethics from Sinai Pirkei Avos, by Irving M. Bunim Philipp Feldheim Inc. Perek 1 Page 100 “Receive every man with a cheerful countenance. The Talmudic literature records that while Hillel was basically patient with all, Shammai had little patience with many people. In this light the present teaching might seem a bit out of character. Yet it is quite clear that Shammai’s shortness of patience was not an outgrowth of any fundamental lack of love for his fellow man. Shammai too, observed the rule of “Love your neighbor.” Hence, he taught, “Received every human being with a cheerful countenance.” Shammai’s initial reception was friendly. His distaste for ignorance and nonsense was so great, however, that could really talk only with people of a certain level of intelligence and learning.

Here too in an earlier passage, the words kol adam can be translated “the whole man.” In other words, if there something about a person that displeases you, look at the total personality and find his good qualities; then you will be able to greet him with a cheerful countenance.”

From Pirkei Avos Ethics of The Fathers Treasury Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd, Perek 1 (15) Page 47 “Important guests. Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, mashgiach in the Ponovezh Yeshiva, often found himself with no funds to give to people who knocked on his door for alms. Rather than turning someone away empty-handed, he would invite him in for a chat, asking about his family background and mentioning relatives of his whom he knew, or people from his town, all in an effort to make him feel comfortable. He received each person with a cheerful countenance- the greatest gift he could give.

The Rabbi of Bendin was a master host. When his brother-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur, mentioned our Mishnah, and receive everyone with a cheerful face, he would add “Like the Rabbi of Bendin.”

Here is a  saying a Rebbe would share with his talmidim’s parents. “If you spend as much time and koach finding  shlect in a child and instead use that strength finding the good, you will find twice as much good in your child.

From Relevance Pirkei Avos for the Twenty-First Century by Rabbi Don Roth 

A project of Torah Live, Feldheim Publishers “The Final Stroke” Pages 161-162 “Chapter 4, Mishnah 19: Rabbi Yannai says: It is not in our power to explain either the tranquility of the wicked or the suffering of the righteous.”  The Mishneh addresses the age-old question of why the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper, informing us that it is beyond our understanding.

When Moshe asked G to reveal His ways to him so that he might understand this ultimate of questions, G replied that H would show Moshe His back, but not his face. G was saying that man can only comprehend in retrospect why apparently had things happen, but not while they are still unfolding.

Consider, for example, a person who applies for a job or school and is rejected. Initially, he feels disappointed. He may even be angry at the institution for not accepting him. But many years later, after having landed another job or having attended a different school, he may look back and be thankful that he wasn’t accepted, recognizing that it was actually for his own good. This is symbolized by G’s showing Moshe His “back”, as if to say that man cannot expect to understand the purpose of his suffering until it has already passed.”

Strokes in the Masterpiece. Chazzal says that in the verse “Ein tzur k’Elokeinu- There is no rock like our G” is to be read, “Ein tzayar k’Elokeinu there is no painter like our G.” 

“This metaphor of G as the ultimate painter can be explained by looking at how a master artist creates his magnum opus. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, would often begin a work of art by painting a dark background and only later adding elements of light. Anyone watching him throw that first streak of black paint across the canvas would think him to be reckless, hardly a world-class artist. A layman would be convinced that Leonardo had ruined that canvas with the black paint and that he would need to start again.

Only months later, after the painting is complete, does the full picture become clear. One realizes that the black paint was no mistake, but rather a stroke of genius made to create a striking contrast of light and shadows. Similarly, some Divinely orchestrated events may seem dark and unpleasant. But at the End of Days, they will be recognized as having formed a majestic composition of beauty, carried out by the Master Painter of the world.

The time it takes until we can appreciate G’s intention is not always the same. While in some cases the understanding may come about relatively quickly- as in the example of the person who didn’t get the position he wanted- there are other calamities that are beyond comprehension that we may never come to fully understand them, even after many decades. The pain of losing a loved one, or the trauma of the terrorist attacks in our generation, leave wounds so painful and profound that we cannot hope to grasp their inner meaning until G reveals Himself to the world and ends our long exile. Until that time, we mush hold on to our faith and accept everything G does is for a purpose and for our ultimate good.”

From Chasidic Masters by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Corporation The Perceiving Eye Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak Horowitz The Seer of Lublin (1745-1815) Page 130 “ Love and fear are called hands. The reason is because with them, we give G a hand so that He should hold on to us, as it were. We also receive sustenance from G through our love and fear of Him. With them, we give G delight, since without love and fear, our good deeds cannot ascend on high.

Love and fear therefore give pleasure to G. It is for this reason that they are called hands.”

                       From my CPE (Author unknown) Plan and Purpose

  • There is plan and purpose in this world.
  • If there wouldn’t be plan and purpose, many things would fall apart.
  • The human body is full of systems that are very intricate.
  • It’s a wonder of coordination that most human bodies function as well as they do for so many years.
  • If there is plan and purpose, there are reasons for everything.
  • We don’t always see or understand reasons for things.
  • We question the presence of war, hunger and corruption.
  • Man was granted freedom of choice, to choose good or evil.
  • Man likes freedom of choice and independence.
  • G is truly independent and wants to give us a taste of independence.
  • There is plan and purpose for the world and for individual.
  • “Plan” takes place at the beginning. “Purpose” takes place at the end.
  • Throughout our life we plan and have purpose.
  • We plan and prepare for a job throughout education.
  • We finalize the purpose by getting the job and  feeling fulfilled and productive.
  • A product is the final thing at the end of the production.
  • Our goals, once we reach them, are the products of our planning.
  • We have reasons and purpose in choosing the goals and products we seek.
  • There is a period of time and process between the “plan stage” and the “purpose stage.” 
  • We plan for better health, job etc…., then we go about doing something about it (process), and then we reach the end-purpose and become productive and happy.

Rabbis, Rebbetzins and Chaplains are often asked the question why? We don’t always have the answer, but we can always be empathetic, be understanding and most of all just listen and acknowledge the concerns a person might have. There is no halacha that says we must always know the reason. With a smile, or even a frown when appropriate, showing our feelings for that person is so important. There is always the light at the end of the tunnel and that is the light of hope. We are always mispallel for the wisdom of knowing what to say, how to say it and when not to say anything but just to listen, Most of all our Panin Yafos should always be with sincerity- with emeskeit. H is always there for us, and we are there for those who entrust us with their concerns, their problems, their tears and their times of joy and happiness. There is a plan and purpose for everything. We don’t know why those plans sometimes don’t seem to work. There are times when we are requested to help understand or find the purpose of what a person is seeking. We must always know that H has the answer. 

The Gentle Weapon Prayers for Everyday and Not -So- Everyday Moments

Timeless Wisdom form the Teachings of the Hasidic Master
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Jewish Light Publishing


“G, I want
to be so many things,
to do so much,
to achieve so endlessly-
but can anyone
be everything,
do everything,
have everything?
You alone understand
the fragile balance of my balance of my soul.
You’ve invested in me
the potential
to make of that balance
a perfect creation.
Now help me fashion myself
Into just such a creation,
“in accordance with Your Will.”


Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank