Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
***Thursday October 26, 2023, Cheshvan 11, 5784***
Our love for H with tremendous feelings.
The other side of the bed at NYU Langone
Finding good in others. Doing good for others .
We give thanks to H for what we can do.
Acheinu Kol Beis Yisrael
Our tefilos should also be for first responders including United
Hatzalah, Magen Dovid Adom, Zaka and all other volunteers.
Uri Davidi – Tefila Sheli. A moving video of tefilos to H.
The link for this video can be found at the bottom of this article.
Chaveirim Kol Yisrael- Shalom Al Yisrael.
Jewish chaplains giving care to everyone.
Let Go ! A story of Emunah
I have been asked why I share personal experiences and not only professional ones. Some of my goals have been to share how I was able to deal with my diverse circumstances, the countless opportunities of Kiddush H, the importance of having a kesher with the Ribono shel Olam, the importance of being resilient, acknowledging and being thankful for what a person can do and not what a person cannot do, having a positive attitude and outlook in life, the importance of simchas hachaim, looking forward to meaningful and happy occasions, and appreciating all that H Yisrbarach does. All the above from a personal view and from a professional perspective.
Our love for H should be very personal, immense and with tremendous feelings. We must think of our relationship with H as being very special.
Recently there have been many words of angry protests that can be construed as being inflammatory not just about Israel but also about the Jewish people. Let us be mispallel to Hakadosh Baruch Hu that those words should not be translated into anything harmful. We all need each other. We need achdus, our Torah learning, mitzvos and chasadim together with our Tehillim and Tefilos. We must make every effort to always make a Kiddush H. We also must not be forgetful to have emunah and bitachon in H. When we do a chesed, it should be with loving kindness.
On Erev Yom Kippur during the day, I slipped and tore a hamstring. I had significant bruising, not realizing I was bleeding internally in my leg. Nevertheless, even though it was painful, I was able to attend services throughout Yom Kippur including standing the entire Neila. I was unable to do a full bowing down during Aleinu and the tefilos of the Kohanim. When Yom Kippur concluded, I made Havdalah, and had a seuda. I was planning to see a doctor the next day for my leg injury. However later that evening, I started feeling ill. My nephew came to my apartment to offer help. He called a dear cousin of mine who is a physician and he recommended I go to the ER ASAP as my symptoms sounded like I had an infection. My nephew called Hatzalah who with their professional care gently got me ready and brought me to the NYU Langone Medical Center. My nephew went with me and stayed until one of my daughters was able to come to relieve him. All x-rays and CAT scans showed I did not have any fractures BH. However, in addition to a significant hamstring and muscle tear, I had two infections which BH was as the saying goes “caught in time”.If not for those symptoms I would have taken Tylenol until the next day, but my situation was serious. I was admitted and stayed the first half of Yom Tov in the hospital receiving exceptional medical care and made a complete recovery from those infections in a matter of days. What tremendous “hashgacha pratis”. The entire time I was at NYU from the ER to my hospital room I was treated with sensitivity, warmth, receiving personal care I shall remember for a long time. BH my leg is healing. My nephew brought me my Arba Minim, Machzor, Talis and Tefillin. My son came to pick me up upon discharge and I was finally able to go to the Sukkah the first day of Chol Hamoed and even went to shul as well. BH I did not need any medical assistance, no walker or cane although I had to walk slowly.
How was I spiritually not being able to attend shul or go to a succah on the first days of Yom Tov and Shabbos until my discharge? Though it was difficult, all the members of the staff , from doctors, nurses , Patient Care Associates, the persons who came to take menu requests, the persons who brought all meals, and yes, the persons who came to clean the room were all so caring uplifted my spirits. I engaged each and everyone with all types of discussions. I shared my sincerest appreciation and gratefulness to each person before they would leave my room. Many of the staff shared their appreciation for having such a kind and appreciative patient who made them feel very proud of the care they gave. I acknowledged the importance of each person’s position and the impact they had on my recovery. They were truly interested in my well being and interested in learning about the work I do. One person shared with me the type of work he does, and I shared how impressed I was. He mentioned that acknowledging his work and how courteous he was and what a precious human being he is gave him tremendous pride. He was so thankful and made sure to thank me each time he came into my room. I must mention that every staff person introduced themselves and what their responsibilities were. I showed interest in what they were doing and gave each person an opportunity to share anything they would like about themselves and their positions. I learned a lot from each person. Many even shared some personal feelings that were so nice to hear. On the second day of Yom Tov one of the doctors mentioned he was Jewish and was taken by my words of praise for what he does and for his Jewishness. We are all part of one Jewish family and to me he was very special. He was very touched by what I said and how proud I was to be in his presence. My Arba Minim uplifted him spiritually and I was grateful for his professional expertise. I mentioned to this doctor and to many of the staff, that even though it was Jewish holiday and unable to attend synagogue services or other religious activities that being amongst such dedicated, devoted and caring human beings truly made me feel so uplifted spiritually of which I gave thanks to G . Even whenever they took my vitals, blood work, or insert a line for the IV I offered my appreciation especially for their gentleness on not wanting to cause any pain. I never knew my veins could roll around and not be cooperative. The nursing staff tried to be so gentle and I in turn made sure not to say ouch if it hurt. One nurse said to me, “I’m going to hate her.” I asked why should I hate her. Her response was she was going to try one more time and knew it might hurt again. I told her she absolutely cannot try again until she removes the words I will hate her. I told her she can only try again if she tells me how much she cares to try her best as the wonderful nurse she is. I not only did not hate her, but conveyed my appreciation for her wanting to try her best. And guess what, she got it in right after that with a big smile. There are so many opportunities to make a Kiddush H and to show and give kindness to others and to show our appreciation with kindness as well. She thanked me and I told her it was I who must thank her as I did the other nurses who were with her. When I was able to get out of bed and take a walk down the hallway, I was greeted by every staff person with such beautiful smiles and I reciprocated with my own greetings, my own thank you and my own smiles to each and everyone. It is so important to really take notice of everyone when possible and to show an interest in what they are doing. I must say it was comforting being reassured I would only be discharged when the medical staff would make sure I was medically ready and not a moment before. There was so much to be thankful to H. On the first night of Succos, I looked out the window from the hospital room and I noticed the rain had stopped. Rather than feeling envious, I gave thanks to H for giving Klal Yisrael the opportunity to be mekayeim being able to go to the Succah.
I want to return to the first day as a patient and having met two nursing students who came to interview me, with my permission of course. Both were very courteous and interested in learning about what caused my injury and the symptoms that cause me to be brought to the ER and eventual admission as a patient. They also asked other pertinent questions .I was impressed with their approach and most of all their sincerity. I asked if I may interject my own thoughts coming from my own background which they found very intriguing, meaningful and helpful. I also shared my thoughts of what it is like being on the “other side of the bed”. I shared my thoughts of looking forward to my hospitalization with a spiritual and positive attitude that I will receive wonderful care in a safe and caring environment. I also shared how grateful I am to G despite my not being able to attend synagogue or go to a succah. I shared my respect and appreciation of all the staff who come from diverse cultural, ethnic, religious and other backgrounds, which is making my care even more special. They did not expect to have such a meaningful interview from this patient. which gave them a whole new perspective of life that was filled with positivity. One of the student nurses shared with me that she was Jewish and was very grateful for all that I shared with them. She asked if there was anything I needed for Shabbos and Yom Tov. I told her I had my Talis, Machzor, Arba Minim and my relationship with the Shechinah. I know there would be kosher food available from the hospital. Nevertheless, she mentioned she would contact the Satmar Bikur Cholim and the NYU Rabbi /Chaplain to visit me. The student nurses’ instructor came by to observe their interaction with me. I told him not only was I impressed with how courteous and respectful they were, but also how relaxed they made me feel and the interest they showed in me. I was truly grateful for their visit, which also brought me comfort as well. Two Satmar men not only brought me a huge bag of food, but also a set of Arba Minim if I did not have my own which I did. The smile on their faces, the brachos they gave me was so marvelous and comforting. They told me the student nurse told them there was a distinguished rabbi who they should come to visit before they leave. I was in awe of how they came all prepared and were not rushing despite the coming hours of the holy Shabbos and Yom Tov. They appeared so relaxed. They were like two malachim. I couldn’t believe all the delicious food they brought me including the Arba Minim. But, lo and behold, another malach walked into my room. He was the NYU Chaplain, Rabbi Shaul Praver. He brought me grape juice and extra challahs in addition to battery candle lights should I want to light them .He mentioned the student nurse contacted him to please visit me before he would leave for Shabbos and Yom Tov. He brought with him his comforting words in a way I expected a professional chaplain to share, but with immense sincerity and concern for my wellbeing. I shared with him my own background. We therefore had many things in common which made the visit even more meaningful. I was grateful for his visit and for taking the time to visit before leaving for the day. I look forward to being in touch with him in the near future. Somehow, with all her responsibilities that day, I was in wonder and awe how the student nurse managed to ensure Bikur Cholim and Rabbi Praver were contacted. I was concerned she should be able to return home in time for Shabbos. I sent her my articles as per her request when I returned home and her response was how special they are. She mentioned that in my zechus, not only did she return home with enough time for Shabbos and Yom Tov, but the train she took was the last train due to the immense rain and flooding.
My experiences once again gave me another opportunity to be on “the other side of the bed.” I mentioned this several times in the past, that a Jewish chaplain can truly make a Kiddush H and be a true ambassador of H and Klal Yisrael. When I took CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) I chose the all denominational track. I wanted to work with chaplains, hospital staff, and patients of diverse backgrounds. I have had men and women through the years who requested my opinions and advice about chaplaincy. Amongst whatever I shared; I was quite firm in mentioning that their own Judaism, their Yiddishkeit, must never be compromised. I always asked how they would feel being able to offer chaplaincy to men, women and children of many religious, cultural, ethnic and diverse backgrounds. The chaplain more often than once is seen as a very special person not only by those of the Jewish faith, but others as well. It is important for a chaplain to be seen as a goodwill ambassador.
In the video I shared in my last article “Am Yisrael Chai” there were Chayalim wearing Kippos of all types and others with none. Yet, the achdus seen, the care by all the volunteers from diverse Jewish backgrounds was phenomenal. We must feel for everyone and not be judgmental. There are so many wonderful acts of chesed being done by Klal Yisrael including in our own communities. There are many things we can and should be proud of. We give thanks to the Ribono shel Olam for those things we can do and not what we cannot do. Very often we hear from those getting older (I don’t use the word being old) I cannot do this or that anymore. Well, what are those things that can be done and be , thankful to H for what one can do. It is important to be encouraging to those who feel they cannot do certain things anymore and to help find those things which can be done and be successful as well.
From What A Story by Rabbi Yechiel Spero Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd. Let Go! Pages 217-219 “The Alexander Rebbe, Rav Yechiel Dancyger, was traveling with his son, the Yismach Yisrael, Rav Yerachmiel Yisrael Yitzchak. The Rebbe, an elderly, weak man, suffered from numerous ailments and illnesses. On the trip, he suddenly began to experience the symptoms of a heart attack; he felt faint and lighthearted. Though the Rebbe was in urgent need of medical attention, he and his son were nowhere near a doctor or medical facility. They were on their own.
The Rebbe believed the time had come to say the end-of life tefilos. He held his son’s hand and asked him to recite the Viduy and Krias Shema with him. But the Yismach Yisrael reassured him, “Don’t worry, Father. Just drink a glass of water and everything will be fine. It’s going to be all right. You’ll feel better before you know it.” He gave his father a glass of water and immediately he began to feel stronger. In fact, he felt much better than he had at the beginning of the trip. His kochos were restored.
“Tell me son, how did you know I would begin to feel better, when all indications were that my end was near?”
The Yismach Yisrael responded, “ I learned it from David HaMelech.”
He explained: In the 13th kapitel of Tehillim (v.2). David cries out, “Ad anah H tishkacheini netzach. Ad anah tastir es panecha mimeni.” David, who endured much suffering in his lifetime, asks: How long will H act as if He has forgotten him? How long will He hide His face from him?
He wonders how much longer he will have to keep searching for methods and schemes in order to save himself (v3): Ad anah ashis eitzos be’nafshi.” In addition, ordinarily a person is happy during the day, but David states that even in the day, his heart is unhappy, for how long will his enemy triumph over him? “Yagon bilvavi yomam ad anah yarum oyvi alai” (ibid).
In the following two verses, he looks up towards Heaven and begs, “Habitah aneini H Elokai ha’irah einai pen Ishan hamaves. Pen yomar oyvi yecholtiv tzarai yagilu ki emot.” David states, “Ribono Shel Olam, I don’t know what to do! This is a matter of life and death. If You don’t answer me and enlighten my eyes, I’m going to die, and this may cause my enemy to boast that he overcame me; I don’t want my tormentors to rejoice when I stumble.”
Almost an entire perek is devoted to David HaMelech’s despairing krechtz of pain.
But then, in the final words of the perek (v.6), David changes course and proclaims, “I am fine since I am putting my faith in You, and soon I will exult in Your salvation; I will sing to You, H, because You were so kind to me: Va’ani be’chasdecha vatachti yagel libi bi’ shuasecha; ashirah laShem ki gamal alai!”
Why? What changed?
The Yismach Yisrael shared his interpretation. “When a person thinks he is running the show and he’s in charge, he believes it’s all just a matter of finding the right person to help solve his problems. If he is sick, he will seek the right doctor. If he is in need of a shidduch, he will run to the shadchan. If he is in need of parnassah, he will make his way to an askan. In such a case, he needs zechuyos to make sure his plans fall into place.
“However, when a person finds himself in a situation where he is all alone and there is nobody around, when there is no shadchan, no askan, no physician in the vicinity, then all he has left is his faith in the Al-mighty. And if one can hold onto his faith, then, “yagel libi bi’shuasecha; ashirah laShem ki gamal alai.’ His salvation is certain to come and his heart will exult in it, and soon enough he will be singing to H and thanking Him for His kindness.”
The Yismach Yisrael addressed his father. “Father, had you fallen ill in Warsaw, where there are thousands of your Chassidim and also excellent doctors, our bitachon would have been somewhat compromised. We may have depended on your Chassidim or the physicians, and that’s reason for concern. But now that this mishap occurred on the road, with no one else around, we had nowhere to turn other than to the Al-mighty, and I wasn’t worried at all. For if we are in a state of ‘Va’ ani be’chasdecha vatachti,’ when we truly trust in the kindness of H, we are zoche to the end of the verse, ‘yagel libi bi’shuasecha,’ and our hearts exult in His salvation.”
From: The Gentle Weapon Prayer for Everyday and Not- So-Everyday Moments
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Jewish Lights Publishing
“ O G d”
“I only begin to realize
how very much You’ve done for me.
I must now internalize
the understanding that
everything that happens to me
is an expression of
Your everlasting love,
and Your concern
for my ultimate good.
G, as I recognize
all Your goodness,
as Your kindness
fill my thoughts,
I sing Your praise.”
May we be zoche to receive His blessings and His guidance.
May we be zoche to the Geula Sheleima Bekarov Amein.
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank