Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
***Thursday September 14, 2023, Elul 28, 5783***
The past, the present, the future.
Kesiva Vechasima Tova,Leshana Tova Umesuka
Do we sincerely say those words from our heart?
On Rosh Hashana we coronate H as our king.
We are His children, His chosen nation, Do we feel His love?
An analogy of the love, loyalty and commitment
between spouses and the love between Klal Yisrael and the Ribono shel Olam.
H is with us. I shall not fear.
The ten trials of Avraham Avinu
and the love he had for H and the love H had for him.
The little things that matter most.
The Japanese Businessman.
There is a link at the bottom of this article to the Chaim V’Chesed organization Newsletter with their link to vital services that they provide. On the RAA website there is a link to a presentation given by Rabbi Freedman in Israel describing Chaim V’ Chesed assisting English speaking residents of Israel, family members and visitors to Israel.
The translations of our tefilos and Tehillim have such wonderful meanings, and can bring solace, comfort and a closer relationship with the Ribono shel Olam.
From Chapter 130 of Tehillim Artscroll Tehilim Mesorah Publications Ltd.
“A song of ascents. From the depths I called You, H. O L rd hear my voice; may they be Your ears attentive to the sound of my pleas. If iniquities You preserve, O G, O L rd, who could survive? For with You is forgiveness, so that You may be feared. I placed my hope in H, placed hope did my soul, and for His word I yearned. My soul [yearns] for the L rd, among those longing for the dawn, those longing for the dawn. Yearn shall Israel for H, for with H is kindness, and abundant with Him is redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.”
From Artscroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications Ltd the following tefilos:
Ahava Raba: “With abundant love have You loved us, H, our G; with a compassion that is great and exceeding have You shown compassion to us. Our Father, our King, for the sake of our forefathers who trusted in You and to whom You taught the decrees of life, so may You be gracious to us and teach us. Our Father, the merciful Father Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us, and instill in our hearts to understand and comprehend, to listen, learn, teach, observe, perform, and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and to fear Your Name, so that we not be ashamed for every and ever; for in the Name of Your holiness that is great and awesome do we trust may we exult and rejoice in your salvation. Bring us in peace from the four corners of the earth and lead us with upright pride to our Land. For the G Who performs salvations, are You, and us You have chosen from among all peoples and tongues. And You have brought us close to Your name that is great forever in truth, to offer thanks to You, and proclaim Your Oneness with love.”
From Lechu Neranena. “Come! Let us sing joyfully to H, let us call out to the Rock of our salvation. Let us greet Him with thanksgiving, with praiseful songs let us call out to Him. For a great G is H and a great King above all heavenly powers.”
From Adon Olam: “With my spirit my body shall remain; H is with me, I shall not fear.”
From Karbanos: “H Master of Legions is with us, a stronghold for us is the G of Jacob Selah!”
“H Master of Legions, praiseworthy is the man who trusts in You.”
“H, save! May the King answer us on the day we call!”
“You are a shelter for me; from distress You preserve me; with a glad song of rescue, You envelope me, Selah! And pleasing to H let be the offering of Judah, and Jerusalem, as in days of old and in years gone by.”
“May it be the will before You, H, our G and the G of our forefathers, that rebuilt shall the Holy Temple be, speedily in our days. Grant us our share in Your Torah, and there may we serve You with reverence as in days of old and as in years gone by.”
Our continuous kesher, our relationship with the Ribono shel Olam is very important. Though, we should constantly find opportunities of renewing this relationship, not just in these holy days prior to the Yomim Noraim, or fulfilling the many mitzvos of Succos, not just on Hoshana but every moment of our lives. We are only human and sometimes are removed from the special feelings of closeness with H due to the many activities of our day and where thoughts take us on different paths. The same with true about the love between a husband and wife. There might be times during the day when we are distracted from our loving thoughts about each other. We are only human.
Sometimes our distraction lasts for long periods of time. It is our tefilos that reminds us of our loving and meaningful connection to H. That is why it is important to have a set period of time everyday dedicated to doing mitzvos and learning Torah. It has been recommended by many rabbonim to use a siddur such as Artscroll to daven and learn the meaning of the holy words of tefila. There are translations in other languages as well. It is up to each of us to feel and know the love H has for us.
How can we show our love for the Ribono shel Olam? Observing the taryag mitzvos including gemilus chasadim, kibud of vaeim, bikur cholim, ahavas shalom, bein adam lachaveiro, levayas hameis and Talmud Torah. Of course, making a Kiddush H, being erlich, having midos tovos and so much more that is beyond the scope of this article.
From Pirkei Avos Treasury, The Sages Guide to Living Artscroll Mesorah Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd.(5:4) “Our forefather Abraham was tested with ten trials and he withstood all of them. Lehodia kama chibaso shel Avraham Avinu- to show the degree of our forefather Abraham’s love for G. This rendering follows Rashi and R’ Yonah. Through his trial, people became aware of the depth of Abraham’s loyalty and commitment to G and could gain inspiration from it. According to Meri, and as amplified by R’ Shlomo Kluger, however the converse is indicated: Abraham’s success in overcoming the ten trials indicates G’s love for Abraham. Incessant trials are a sign of the innate potential which G invests in a person, and which the trial is intended to actualize. Bu withstanding his trials, Abraham revealed the depth of his personality, indicating the great potential with which G had endowed him.
Yet, what about the little things that matter the most?
From: How Sweet is the Light Unesuka Haor. Elul and Rosh Hashanah by Rabbi Shlomo Levenstein: Tfutza Publications Israel Bookstore “The Little Things that Matter Most” Pages 36-39 “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 most- the “minor” observances that are part of our daily routines and that form the basis of our connection to H.
In the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu warns Benei Yisrael, “Vhayah eikev tishme’um- And it will be if you will listen.” The Hebrew word eikev also denotes a heel, and Rashi explains that there is a double meaning in this pasuk: It alludes to the mitzvos that people take lightly, trampling on them-so to speak-with the heels of their feet, such as davening Shacharis at the correct time, davening Mincha with a minyan and reframing from speaking during davening. These things seem small and insignificant, but they are of pivotal importance. In the merit of these “little things,” H promises us tremendous prosperity and success in everything we do: “He will love you and bless you and bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land.”
When we think about this, though, it is actually quite incongruous. Why does H promise us such enormous reward for these minor observances? Why aren’t these incredible blessings contingent on our performing monumental acts of piety and devotion?
The answer to this question is simple: Great deeds are not a measure of a person’s spiritual stature, because even simple people can perform acts of greatness when the need arises. Throughout the years of our bitter exile, many Jews have been faced with the terrible ultimatum to either renounce their faith in H or give up their lives, and very often, even the simplest Jews have chosen to die al kiddush H.
What defines a great person, then, is not an 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 truly earn him his claim to greatness.
This should be our objective in the avodah of Elul-not to make a desperate effort to soar to heights of sanctity that are far beyond us, but rather, to work on the minor practices and small details of our daily lives. As the Torah tells us, we must work on the “words that I am commanding you”; H makes a special request, as it were, addressed to each and every one of us, to improve our daily actions. Our task is simple: to be ordinary, good Jews, to come to shul a few minutes before davening begins so that we can put on tefillin with kavanah, to recite birchos hashachar properly, and to say Pesukei Dezimrah with the same serenity and focus that we had when we were bachurim in yeshiva.
The Darkei Moshe states that one should take care to emulate every word of Pesukei Dezimra individually, in the same way that a person counts money with great care, separating the bills slowly and deliberately. Today, moneychangers have a special machine that can flip through a hundred bills in a second, and banks count coins by dumping an entire pile on a scale and assessing their value all at once. Unfortunately, our davening has also become an incoherent mass of words.
In the month of Elul, we should work on the “little things” such as davening slowly and deliberately, using a bencher to recite birkas hamazon, and maintaining set times for Torah study every day. These little things are the stepping stones with which many people have risen to true greatness.”
“The secret to a good life. H chooses those circumstances.
You choose your attitude.”
A Kiddush H, hashgah pratis and emunah in the Ribon shel Olam led
to a special prize by the Japanese Businessman.
From 102 Stories That Changed people’s lives. Volume 2 by Rabbi Tzvi Nakar
Tfutza Publication Israel. The Japanese Businessman Pages 81-83 “A certain American Jew who worked as a retailer sought to sell his business since it wasn’t earning enough profit. He consulted with a friend of his who was also in business, and asked if he knew anyone who might want his merchandise. The businessman recommended he go to Japan.
“What’s in Japan?”
“I’m telling you, if you’re not doing well here, then go to Japan.”
The retailer purchased a first-class plane ticket for the next flight out.
His neighbor on the plane was a Japanese businessman.
The plane took off, and the first-class passengers were served a gourmet meal and fine wine, while the Jewish retailer sufficed with the kosher meal served to him on a plastic tray. His meal seemed meager and bland compared to the food his fellow passengers were enjoying.
“Why aren’t you eating any of this good food?” the Japanese man sitting next to him asked.
“I only eat kosher,” the American explained.
“No one is watching,” the Japanese man said. “What will happen if you eat one of the regular meals? You did pay for it, after all.”
“Maybe no man is watching, but G, Whose glory fills the entire world, can see me wherever I am.”
They conversed for the rest of the flight, and when the plane landed, the Japanese businessman gave the American his number. “If you ever need help,” he said, “give me a call.”
Over the next month, the Jewish retailer tried selling his merchandise, but no one was buying. Everywhere he went, he was told that they already had similar goods and for better prices. He started to feel like all the doors were slamming shut in his face.
Feeling dejected, he thought about returning home when he remembered the Japanese businessman. He dialed the man’s number, and his voice came on the line: “I’ve been looking for you. Can you come see me?”
“Where are you?”
“My office is in the Sony building. Eighth floor.”
The American retailer arrived at the Sony building, a magnificent, towering edifice, stepped into the elevator, and rode to the eighth floor. The secretary showed him into a large, well- appointed office, and sitting behind an enormous desk was the Japanese businessman the retailer had sat next to on the plane.
“Our largest factory is in the United States,” said the Japanese man, who happened to be the CEO of Sony. “When we met, I was returning from there. I had been following up on allegations that the director was embezzling funds. The allegations proved to be true, and I had to fire him. Now I’m looking for a replacement. We need someone who is not only ready to work hard but is absolutely trustworthy.
“During the flight, I saw how faithful you are to your religious practices, even when no one was looking. As we conversed, I could also tell that you’re smart and knowledgeable about business. I want to offer you the job of director of our U.S. offices. I’m prepared to offer a generous salary as well as stock options.”
The retailer returned to America, left the company he had been working for, and became the vice president for Sony. It was an amazing opportunity, and he grabbed it with both hands. And it all happened in the merit of his yiras Shamayim, of being unwilling to compromise on his Torah values.”
The Secret To A Good Life: “H chooses the circumstances.
You choose your attitude.”
We remember the past, we dwell and think of the present, but our thoughts are of the future. There are so many opportunities H gives us. We must have hope and faith. Our emunah, especially our betachon- our trust and our love for H must be strong and steadfast. There is nothing H cannot do. Anything and everything is possible. He knows what is in our hearts, our minds and our thoughts. We must never give up hope even when there are feelings one might have of despair. The retailer in the above story was about to give up. He was at the end of his rope. Though it was a long shot, he was willing to purchase the plane tickets, plus the cost of lodging hoping to sell his merchandise. He must have been quite sad. He had one more idea and that was contacting the Japanese businessman who was his neighbor on the trip to Japan. Little did he know that the Japanese businessman wanted to speak to him all along and was trying to locate him. What a happy ending. We don’t know what the future holds for us as did the retailer who could not even conceive what his future held for him- a spectacular new and lucrative position. All due to his remaining strong and steadfast in his religious observance, the emunah he must have had and the Kiddush H he made. What a remarkable impression he made on the Japanese businessman who turned out to be the CEO of SONY. What a wonderful attitude the retailer had.
We all need each other, and most of all Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When we wish one another a kesiva vechasima tova it should be with a full, sincere and kind heart. We are mispallel for one another whether it be for a refuah sheleima, good- health, happiness, parnassa, to have a child, to become a choson or kallah.
To my dear readership, I truly and sincerely wish each and everyone a kesivas vechasima tova and a shana tova umesuka. May we all be zoche for health, refuos, parnasa, simchas hachaim, simchos and may all of your bakashos to H be answered letova.
Thank you, Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank