Welcome to the weekly newsletter of Igud HaRabbonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, in which we share news for and about members, including communal news, announcements, publications, Divrei Torah, press releases and media mentions.
In this newsletter:
• Jewish Voice: Hatzolah Telethon
• 5TJT: Rav Mirocznik Appointed to Council
• Chaplaincy Commission Update
• Divrei Torah: Behar-Bechukosai
• Pre-Shavuos Program Featuring Rav Reuven Feinstein
• Rabbinical Alliance of America Applauds the NYPD in Apprehending two Suspects for Tearing Off Face Masks from Jewish People
• Weighing in on Conference of Presidents Chair-elect Dianne Lob
• Torah Reading and Social Distancing
• Reopening Shuls
• How Do Rabbonim Move Forward After The Epidemic?
• RAA Executive Vice President Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik To Advise City On Reopening Schools And Synagogues
• Upcoming Yahrtzeits: 22 Iyar-29 Iyar
Please let us know about your family simchos and l"a aveilus, book publications and career changes or milestones, so we can share as chaveirim our life events. Send updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a major fundraising event, the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance corps staged a very special Lag B’Omer 24-hour telethon that was viewed by countless people throughout the world, as the organization that tirelessly devotes itself exclusively to saving lives, raised close to $15 million as of Wednesday evening. Founded in 1965 in New York City, Hatzolah…
From the Desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda)Blank MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim 917-446-2126 email@example.com
May 14th, 2020
If one person stuck his thumb on a nail and there is some bleeding and pain, and another person also has the same experience, is it possible for either one to say to the other I know how you feel – I know what your pain is? It is possible to share sympathy and understanding how painful it might be, but honestly, it is not possible for someone to know what the pain is of the other person. Often, I have heard from chaplains and other medical personal share with me how different it is to be on the bed side as a patient rather than the other way around. It is important to be empathetic, to be understanding, to be patient, to be compassionate, and most of all to be sincere. There are many scenarios about people being necham availos not only telling their own stories, but telling the mourner or mourners they know what they are going through or know how much pain they are in or the pain and suffering of the deceased. A person might have experienced the pain, the anguish, the sadness, or similar experiences the mourner might have gone through, or their family member who died, but cannot know the actual feelings nor the pain the mourner has experienced. Often those comments can be painful to a mourner who might personally take afront how is it possible for that person to know my personal pain and what I have gone through. It is all right to say, I feel for you. Listening, and being empathetic is so important.
Klal Yisrael has been experiencing tremendous pain due to COVID-19 with the suffering of continued sickness and the death of so many. We can and do suffer the pain of the loss of those who have meant so much to us. But, can we really know and feel the pain of the families who have experience the hospitalization and the death of their loved ones. Or those without any family or their own loved ones to grieve for them. There is also the fear of the unknown. What about the forthcoming Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos and Simchas Torah? What will those holy days be like in many spiritual and cultural ways. Even more so, what about those who are 60 years and older or of any age with underlying health conditions. What will those days be like for them? Especially those who are alone and not able to leave their homes and their apartments. Of course, having emunah, btachen and faith is important for the future is up to the Aibershta. Nevertheless, we must also be cognizant of those fears. We must be with these fellow brothers and sisters in the present, being there for them in spirit, with hope, understanding and if possible, help to work out practical solutions. For those who are lonely, for those who feel alone, we must continue to be there for them. Only each of you knows who those people are who feel alone. Sometimes it might be a person going through a personal difficulty, a medical condition that might be life limiting, life threatening or even with chronic pain and discomfort as I mentioned in my recent article. It could be a matter of financial concerns. For a person who is lonely, who feels alone, many things that might seem insignificant to someone else can be magnified and painful to that person. Whatever the case, when a person feels alone, it is so meaningful for that person to know he/she is not alone.
We are mispallel there will be a major change for the best. Nevertheless, our hearts go out to all Klal Yisrael and to all our neighbors. Our tefilos do not stop. We beseech the Ribono Shel Olom for His Rachmim. We do so from our hearts and yes, our tears. This week the OU, RCA and Agudah went public with their guidelines on opening the Kehilos which was also distributed by the RAA to our readership. The RAA/Igud is also extremely fortunate to have as our own Director of Medical Halacha Commission, Rabbi Aaron Glatt MD, who has and continues to guide us with his scientific, medical, and halachic knowledge and resources. There are no simple answers or solutions. The underlying concerns are how and when will our shuls and, our kehilos return to some normalcy without the fear of spreading or contracting COVID-19 and to follow government policies. What is important is not to speak loshon hara, have any sinas chinum, nor machlokes, but to have most of all achdus and shalom. We all need each other for chizuk and support.
What is truly remarkable is the phenomenal chasadim -the wonderful good deeds from all corners of the world. Just this week was the Hatzalah -Thon on Lag B Omer. Seeing the videos of some of the Hatzalah members who themselves Boruch H were able to return home having been in the hospital after having contracted the virus during their heroic care of others – Jewish and not Jewish. What they conveyed brought tears to the eyes. The Kiddush H, of all Hatzalah throughout the world continues through their valiant and magnificent care for humanity. Praise must also be given to the hundreds and hundreds of other volunteers who help in many different venues.
Though, I have written in earlier articles what a professional chaplain is, there are many who are not familiar with what it takes to become a BCC a Board-Certified Chaplain. Briefly, Board Certified Chaplains have gone through rigorous Clinical Pastoral Education, training, internship and must meet specific requirements to be considered a candidate for certification by a recognized and accredited organization. Orthodox Jewish Chaplains are imbued with love of Torah, Yiddishkeit and with the Taryag Mitzvos.
The following are examples of excerpts from the many tefilos, the holy prayers that can bring comfort and meaning at specific times between a chaplain, a rabbi and a patient or person experiencing difficult and challenging times especially as I mentioned in previous articles regarding spiritual distress.
Hodu La H = Va ani bchasdecha Vawtachti but as for me on Your kindness I trust
Haleluka Ki Tov = Hawrofai Lishvurai Laiv Umchabais Lartzvosawm = He is the healer of the brokenhearted and the One Who bandages.
Modim anachnu lawch = Maiolawm kivinu lawch always have we put our hope in You.
Vhu Rachum= Elokai selichos awnaw selach naw Kail tov vesalach Ki Kail Melech chanun verachum awtaw. G of forgiveness please forgive now G Who is good and forgiving for G is King Who is gracious and compassionate are You.
Kavai el H chazak veyaamaitz libechaw vekavai el H = Place your hope in G strengthen yourself and He will instill courage in your heart and place your hope in G
Kawrofai Lisvurai Laiv = He is the healer of the broken hearted (Tehilim/Psalms 147:3)
Let us remember the Ani Maamin that became so well-known and sung during the Holocaust and throughout the years. It gave the multitudes tremendous faith who often sang it during horrendous and difficult times. “Ani Maamin beh emunah bvias haMoshiach, veaf al pi sheyismamaiha, im kol zeh achakeh lo bechawl yom sheyawvo. I believe with faith that is complete in the coming of the Messiah and even though he may delay with all that I await him every day certain he will come.” May all those who need a refuah, whatever their illness might be have a complete refuah shelaima a speedy recovery. May the Holy One give us the ability to continue to persevere and continue to be strong in the days ahead.
Thank you. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank
Please see the flyers following this article for:
OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services
TTI= Testing and Training International
CAHE= Center for Allied Health Education.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 Orthodox Rabbis in the United States applauds the swift police work in apprehending and arresting two suspects, a male and a female accused of tearing face masks off Jewish people near Bedford Avenue and Ross Street in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section. The apprehended suspects face hate crime charges.
“Whether it is this horrible anti-Semitic act that we saw or the horrible anti-Asian acts we saw in previous weeks, none of these acts of bias or discrimination are acceptable in New York City,” commented Mayor Bill de Blasio
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America applauded Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, for taking this deplorable, bias, and hateful anti-Semitic act seriously, and for the great efficient police work in swiftly investigating and apprehending the suspects involved. “As a community, New York City is suffering from the Coronavirus/Covid 19 Pandemic and the last thing the city needs is a spike in crime or worse hate crimes. It is comforting and reassuring to know that our city government takes law and order seriously, and has a watchful eye on all the residents of the City. It is our hope and prayer that the arrest of these perpetrators sends a loud clear message that crime does not pay and will not be tolerated. Thank you, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea.”
Rabbi Duvid Katz, Menahel of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “it is ensuring to the law-abiding residents of the Williamsburg community that the police have their back and will not permit criminals from distrusting the peace and harmony of the community. Such police work builds trust and better community relations.”
It is our prayer that the Almighty have mercy on His world and may He cure all those who are ill and keep safe all those who are healthy. May He speedily eradicate this pandemic from the globe. We further pray that the Almighty shield and protect all of our first-responders and essential workers, and that they should safely leave and return home to their families. We look forward to the day when the Almighty will put an end to this pandemic and this world shall be given the opportunity to resume and enjoy life once again.
by Rav Gil Student, Director of RAA Halacha Commission
As ”stay at home” restrictions begin to loosen in certain places, and within weeks will probably begin to loosen in the New York area also, we need to reimagine what shul will look like in the interim stages before we fully return to normal. The OU, Agudath Israel of America and several poskim have published on the subject, each in their own way. I would like to explore possible alternatives in reading the Torah during a time when we must still wear masks and people living in different homes must stay more than six feet apart (some recommend eight or ten feet).
I. How Many People?
In normal times, we need multiple people to stand at the Torah reading. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 4:1) says that it is forbidden to have one person alone read the Torah for the community. Since the Torah was given at Mount Sinai through an intermediary (Moshe; Devarim 5:5), it should also be read in public with an intermediary. In Talmudic times, there was an Aramaic translator who served as intermediary between the reader and the congregation. If the reader translates himself, or if there is no translator like the current common custom, then a gabbai must stand with the reader.
Maseches Soferim (14:14) is at once stricter and more lenient than the Yerushalmi. It says that it is improper for the reader to stand alone. Rather he should be accompanied by two people, so together they are three like the Patriarchs. According to this, we need three people at the Torah but it is only preferable, not fully required. Rav Mordechai Yaffe (Levush, Orach Chaim 141:4) bridges these two approaches by suggesting that the three who stand with the Torah represent God, Moshe (the intermediary) and the Jews at Mount Sinai.
The Mishnah Berurah (141:16) says that the requirement for three people at the Torah is an ancient custom. However, common practice today is to include a fourth to help the reader and/correct him.
At a time of social distancing, the requirement for four people at the Torah seems quite challenging because they must remain at a distance of many feet (in addition to wearing masks). If the Torah reader has three male adults living with him, they can all stand together. Otherwise, since this seems like a custom and not a law integral to the Torah reading, it must be set aside in order to read the Torah safely.
II. Reading and Blessing
In normal times, three people are called to the Torah on Monday, Thursday and Shabbos afternoon, and seven people are called to the Torah on Shabbos morning. Whoever is called to the Torah stand nexts to the reader and reads quietly from the Torah scroll. How can this be done while maintaining social distancing?
Rav Moshe Sternbuch, in a responsum on Porch Minyanim dated 8 Nissan 5780 (section 4), argues that someone called to the Torah does not have to read from the scroll. Because the common practice is to call someone blind to the Torah, clearly the person called does not need to read from the scroll. Therefore, argues Rav Sternbuch, the person called to the Torah can recite the blessing from a significant distance, even from another porch. According to Rav Sternbuch, normal decisions of whom to call to the Torah can be followed without the person called going near the Torah.
Rav Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher, Corona, 2nd edition, no. 26) disagrees with Rav Sternbuch. He distinguishes between being called to the Torah and reading from it. If you are called to the Torah, you must go to it even if you will not read from it at all. Therefore, we cannot call someone to the Torah who will remain at a distance.
According to Rav Weiss and those who agree with him, how do we read the Torah during a time of social distancing? Rav Weiss suggests that the Torah reader receive each aliyah and recite the blessings before and after each reading. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 143:5) says that, in earlier times when the person called to the Torah had to serve as the reader, if only one person in the synagogue knew how to read then he would receive every aliyah. Similarly, in our unusual circumstance of social distancing, the Torah reader should receive each aliyah. The Agudah guidance also suggests this practice in Phase 1.
Rav Yitzchak Yosef, in a responsum dated 28 Nissan 5780, suggests that seven men each prepare to read their aliyah from the Torah. This removes the necessity for a reader, so each person called to the Torah can be there alone. If that is too hard, then six people should prepare three verses and be called to the Torah to read those verses. Then the seventh person reads the remainder until the end of that week’s Torah portion. The Agudah guidance also suggests that, in Phase 2, each person called to the Torah read his own portion. It adds that each person should hold the Torah with a physical barrier (e.g. a tallis) or the Torah should be sanitized in between each aliyah.
Rav Yosef says that if that is too hard also, then the congregation should remove two Torah scrolls, one for the reader and one for each person called to the Torah. In this way, the reader can read from a scroll and the person called to the Torah can also read from a scroll, switching off with the next person, so at all times only one person is with a Torah scroll. If even this is not possible, then the reader should receive each aliyah.
III. Carrying and Kissing the Torah
The OU guidance and Agudah guidance raise another issue — too many people touching the Torah scroll. I believe they are concerned with the transfer of germs through handling of a Torah scroll by different people. One suggestion is for the Torah reader to perform every function from beginning to end. He opens the ark, removes the Torah scroll, takes it straight to the table, receives every aliyah, covers the scroll (gelilah) while it is on the table, lifts the scroll and return it to the ark — without anyone else approaching the scrolls nor attempting to kiss it. This is one suggestion in the OU guidance. The Agudah guidance adds that another individual help the Torah reader with gelilah.
I did not see mention of the Torah being handled by members of a subsequent prayer service. Presumably the Torah scroll should be sanitized before its next use and/or the Torah reader should wear gloves.
The Torah is a tree of life. We must make sure that reading it transmits only good things by taking proper precautions, guided by halachic and medical authorities.
As communities start thinking about when and how to reopen shuls, the following documents can help guide you through the thought process. Attached are guidance documents from the OU and Agudah, as well as a recent teshuvah from Rav Asher Weiss urging caution and a slow pace.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American Orthodox Rabbis — congratulates its hard-working executive vice president, Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, on his appointment by Mayor Bill de Blasio to the Coronavirus Advisory Council. The ten sector-based councils will help reopen New York City after the long pandemic lockdown. In his role, Rabbi Mirocznik will play an important role in deciding when schools and synagogues can safely reopen.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “The schools and houses of worship in our community serve essential roles in the spiritual well-being of our city. Their closure has deeply hurt us all. But we have seen too many funerals, too many overflowing hospitals and overloaded funeral homes, to move without proper caution. We must never return to those dark days of fear and mourning when so many of us lost loved ones. In consultation with medical authorities, we will reopen as soon as medically possible in order to reinstate the precious learning and prayer that serve as this city’s spiritual lifeblood. New York City will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever, reinvigorated with a renewed sense of purpose.”
Rabbi Ya’akov Klass, presidium chairman of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “We are very proud of Rabbi Mirocznik’s accomplishments. He has a track record of serving the community tirelessly and fearlessly, generating consensus in order to move forward together. Rabbi Mirocznik understands well the profound need for communal prayer and Torah study, the foundation of Jewish existence. He also understands the primary importance to the Torah of saving life and preventing danger. With these two pillars of Jewish tradition, Rabbi Mirocznik is ready to bring this city back to life. We wish him and Mayor de Blasio success in carefully returning New York City to its former greatness, bringing back public life to the city that never sleeps.”