Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
***Thursday August 24, 2023, Elul 7, 5783***
The little things that matter the most.
The little things that matter most.
Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald’s zt”l kindness helps the kallah at the Bus Terminal
“Three Little Words” sung by Avraham Fried and Yossi Hecht.
Click on the bottom of this article for the video “Three Little Words.”
Value=Not how much something is worth in tangible value or amount, but how much does one appreciate, cherish, hold in high esteem, love, treasure, prize, admire greatly his or her spouse, a dear friend, mentor, rebbe, mechaneches, chaver, chavrusah, and most of all the Ribono shel Olam.
Many often forget that it is during this period of time that the Ribono shel Olam makes His decisions for our future, whether it be regarding health, parnasah, shidduchim, shalom bayis and so much more. Our lives depend not on what we think is best for ourselves and our future, but what H decides is best for us. Not knowing what is best, we always must do our hishtadlus, be mispallel, have in our hearts to do what is right and beseech H to guide us in the right path. We truly must value all that H does for us and for the opportunities He gives us. Unfortunately, the Yeitzer Harah knows how to influence people to do things that are not al pi halacha and al pi seichel. He also tries and often successfully, convinces people to do the opposite of what is correct or in the best interest of a person. He convincingly gives choices as tempting as they may be that are not appropriate or beneficial.
Rabbis, rebbetzins and chaplains can make a tremendous difference in a person’s life. Often a person is in a vulnerable and sensitive point in his/her life and is seeking the direction from the Ribono shel Olam. Not knowing who to turn to, what directions to take, can be exasperating or even frightening. A rabbi, rebbetzin or chaplain often makes a difference by being available for that person.
Through the decades I have come across men and women who were often very lonely. They did not have someone to confide in, to share their inner most fears, their aspirations, their desires and their wishes in life. It was often heartbreaking to listen to their stories whether it be at the skilled nursing facility, hospice, hospital or mispalilim in shul or community residents. There were many situations that brought tears just hearing their concerns in life. It might have been concerns regarding their medical, emotional and spiritual fears of their mind, body and soul. I was fortunate to have been able to collaborate with mental health professionals and spiritual mentors to seek their guidance as necessary. When I visited families whose loved ones committed suicide that they were unable to prevent those were challenging moments. This led to my spearheading the coalition dealing with suicides of the senior population. Their feelings of helplessness, guilt, regret and sadness of not knowing what they could have done to prevent the suicide was overwhelming. Their feelings that perhaps they might have been the cause of their loved one’s desperate acts of self-harm were truly immense and sad. There are many opportunities of giving thanks to H Yisbarach for enabling to be a source of comfort, of help, a resource and just to be there for that person in his/her time of need. There might be questions dealing from the simplest to the most complex.
We should always give thanks to the Ribono shel Olam in our hearts, our minds, our souls, our lips and our voices singing our praises of H. One does not have to do major accomplishments to be loved by H and for that matter those we offer our care to. Nothing major, just be caring.
From How Sweet is the Light of U’Masok Ha’Ohr by Rav Shlomo Levenstein Elul and Rosh Hashanah Page35-37 “I Am to My Beloved as My Beloved Is to Me.”(Shir HaShirim 6:3) “The word “Elul” is an acronym for the words of the verse “Ani ledodi vedodi li” I am to my Beloved as my Beloved is to me.” Rav Eliyahu Lopian explains this to mean that H-our “Beloved”- treats us the same way we treat Him.
This is also the meaning of the verse, “May H be your shadow by your right hand” (Tehillim 121:5). “The shadow of a person’s hand does whatever his hand does. If he puts out one finger, his shadow will also put out one finger. If he puts out two fingers, his shadow will also put out two.
The same is true of our relationship with H. To the degree that we try to draw close to Him through Torah and mitzvos, He will draw close to us to protect us in return.
“The Little Things that Matter Most” “And it will be if you listen to these statues, to observe and perform them, that H, your G, will guard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. And He will love you and bless you and bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grains, wine and oil, the offspring of your cattle and your flocks of sheep, on the land that H swore to your forefathers to give you. (Devarim 7:12-13).
Every year during the month of Elul, we search for ways to come closer to H. Inspired by the sound of the shofar blast, we wake up early for selichos, we make an accounting of our deeds, and we challenge ourselves to improve.
In the quest for a favorable judgment, people tend to look for ways to perform deeds of earth-shattering significance, hoping that an enormous infusion of merits will tip the scales of judgment in their favor. With their sights set on such major accomplishments, though, they tend to overlook the things that matter the “minor” observances that are part of our daily routines and that form the basis of our connection to H.
What defines a great person, then, is not an act of extraordinary devotion or self-sacrifice at tremendous personal cost. Rather, it is his “small” actions, the things that many people might not even consider worth noticing, that earn him his claim to greatness.
(154) “That being the case (of how many are Torah observant in this world), H must have enormous love for those few noble souls. Certainly, every step we take and every small measure of success that we achieve must be incredibly valuable in His Eyes, even if our achievements are utterly insignificant in contrast to the great accomplishments of generations past.”
From Yamim Noraim with the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, Artscroll Series. Mesorah Publications Ltd. Pages 121-122 “Fare and Square” “Gomeil Chasadim Tovim Who bestows beneficial kindness…(Shemoneh Esrei). Chazal teach, Be like H; just as He is compassionate and merciful, so too shall you be compassionate and merciful (Shabbos 133b). This story is a perfect example.
Sara, a graduate student in her early twenties, grew up in Cleveland, but when her parents made Aliyah to Israel to fulfill a lifelong dream, she relocated to Manhattan where she shared an apartment with another frum girl, hoping it would be easier to find employment and a shidduch in the big city.
Within a few months, in November of 1975, she became engaged to a talmid in Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, whose parents had also made Aliyah. Shortly after the engagement, she decided to go to Lakewood to be with her chassan for Shabbos. She called the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan an got the Friday bus schedule. She found the bus that would get her to Lakewood on time and planned the trip.
However, Sara was not familiar with the Manhattan transit system and it took extra time on that busy Friday for her to reach the huge terminal and then find her way through the maze of stairwells an escalators to find the booth that sold tickets to Lakewood, Arriving at the booth, she was taken aback to see a long line of people snaking around the area, waiting to purchase tickets. If she missed this bus, the next one would get her to Lakewood after candle-lighting!
Not being with her chassan for Shabbos would have been bad enough, but at this point, she could not even go back to her apartment. Her roommate had gone away for Shabbos and she didn’t know anyone in Midtown Manhattan who would host her for Shabbos.
As she nervously pondered her situation, a tall frum-looking man came over and asked, “Do you need a ticket for the Lakewood bus?”
When she nodded, he said, “Here, take this; I have and extra one.”
‘You don’t need it for yourself?” she asked in surprise.
“No,” the man smiled warmly. “Whenever I go to Lakewood on a Friday, especially if it’s a bit late, I buy and extra ticket, in case someone on a long line needs one.”
Sara was flabbergasted at the foresight of this chessed. She tried to pay him for the ticket but he refused to accept any money. “I feel so indebted,” she said.” I can’t thank you enough. Is it Mr…or Rabbi?” she asked.
“Greenwald,” he replied.” But just call me Ronnie-everyone does.”
Sara had never heard of Ronnie Greenwald, but the multitudes who knew him- or knew of him- would not have been surprised at this gesture. Ronnie dealt with governments, heads of state, and countless officials. He could talk his way into then-Communist East German to extricate prisoners and hostages. He helped countless people in trouble, young and old, and neither expected nor accepted reward for his services.
Years later, after Sara learned who Ronni Greenwald was, his act of kindness that Friday was no longer surprising. However, what stays with her until this day is not only the act, but also the wisdom and concern to plan in advance how to be available if someone needed help.”
There is a beautiful song by Avraham Fried and Yossi Hecht, “Three little words” I have included the video from Asher To The Yatzar of Avraham Fried and Yossi Hecht singing together H Thank You”. It is tremendously filled with love, appreciation and immense value of H.
Three little words- Avraham Fried & Yossi Hecht – Asher to the Yatzar
Avraham Fried and Yossi Hecht
We are all faced with challenges that can sometimes feel overwhelming. Even through we understand that it is ultimately for our best, it takes courage and strength…. These “three little words” are testimony to the fact that not only do we understand it is all for the good, we feel it deeply enough to live with gratitude and appreciation to Hashem for all the good that He bestows upon us…
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank