Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
<>Thursday November 2, 2023, Cheshvan 18, 5784<>
Shalom Not Machlokes
Brotherhood and Sisterhood
We are all one family – our adversaries do not distinguish.
We only want Shalom.
Kiddush H, being ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael is always important.
We should be proud of who we are.
The recent Asifas throughout the USA and the world with thousands and
thousands of Jewish men, women and children of all ages from all backgrounds,
without words of hatred but with prayers, words of Kedusha, hope, emunah
and with shalom.
Acheinu Kol Beis Yisrel.
Everyone makes an impact.
Appreciating each other.
Between Me & You
From the Flatbush Jewish Journal October 26, 2023 Page 52
“A message from Rabbi Meyer Yedid” “When we don’t act like brothers, we lose our father. You have to remember that. When we don’t act like brothers, and sisters, we may not be doing the right things, but we still have a father. Haman says to Achashverosh “This is a great time, you want to get these people, now is the time.” Don’t you think our enemies know that today? They themselves say it. Brothers can argue and demonstrate, but when they see brothers fighting like they are rivals and they want to kill each other, there is no more protection. That is a reality, it is not just on a national level, but it’s that way on a family, shul, and community level as well. Achdus means we live with the family feeling. It doesn’t mean we can always do for each other or agree, but we are family. Moshe Rabenu says “Yahad Shivtei Yisroel.” When we feel that way, H is the Melech, He is with us.”
Sometimes, when we are not acting like brothers it takes an enemy to remind us that we are brothers. Did anyone ask this week if the people that passed away were Ashkenazim or Sefardim? Did you ever see in a newspaper report on how many Ashkenazim there were, how many people were wearing hats, or were they wearing a kippa srugah? How many were religious or secular? Did it matter to anybody who these people were and what they were doing in their lives? No! You know why- because our enemy doesn’t differentiate, he doesn’t care! To him if you are wearing this or that, if you are doing this or that it is all the same, because you are one family. It takes the enemy to remind us that we are a family and each person has to do whatever they can in their own.”
From Shabbos with Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith Artscroll Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd. Pages 38-41 Parshas Lech Lecha (parts from these pages)” The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 25a) describes Chumash Bereishis as the Sefer Hayashar, the Book of the Upright, because it describes, in great detail, the lives and character traits of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, who were called Upright. Only three of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah are found in the 1534 pesukim of Chumash Bereishis. Yet, a careful analysis of the lives of the forefathers required of a Jew in all situations of life: the good times as well as the bad ones, in success and in failure, in periods of joy and in periods of tragedy, dealing with wealth as well as poverty, and in the blessings of youth as well as the decline of old age.
Each of the forefathers personifies a particular aspect of avodas H.(cont) A major aspect of Avraham’s trait of chesed is his reaction to his nephew Lot and his shepherds. Avraham graciously gave Lot the first choice of which way to go. Avraham “bent over backwards” to part with Lot on peaceful terms. He was afraid that the riv, quarrel, between their respective shepherds would escalate into a meriva. Strife between themselves. Avraham and his shepherds did not approve of Lot’s shepherds permitting their sheep to graze on property not belonging to them at that time.
Avraham’s conduct is an expression of his attribute of chesed. Chesed comes from ahavas haberiyos, a love for fellow human beings, and a baal chesed is a person who constantly looks at others with a kindly, considerate “eye.” A baal chesed is a “pursuer of peace” and goes out of his way to avoid becoming involved in disputes with other people.
Avraham appealed to Lot, “We are kinsmen. We are brothers and we want to remain on good terms with each other.” Thus, he spoke softly to Lot and offered him first choice of a homestead as long as peace would prevail. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 7a) quotes a folk-saying that a person who remains silent and avoids getting involved in a machlokes, even when he is denigrated by others, will spare himself a hundred misfortunes. If one carefully contemplates the snowballing effect of a machlokes, the number “100” may even be a conservative estimate.”
It is important to stress how we all need each other. To be like family, we must appreciate each other for each and every one of us has an impact on our community, our shuls, our community centers our families, our relationships with each other and ourselves.
From: Nachor Sholom by Rabbi Sholom Reuven Feinstein, Berieshis, Volume II Parshas Vayeitzei (28:10) Pages 35-37” Everyone Has An Impact” “And Yaakov went out from Be’er Sheva, and went toward Charan.” Why does the Torah tell us that Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva in addition to the fact that he set out toward Charan? Rashi (s.v. Vayeitzei (#2)) explains that the reason the posuk makes mention of the fact that Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva is to teach us the principle that when a tzaddik leaves a city, the splendor, honor, and glory of the city departs with him.
Interestingly, Yaakov’s righteous parents, Yitzchak and Rivkah, were still residents of the city even after Yaakov left. As such, why did the city of Be’er Sheva suddenly lose its splendor upon Yaakov’s departure? Moreover, this is not the first time that a great and righteous person left the city of Be’er Sheva. Avraham Avinu also lived in Be’er Sheva for quite a few years-twenty-six, to be exact-and then departed from there. If the lesson of the posuk is as we have explained above, would it not have been clearer for the Torah to teach us this upon Avraham’s departure from Be’er Sheva, rather than Yaalov’s?
I believe that the answer to these questions is that Rashi does not mean to teach us that when the greatest person in a certain area departs, the loss is felt by everyone else. Surely, that is true, and is obvious enough that we do not require a specific exposition to teach it to us. Rather, I believe Rashi is teaching us that every single individual in a given group affects the whole of that community in his own unique way. For example, suppose there was a shul that had many distinguished members. The Rabbi of course, as well as several Rebbeim from the local Yeshiva, and a few Kollel Yungerleit, all davened there. These men were all learned in Torah, to varying degrees. Then there were many working men, some of whom attended and gave shiurim on a regular basis. There was also an older fellow, who sat in the corner, who very much minded his own business. He would come to shul every day, always on time, and daven quietly in his corner.
One day, this man relocated to a retirement community, and left the shul. The other members were left with a feeling that something was missing. For although he was not the most learned among them, nor was he the most active, the most boisterous-the most anything, really- he was a part of what made davening in this particular shul special. Why? Because he contributed to the decorum of the shul; his quiet davening quietly influenced other members, without them realizing it, to focus on their own prayers. His constant presence at the beginning of every tefillah quietly stressed the importance of arriving to davening on time. His behavior, without any fanfare or attention, had influenced the culture of the entire shul environment. So what was missing was not necessarily any personal friendship, for they had not really known the man, but rather the influence he had upon them from his quiet corner.
In this manner, each and every individual in a community or group has an effect on everyone around him- for better or for worse. The actions of each person affect the culture of the community; what behaviors are expected, and what misdeeds are tolerated. Even a quiet man that nobody knows can have a profound effect on a shul- how much more so can friends, neighbors, classmates, and family members affect one another in this manner!
When Yaakov left Be’er Sheva, the city was indeed not losing its true spiritual leaders, for as we mentioned, Yitzchak and Rivkah were still dwelling there. Rather, they lost the splendor that Yaakov – who was the “poshute Yid” in the city, so to speak- had provided for them, by dint of his living a proper Torah life in their midst. This is why the Torah taught us this lesson specifically in the context of Yaakov’s departure from Be’er Sheva- to show us that each and every poshute Yid adds splendor to the entire community. This is an encouragement, and also a responsibility, for every member of a group- whether of a family, a school, or a neighborhood- to positively influence those around him through his behavior, to the point that if he were to depart, the splendor he had added would now be missed.”
We are living in challenging times. For those who only read about the Holocaust, reading about what happened on October 7th brings to reality how any group could have such hatred for other human beings- the Jewish people. With such hatred being seen and heard around the world, we cannot give up hope nor can we give up our Jewishness. We all must continue to be ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael and continue to be kind and caring for all people for not everyone has such hatred. We must continue to be brothers and sisters without machlokes, but in friendship as family regardless of one’s background. We all should try to find common ground and appreciate and value each person who makes up a family, shul, a community, a neighborhood and Klal Yisrael. We all need each other. We all need achdus and we all need Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We must not be judgmental of others but rather we look how to be mechazeik ourselves. We should find in our hearts how to care for and enrich the lives of others with goodness, kindness and most of all our love of H, His love for us and our precious Torah.
The recent gatherings, the asifas, were attended by thousands of Jewish men, women and children of all ages and of all backgrounds throughout the United States of America and throughout the world, with prayers and words of holiness. Without words of hatred or violence, but rather with chizuk, emunah and faith beseeching the Heavens for rachamim, guidance and to protect us from those who wish to do us harm. Prayers for the hostages, the wounded, for nechama, for all those whose loved ones were victims, for shalom and for Acheinu Kol Yisrael. We must also pray for all the Jewish students at the various universities and colleges in our own country and for Jews throughout the world who are being threatened with violence. We pray that no harm should befall any member of Klal Yisrael no matter what their background is. We are all family and hopefully, our achdus will become even stronger.
From: Between Me and You, Heartfelt Prayers for Each Jewish Woman. Compiled and adapted from the prayers of Rav Noson Sternhaltz by Yitzchok Leib Bell. Published by Nachas Books Jerusalem/New York. With Introduction by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller. Acheinu Kol Beis Yisrael. “The prayers of Rav Noson Sternhartz (1789-1844) are powerful- very powerful. Indeed, they can be life-changing. Rav Noson was the closest disciple and foremost interpreter of the teachings of the Chassidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov.” Rebbe Nachman taught that prayer is the primary gate through which we can come close to G and have a relationship with Him. By prayer, he meant not only our formal prayers, but also those private, personal prayers to G that we say in our own words and language. The Rebbe called that latter type of prayers hitbodedut, or being alone with G. He said that the highest form of personal prayer is that based on the Torah teachings of the Jewish sages.” (For the entire preface see Between Me & You.) (Another word for our private prayers/tefilos are bakashos) (The English are condensed adaptions- see preface).
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank