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 September 7, 2023, Elul 21, 5783***


Sadness or Happiness

Do we look at what we did accomplish or what we did not?

Do we only feel the pain of the past and possibly the present
or is it possible to see less pain and suffering in the future?

How can a Chaplain, or a Rabbi hear the pain without being condescending that
things will be better in the days, months and years to come
when the patient or the congregant is suffering now?

What is it that we can do rather than what we are not able to do?

A follow up from Alei Siach with another heartwarming video that is so
touching, it will surely bring tears to your eyes.
“Marriage, I had a dream”
“Because of that prayer she opened my heart”
“But G shows everyone the way”
“Tears of joy”
“At last, my dream is about to come true”

Judging Favorably

A Water Reflects a Face

The importance of loving kindness.


Click on at the end of this article for the magnificent video
from Alei Siach of the Chosanim and
Kallahs before, during and after their chasunahs.
(All in Hebrew with English subtitles)

The Yom Limud & Tefillah -Uniting The Globe Through Tefilla
marking the 90th yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim beginning Motzei Shabbos
September 9th, continuing to September 10th. This is in conjunction with
Dirshu’s International Yom Limud & Tefilla, a comprehensive videocast
featuring Gedolei Yisrael addressing Klal Yisrael in its preparation
for Yomim Noraim.
The videocast will be featured on The Yeshiva World News and Matzav.com
The presentation will be aired on a dedicated audio line: 718-298-4444
A USB of the entire presentation will also be available. To order call:888-5-DIRSHU
This presentation will be in English.


We all have our memories, some very precious, meaningful and possibly joyful ones. Then there are the memories that are not so pleasant or downright sad. During this time of year, we often think back and remember those memories. We often reflect about what we might have done to have improved our lives since then, how we can improve our lives in the future, and how we can bring ourselves to do teshuva asking the Ribono shel Olam for forgiveness for anything we might have done.  We are mispallel that He blesses us to be inscribed in the good books, for a healthy, prosperous, year of happiness and a good year that is sweet.

But how does a chaplain or a rabbi interact with a person who is going through a difficult time in his or her life? How can a chaplain, a rabbi hear the pain without being condescending that things will be better in the days, months and years to come when the patient or the congregant is suffering now? Joey was a double amputee. His legs were surgically removed from above his knees. He was not a Jewish patient but spiritually had been connected to G. Aside from the pain he was experiencing, and the periodic thoughts that his legs were still connected only to realize they were not, he shared his immense sadness of having lost not one but both of his legs. He was distraught about everything he was no longer able to do. He discussed how he was no longer a man, nor a full human being capable of living a normal life again. There were no discussions at this point in time of what he will someday be able to do. This was a time for Joey to share with the chaplain his pain, his suffering and his sadness. He was not angry at G, but was sad that G had put him in such a miserable position. Eventually he asked what was he going to do with his life. What should he pray to G for. Perhaps he should ask G for forgiveness that caused him to have both of his legs removed. This gave the opportunity for the chaplain to explore his feelings carefully responding to his inquiries. The chaplain asked him if he would like to share his thoughts and feelings of what he would be able to function as discussed with his therapist and social worker. Joey mentioned various recommendations such as eventually being able to wear a prosthesis, possibly walking, returning to the work force, and learning how to live as normal of a life in his condition. He knew it will take time to reach any achievements but he was willing to give it his best. He wanted to ask G to forgive him and to bless him with strength to persevere physically and spiritually. He asked to hold the chaplain’s hands and pray with him to beseech G on his behalf. It was hard to hear his fears and his sadness. It was also sad to hear him state how his life was over with. He did not have any suicidal ideations. Though initially at the onset of the visits, he shared that he wished he was dead. He questioned what was there for him to live for as an amputee. He shared that his life will never be the same and was not worth living. However, he never shared that he wanted to end his life. It is not the goal of a chaplain nor a rabbi to try to fix a situation, but to listen, to explore, to share, to offer and to find ways of hope. Joey was given the opportunity to explore what he felt would be possible in the days to come.  Joey himself mentioned and questioned what he might be capable of doing as time went on. What new and different lifestyle he would have and what he anticipates might be the challenges to expect or even be fearful of. He spoke about experiences in life and those things that might never be possible. It was difficult to share many of his feelings not knowing what the future holds and how he will deal with it. The chaplain helped Joey articulate those feelings, his fears and his tears, but never put words in his mouth and was not condescending. The chaplain reflected on what he said and what he shared with  his therapist and social worker. He wanted to know if the chaplain agreed to what his therapist and social worker said. He reassured Joey that it all sounded good and that he should feel confident that they were helping him as best as possible. Joey desired the blessings of life. He asked if G will forgive him for anything he might have done wrong in his life that caused him to become an amputee. The chaplain shared that G is a forgiving G. Everything is up to Him. We do not know why He does what He does but we know that He is a loving and forgiving G. The chaplain told Joey how much he liked and respected him. Also, how he inspires him (the chaplain) to try to do the best for himself with the same spirit that Joey has. The chaplain left Joey with the encouraging thought, that he too could pray to G for his recovery . We the chaplains, the rabbis and the rebbetzins should always extol our kindness towards others with heartfelt  sincerity.

In my previous Moments of Inspiration, I shared a video about the wonderful organization Alei Siach. There was a remarkable interview of a father who prayed to the Ribono shel Olam that his daughter someday will someday  become a kallah, get married and live a wonderful and meaningful life. The video was fabulous. The new video you will see when you click ono the link below is truly immensely touching. It will bring you tears of joy and happiness. You will hearthe words  “Because of that prayer she opened my heart”, “But G shows everyone the way”,“Tears of joy.”  H can make anything and everything possible. Having emunah, faith, hope and most of all, bitachon -trust in H is of utmost importance.  The stories of the disabled married couples are not of pity but how H makes everything possible with kavod and sweetness. It shows how they can build a Bayis Neeman BeYisrael with tremendous Simchas Hachaim.  Their families,mentors and rabbeim instill in them love ,care for each other with beautiful Ahavas H, Ahavas Torah. They are role models that we can all learn from who desire to have meaningful marriages that fulfill their utmost dreams in a truly spectacular way.

From: How Sweet is the Light Umesuka Haor Elul and Rosh Hashanah by Rav Shlomo Levenstein Tfutza Publications Pages 13, 14-17, 19-20
“We must recognize that everything we have was given to us by H- even our spiritual accomplishments. If we manage to advance in our Torah learning and mitzvah observance, we should not feel haughty about it, for it is a gift from H. And if we have managed to do teshuvah for our sins, this is also a gift.”

“Judging Favorably Elul- Man and H”
“Rav Yitzchak Meir of Gur, the Chaddushei HaRim, once observed that the word Elul is formed by the two words lamud vav (his) and the lamed aleph (not). This alludes to the following idea:

Dovid Hamelech states:
Know that H is G. He made us, and we are His. (Tehillim 100:3).

Here, the Hebrew word lo is spelled with an aleph, forming the word for “not,” but the mesorah teaches us to read it as if it were spelled with a vav, meaning “His”. The Chiddushei HaRim explains that this means that we become “His”-tht is, we become closely connected to H-to the degree we realize that we are “not”-i.e., that we are inherently creatures of nothingness, utterly insignificant in relation to H.

“This is our mission in the month of Elul: to humble ourselves as much as possible into H’s Hands to become “His”.

As Water Reflects a Face
As water reflects a face, so does the heart of a man reflect another’s. (Mishlei 27:19)

When a person looks into a pool of water, he sees his own reflection. If he smiles, it smiles back at him, and if he frowns, it frowns back. The Ben Ish Chai developed a parable based on this analogy:

There was once a simple village girl who set out to make a life for herself in the big city. She found a job working as a maid in an affluent household, where there was always much to do and her services were constantly needed. Little by little, she saved money, until she was able to establish herself. She learned the customs and norms of big city life and was soon no longer recognizable as the simple village girl who had arrived there years earlier. With the money she had saved, she settled down and got married.

Fortune smiled on the young couple, and they became more and more successful with every passing year. They bought a fancy home for themselves, filled it with beautiful furniture, and hired maids and servants.

One fine spring day, the lady’s younger brother came to visit her in the big city. With a loud knock, he presented himself at her front door. His unruly hair, disheveled clothes, and crude boots appeared completely out of place amid the fine décor of her home. Still, a brother is a brother, and she welcomed him in and showed him to the guest room.

He opened the door to his room and walked inside, only to find another young man with the same uncouth appearance standing there and staring at him. “Excuse me, what are you doing here?” he asked with a frown, but the other young man merely frowned back at him.

He motioned disapprovingly at the other young man, but the stranger merely made the same gesture in return. The visitor placed his hand over his heart and uttered coarse epithet, warning the stranger, “If you do not explain yourself politely, I promise you will regret it!” The other man, however, simply placed his own hand on his own heart, mimicking and mocking the brother’s every movement.

At that point, the visitor could not stand to be treated with such contempt any longer. But before he began a fistfight in his sister’s home, he decided to tell her what had happened. He went downstairs and found her seated in the conservancy, playing a lovely tune on a grand piano. “Mira” he said, seething with anger, “there’s a boorish young man in the room you gave me, and I think I need to teach him a lesson in manners!”

His sister understood right away what had happened. There were no mirrors in the little village where she had been raised, and her brother did not realize that he had been antagonized by his own reflection. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to explain the reality of the situation to him. Instead, she had a different idea.

“Come, let’s go back to your room,” she suggested. “I think that if you try talking to him nicely, you’ll see that he’s not quite as bad as you imagine.”

Her brother grudgingly agreed. “I’ll give it a shot,” he said. Together, they went back to his room, and this time, the brother bowed politely to the stranger.

“Good evening,” he said, and the stranger bowed back to him. He smiled, and the stranger smiled back. He made a friendly gesture, and the stranger mirrored his motion. Satisfied that he was on much better terms with the stranger, the visitor turned away and prepared to go to sleep, and the stranger did the same.

Like the mirror in this story, people often reflect each other’s feelings. If someone treats us poorly, it might be a product of his poor character but instead, a reflection of our own bad midos. Trying to teach another person a lesson can be like smashing a mirror in response to the movement of a reflection. The mirror is not to blame, and we would only injure ourselves in shattering it. Similarly, instead of retaliating against them, we should try correcting our own actions. If we show love and kindness to others, they will certainly display the same attitude to us in return.”  

Bending Over to Look Down
There is one more point to consider: When Shlomo Hamelech wanted to teach us that other people’s feelings and actions reflect our own, why did he use the analogy of a reflection seen in water? Why didn’t he compare it to a mirror instead? After all, mirrors have existed throughout our history; even when our forefathers were in Egypt, they had mirrors made of polished copper (which were later donated to the Mishkan; see Shemo 38:8). In Shlomo Hamelech’s times, when Yerushalayim was at the height of its glory the people certainly must have had mirrors. Why, then did he use a reflection in water as his analogy?

Rav Sholom of Belz explains that when a person looks at his reflection in a mirror, he is able to stand upright while gazing at it. To look at his reflection in a pond, however, he must bend forward. Similarly, in order to see the qualities of other people and to judge them favorably as we would judge ourselves, we cannot allow ourselves to “stand upright” and be haughty. Instead, we must “bend” in humility; only then will we be able to see the good in others.

This too is part of our task during the month of Elul. If we develop the humility and recognition that we are essentially lo (nothing), if we minimize our sense of self-importance, we will be able to dedicate ourselves to being lo (His) and having the care and concern for others that H desires us to display. By achieving this, we will weave Torah and kindness together, and we will then be rewarded with a good year.”

Elul stands for Ani ledodi vedodi li, I am to H and H is to me.

Ish lereiahu umatanos le evyonim. A man loves his friend and gives gifts to the poor. It is the premise of Ahavas Yisrael, loving each other.

Elul stands for Efshar lehiskayem velaamod lefaneicha.  No matter what a person did wrong during the year, he/she can do Teshuva and stand before H.

When looking at the pure and holy neshamos of the chosanim and kallahs in the video, the love they have for the Ribono shel Olam and for each other, could only inspire each and every one of us to appreciate our own love and relationship with H Yisbarach.. We are truly grateful for every opportunity to be the Avraham Avinus and the Sarah Imeinus making a Kiddush H and conveying His Majesty as the King of all Kings who is a loving, kind, caring and forgiving G who makes everything and anything possible. We pray to be ambassadors of H who reflect the essence of our heritage, our Torah, our kindness and goodness. Hopefully, we can instill and enhance achdus amongst all Jewish people and be the messengers of Shalom Al Yisrael, Am Yisrael Chai and Chaveirim Kol Yisrael.

Let us be mispallel for a kisivah vechasimah tovah and a shana tova umesuka. A year filled with much simchas hachaim for Klal Yisrael, for each other and for ourselves as well.

Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank

Click here and scroll down the page for the video “A peek into everyday life with our couples” from Alei Siach.