In this past week’s parsha, we learn about Yaakov Avinu’s decision to part company with Lavan and his family. The pasuk tells us that Yaakov no longer saw Lavan in the same manner he once did. At a simple level, this can be understood as Yaakov understanding that he must leave Lavan’s home because of Lavan’s ongoing behavior of cheating, deceit, and trickery. The Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, Harav Elia Meir Bloch z”tl, offers a deeper insight: Harav Bloch explains that when Yaakov came to Lavan he understood whom he was dealing with. Yaakov understood that Lavan was evil and that any and all of his plans would include trickery and deception. Perhaps, suggests the Rav Bloch, after so many years of living with Lavan, Yaakov had become accustomed to this. Perhaps Lavan’s ways did not seem as bad they were and had appeared to be at the outset. Therefore, Yaakov realized, to maintain his and his family’s spiritual well-being, he must leave as soon as possible. This can be understood as a manifestation of the ma’amer chazal that tells us “Oy lerasha, oy lishchaino – Woe is to the evil person and woe is to his neighbor.”
We live in a society where world values are often contrary to the values of Torah and mitzvos. Even those who live in the most insular homes cannot help but be affected by these values, which slowly seep into our hearts and minds. Like Yaakov, we must acknowledge that the face of Lavan is not the same as it once appeared to be. In fact, its allure is sometimes quite enticing. The best antidote to this problem is to belong to a chevra that lives and grows together. Through this we can we hope to stem the tide and limit the outside influences.
The Providence community is abundant with opportunities for such growth and learning. Aside from the school, the Providence Community Kollel/Project Shoresh and the local shuls and Yeshiva Gedola feature daily learning programs that enhance our and our families’ lives. A perfect example of the power of learning will be celebrated this Shabbos with Mr. Anshel Strauss’s completion of Shas and on the siyum he will make this Motzoei Shabbos. Please see the attached flyer for this weekend’s special Shabbaton and siyum.
Another example of inspiration, is the annual Bais Yaakov National Convention, which takes place this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. The convention offers our high school seniors the opportunity to meet girls from other schools, hear inspiring speeches, and discuss their seminary plans with the students and adults in attendance. I will be chaperoning the girls to the convention, where they will be joined by close to 800 seniors from across the country. At the convention, I will, im yirtzeh Hashem, deliver a Friday night workshop and address the principals’ session. I will be speaking to the other high school principals about ways to reach our academically, socially, and emotionally challenged students.
With the holiday of Chanukah approaching, I know that the many celebrations that will take place in our school will be spiritually uplifting and exciting for us all. In each of these celebrations, our families will prove that the light of Torah and Chanukah will outshine the secular culture in which we live, just as the light of that Macabees shined forth in the days of old.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman