Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
*Thursday September 21, 2023, Tishrei 6, 5784*
GEMAR CHASIMA TOVA
Hu Ya anneinu- He will answer us.
Recovered, Reclaimed, Retrieved
Seek H when He can be found; call upon Him when He is near.
H helps those who helps themselves.
The wedding band dropped three times: What did that mean?
Was it the right time?
A Well- Documented Teaching
The Ten Days of Repentance correspond to the Aseres HaDibros
The Desires of the Living
And purify our hearts to serve You in truth.
The Language of Heaven Is Truth.
Our lives, our future and everything we pray for is dependent on H. We can only try our best to have a positive attitude in whatever we do. Our hearts are filled with love for the Ribono shel Olam with tears in our eyes praying for His forgiveness for anything we might have done that was not appropriate. With our maysim tovim, our mitzvos and our tefilos we can always feel close to H. The opportunities to recognize that the Shichinah is near us are always available. We just have to want to reach out and grasp those opportunities. We also have to do our hishtadlus in wanting to accomplish and achieve those things that are meaningful to our lives and are mispallel to have simchas hachaim in all that we do. Sometimes we have to be patient and wait for the right time for those things we are mispallel for. When is the right time, often we do not know. But we must have emunah and betachon in H and He will guide us in His ways. Rabbis, rebbetzins and chaplains can be good shelichim of H helping to guide those we minister to with their hishtadlus, emunah, aspirations, and their belief in themselves. Rabbis, rebbetzins and chaplains can help them find the needed hope and trust in H so vital to a meaningful life. In the Selichos we recite Hu Ya aneinu- He will answer us. We have to believe and know in our hearts that He will answer us in one way or another but only when He wants to do so. We must do whatever we can to purify our hearts to reach the highest level as we possibly can in doing teshuva, in our prayers, in being charitable and in being truthful in whatever we say or do. Rabbis, rebbetzins and chaplains with words of encouragement, sensitivity, kindness and “tender loving care” can help enhance the desire for those who seek our guidance for a spiritual and productive life. This in turn will help bring the relationship with H even closer. By our own actions, how we speak, our sincerity, our midos tovos, being truthful and even how we dress are some important attributes helping to be role models and good ambassadors of H.
From Yamim Noraim with the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn Artscroll Mesorah Publications, Ltd. Pages 223-225, 231-232 “Recovered, Reclaimed, Retrieved”
“Some pretend to be rich and have nothing, but others act poor and have great wealth (Mishlei 13:7) The noted darshan in Israel, Rav Meilich Biderman, told this practical and noteworthy incident regarding Rav Chaim Kreiswirth (1918-2001) and drew from it a pertinent lesson for the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Rav Kreiswirth and thousands of others escaped to Lithuania. He was only twenty-one at the time and was already a recognized talmid chaham and known as a trustworthy individual. A religious wealthy Polish businessman approached Rav Kreiswirth and said that he knew that because of his wealth he would be deported to a Russian labor camp, and he feared that he might not survive the war.
He told the Rav that he had a large sum of money in a Swiss bank account and that he wanted to be sure that if, Heaven forbid, he perished, the Rav should find a relative of his to give the codes, account numbers, and necessary documents to access the funds. Rav Kreiswirth assured him he would do anything in his power to find a relative and give him the information.
After the war, Rav Kreiswirth returned to Poland in an attempt to retrieve orphaned Jewish children whose parents gave them to Polish families and Catholic institutions to save them from the Holocaust. It was then that he found out that the man who had given him the banking information had indeed perished, but the Rav could not locate any of his relatives.
Throughout Rav Kreiswirth’s subsequent years in Skokie Illinois, as Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash LaTorah (from 1947-1953), he never met a relative of the individual. He became the Chief Rabbi of Belgium and Av Beis Din of Antwerp in 1953, and in 1959 a man in desperate financial straits came to Rav Kreiswirth to collect funds. In the course of a conversation with the collector, Rav Kreiswirth suspected that this might be a long-last relative. Sure enough, it turned out the indigent person was the son of the man who had the Swiss bank account.
”You have been a wealthy man for the last twenty years,” exclaimed Rav Kreiswirth, ‘but you just were not aware of it!” The Rav gave the documents and account information to the shocked former pauper, who made his way to Switzerland and claimed the fortune. He lived the rest of his life in financial comfort.
“We are exactly the same,” exclaimed Rav Biderman. “We, especially during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, are so wealthy bur we don’t realize it or take advantage of it.”
He explained. The pasuk tells us Seek H when He can be found; call upon Him when He is near (Yeshayahu 55:6). Although it is well known that H is everywhere and be found at all times, the intent here is that H makes Himself more available during these days to those who seek Him through repentance and a desire to become close to Him. This is especially so during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, when His mercy is more readily dispensed than throughout the year. That is the intent of the words, when He can be found (see Rosh Hashanah 18.a)
” We have such a great opportunity to be close to the King of kings,” explained to be close to the King of kings,” exclaimed Rav Biderman, “and we must take advantage of these days! We could be fortunate for the rest of our lives.”
Rav Biderman’s exhortation can be taken further. Many of us have potential and talents that we don’t access. May H give us the wisdom to bring out the best within us, so that we will enhance not only our own lives but the lives of so many others in Klal Yisrael.
In this manner we can interpret the words of Shlomo Hamelech homiletically (Mishlei 13:7): One can be rich [with wealth and potential], but he doesn’t realize he has it, similar to the poor fellow who came to Rav Kreiswirth who was affluent but didn’t realize it.
The wedding band fell three times. Pages 231-232
“R Arye Dowek of Cleveland told me (Rabbi Krohn) the following incident, which happened at a Jerusalem wedding.
The Brisker Rav was the mesader kiddushin and had just recited the blessings. The chassan was about to place the ring on the kallah’s right index finger, but in his nervousness, dropped it. His father quickly picked it up and returned it to his mortified son. The chassan tried again, but he was so flustered that he misjudged the position of the kallah’s outstretched index finger. He jammed the ring onto the side of the finger, and it fell again. Once more, his father picked it up and handed it to him. By now, the kallah had become nervous. The chassan finally placed the ring on her finger, but her hand trembled so much that the ring slipped off and fell yet again. Spectators gasped, and a relative standing nearby quickly retrieved the ring and gave it to the chassan.
The Brisker Rav now stepped in. In a fatherly manner, he instructed the chassan to calm down and try again to place the ring on his kallah’s finger. Finally, it was done and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
After the chuppah, a number of talmidim asked the Rav,”Wasn’t the fact that the ring dropped three times a possible sign from Heaven that this shidduch was not meant to be?”
“Not at all,” the Rav answered. “There is a set time for everything to happen, and the time for this marriage to take effect had not yet arrived. The ring had to drop three times until it was the right time.”
On Rosh Hashanah, we dip apples in honey and eat from the head of a fish or lamb as omens for a year of sweetness and leadership. Chazal teach that we do these things because simana milsa, Omens are significant (see Horayos 12a and Orach Ch, as aim 583:1)
Omens that Chazal and our revered Torah Scholars teach us are significant. Omens that laymen invent are meaningless and may well be forbidden (see Yoreh Deah 179).
Nevertheless, as the Brisker Rav illustrated with his patient answer, there is merit in being sensitive even to the misguided.”
From The Mystery and the Majesty Elul-Yamim Noraim-Succos by Rabbi Daniel Glatstein Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications, Ltd. “A Well-Documented Teaching” Page 217 “This concept that the Ten Days of Repentance correspond to the Aseres HaDibros is repeatedly documented in our classic sources. This idea is mentioned in several places in the Sfas Emes. It is also brought in Sefer Likkutei Yehuda, by the Sfas Emes’s grandson, Reb Yehuda Aryeh Leib Heina. He writes that he heard from his grandfather that the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah correspond to the Asere HaDibros, and adds that point mentioned above that because the first two Dibros were spoken by H in one utterance, Rosh Hashanah’s two days are considered one long day.
He discusses a curiosity in the order of the first two commandments. Usually we first purify an object by performing taharah, purification; only then can the item be sanctified. Thus, generally taharah precedes kedushah, holiness. Something that is tamei, impure, cannot be sanctified. In line with this, the first commandment, accepting H as our G, seemingly should really have been taught second. First, we should have to forsake all other deities and commit to not worshiping any avodah zarah; only then would we be able to accept the kedusha of H upon ourselves.
H displayed kindness to us by enabling us to believe in Him and thereby to jump into kedushah, even before we had cleansed ourselves from the tumah of avodah zarah.”
From How Sweet is the Light Umesukah the Light. Elul and Rosh Hashanah by Rav Shlomo Levenstein, Tfutza Publications.” Kavod Shamayim-The Key to All Blessings” Page 273 “In our Rosh Hashanah davening, Chazal instituted many prayers for the revelation of H’s glory. For instance, we declare, “May You H, rule alone over all Your creations, from Har Tzion, the dwelling place of Your glory,” and we beseech H to “reveal the glory of Your Kingship upon us soon, and appear and be exalted upon us before the eyes of every living thing.”
On the day when our very lives hang in the balance, the main focus of our prayers is the honor of H! We all yearn to plead with H to grant us a year of life, health and sustenance, but Chazal has ordained that our tefilos must focus on something else entirely-the glory and honor of the Master of the Universe. Why is this so?
The Ramchal explains that when the honor of Heaven is revealed to the world, all of our needs will automatically be provided for. When the entire world honors H, the Jewish people will be the supreme nation, and all the riches of the world will be accessible to them. And those who truly cared about the honor of Heaven will receive the greatest reward of all, just as Boni, who became Nakdimon ben Guriyon, joined the ranks of Moshe Rabbeinu, Yehoshua bin Nun, and Eliyahu Havavi.”
“The Desires of the Living” “And purify our hearts to serve You in truth.” Pages 278-279 “It is not enough for us merely to pray to H to purify our hearts; we must also engage in actions to achieve this goal. If we make an effort to purify ourselves, then our prayers will be heard and we will benefit from Heavenly assistance in our efforts.
In the prayer of Ashrei, which we recite three times every day, there is a pasuk that states, “You open Your hand and satisfy every living thing’s desire.” The gaon Maharil Margalios (in his sefer Beis Middos, cited by Yalkut Gershuni) comments that it would have seemed more appropriate for the pasuk to state that H “satisfies every living thing with food.”. Why does it refer to the desires of all living things? (The Tzelach raises this same question in his commentary on Maseches Brachos.)
He explains this based on Chazal’s comment on the verse, “H will bless you in everything you do” (Devarim 15:18). Chazal explain that the Torah promises that H will bless us in the things we do; however, if a person sits idly and makes no effort of his own, he should not expect H to open the gates of Heaven and shower gold and diamonds upon him (Sifri).
Similarly, the pasuk states that H satisfies the desire of every living thing, meaning that if a person demonstrates the will and desire to pursue his livelihood, then H will bless him with success. If a person makes no efforts of his own, though, he will thereby demonstrate that he does not have the “desire of a living thing.” His desire to sustain himself will effectively be dead, and H does not grant blessings to those who are not motivated to make efforts of their own.
If this is the case with material prosperity, then it is certainly true of spiritual growth. H is prepared to shower abundant sanctity on His nation, in order to encourage us to observe His commandments. As Chazal tell us, “One who comes to purify himself will be assisted” (Yoma 38b). However, this Heavenly assistance is provided only to a person who strives to develop yiras Shamayim by toiling in Torah study and learning mussar. That type of action is the sign of a “living desire.” If a person contents himself with desire alone, however, and does not take any active steps to achieve his goals, then his desire will be lifeless. Such a person will not receive the Almighty’s assistance to purify himself and develop fear of Heaven.”
“The Language of Heaven is Truth” “To serve You in truth” Pages 280-281 “One of the foundations of our service of H is the uncompromising dedication to truth. If our religious observance is superficial and insincere, we can never hope to achieve the true purpose of serving H.
Having been raised with the values of Kelm, Rav Eliyahu Dessler was always very careful to ensure that his prayers flowed sincerely from the depths of his heart, as the Alter of Kelm taught his students. The Alter would constantly repeat to them how important it is to make sure that their prayers not be superficial and insincere, since the language of Heaven is truth.
Rav Eliyahu Lopian recalled an incident in which a student of the Talmud Torah of Kelm once led the davening on Shabbos. During the chazzan’s repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, when he pronounced the words, “purify our hearts to serve You in truth,” he placed a special emphasis on the word l’avdecha (to serve You). After davening, the Alter of Kelm approached him and remarked that he would have been better off emphasizing the word b’emes (in truth) since truth is the “seal” of H. If a person does not serve H in truth but rather prays superficially without putting his heart into his words, then his prayers will be perceived in Heaven as having been uttered in a foreign, incomprehensible language. As Shlomo Hamelech teaches us, “the language of truth lasts forever” (Mishlei 12:19); nothing else has its eternal quality.
The commitment to truthfulness was so great in Kelm that if a person ever shed a tear during davening, he would be expected to conduct a thorough appraisal of himself to determine whether his tears had truly emerged from the depths of his heart. Even the slightest insincerity was considered utterly intolerable.
For this reason, the Alter of Kelm refrained from reciting the Viduy if Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon during the Yom Kippur Kattan prayers; he explained that he could not recite the words ‘I confess before You with trembling and perspiration,” since he did not actually experience those feelings.
For the same reason, according to the sefer Mehaneich Ledoros, Rav Dessler refused to lead davening in the Yeshiva of Ponoviezh during Mussaf on the Yomim Noraim. Although he was gifted with a beautiful singing voice and possessed all the virtues that Chazal required for a shaliach tzibbur, he still refused to do so. He explained, “I cannot allow myself to say the words of the chazzan’s prayer before Mussaf,’ I am shaken and terrified in fear of Him Who is enthroned upon the prayers of Yisrael,’ since I do not really fear in my heart.”
Rav Eliyahu Lopian, who did agree to lead Mussaf on the Yomim Noraim, would actually skip these words. “How can I claim to be terrified, when it is not true?” he would ask rhetorically. “After all, the pasuk states, “Those who speak falsehood will not stand before My eyes’ (Tehillim 101:7).”
May we be wonderful role models and ambassadors of H. May our tefilos be answered. May we be able to enhance the lives of those who seek our guidance to have uplifting spiritual and productive lives. May our love for H and His love for Klal Yisrael continue to be strong. May we be blessed with meaningful lives filled with simchas hachaim, good health and everything that we and our families need. May we have Shalom al Yisrael.
GEMAR CHASIMA TOVA
Hu Ya anneinu- He will answer us.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank