This past week’s winter break was meaningful for me, since it immediately followed the celebration of Chanukah. Chanukah represents the manner in which a little bit of light can illuminate the darkness. Chanukah at PHDS this year displayed a tremendous amount of light, as we enjoyed the various celebrations of the preschoolers as they bonded with their parents; the NEAT Chagigah, attended by the women and girls of the community; and the various exciting, professional performances presented by the students of the school. The middle school boys rejoiced as well at a mishmar siyum and mesibah, a true simchas haTorah in the spirit of Chanukah. It was also gratifying to hear the many comments of Mrs. Chaya Bouganim, the daughter of Mrs. Mudrick, a”h, during her week of shiva in Providence, about how so many of our local girls and boarders literally brought life to her ailing mother. All of this and so much more give me great pride in the excellent staff of administrators and teachers, and our partners in the parent body, who work together toward the common goal of raising our children as proud Torah Jews.
We learn about the darkness of galus Mitzrayim in the beginning of Sefer Shemos: “Vayakam melech chadash asher lo yada es Yosef - A new king arose who did not know Yosef.” The Nesivos Shalom on this week’s parsha comments in various selections that the galus of Mitzrayim was actually a symbol for all future galuyos that would face Klal Yisrael. We live in tumultuous times, not only as Jews, as represented by the tragic and barbaric actions that took place in Har Nof, but also as people who witness turmoil in the police departments of our country, in Paris, and throughout the Middle East. What are of the messages that we can learn from these events?
In the Nesivos Shalom’s essay on this week’s parsha, “Gal Mibli Daas - We Were Exiled without Knowledge,” he creates a framework for understanding a lesson that is applicable to the challenges we faced in Mitzrayim, and also to the darkness that we witness worldwide on a daily basis in our current galus. He comments that the midah of daas, knowledge, was in galus. The midah of daas requires the Jew to recognize that Hashen is in control of every aspect of our lives. Pharaoh stated, “Lo yadati es Hashem - I do not know Hashem.” His goal was to keep the Jews so busy with slavery, suffering, and pain that they would become confused and sever their connection with Hashem so that they would forget that He is in control. When we focus on the names of two of the archenemies of the Jewish people, Bilam and Balak, what we learn is actually quite telling. “Bilam” begins with the letters “bil” and “Balak” begins with the letters “bal” which together spell “bilbel,” confuse. Additionally, “Bilam” ends with the letters “am,” and “Balak” ends with “lak,” spelling the word “Amalek”! This teaches us that Amalek comes in each generation with the goal of bilbel, to confuse us in our knowledge and belief in Hashem. So many challenges face us and our children today. Chanukah at PHDS proved, however, that the light of Torah burns brightly at Providence Hebrew Day School. This is the light that was displayed at the end of galus Mitzrayim: “V’yadu Mitzrayim ki ani Hashem.” Similarly, we anticipate the time when the entire world will become enlightened with the understanding that “I am Hashem.” We pray for safety and peace across the world.
Enclosed in this week’s newsletter is an article that I authored that was recently published by “Raayonos” Magazine, which outlines strategies and techniques for both parenting and teaching. I hope you enjoy the article.
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman