Welcome back! Beginnings are important, so first I must acknowledge the amazing support of Mrs. Weiner and Rabbi Lapin, who have worked tirelessly to hire staff and plan for the 2018–19 school year. We welcome all our new staff and students and look forward to an outstanding school year. We are proud that NEAT now has thirty-three students enrolled – an almost all-time high in recent years.
Speaking of beginnings, I saw a beautiful d’var Torah from Rabbi Yissocher Frand on the very topic of beginnings.
This past week’s parsha begins with the laws of the yefas to’ar and then mentions, “If a man has two wives, one he loves and one he hates…” he is not allowed to switch the firstborn status (for inheritance purposes) from his true firstborn, the son of the “hated wife” to the younger brother, the firstborn son of the “beloved wife.” The true firstborn is the one who must receive the “double portion” of inheritance.
Following this, the third set of laws in Parshas Ki Seitzei is that of the ben sorer umoreh, the wayward and rebellious son. Already at a very young age (right after bar mitzvah) he begins acting in a way that will lead to a life of corruption and aggression.
Rashi says the sequence of these three sets of laws – the beautiful captive woman, the beloved and hated wives, and the wayward and rebellious son – teach a homiletic lesson: If someone marries the yefas to’ar because he became infatuated with her, he will eventually have two wives (his original wife and the one he found in the battlefield). Eventually, he will come to hate the second wife. Furthermore, once he has such a wife (whom he should not have taken in the first place) he will have a child from her and the child will be a troublemaker. He will become a ben sorer umoreh.
The Shem M’Shmuel (Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain (1855–1926), the second Sochatchover Rebbe, and son of the Avnei Nezer) makes a very interesting observation. Why does the Torah mention here the halochoh that the firstborn gets a double portion? Even if the Torah wants to tell us that one who marries a yefas to’ar will eventually hate her, why should the Torah insert the unrelated rule that a bechor gets pi shnayim, a double portion of inheritance, here? There is an entire section in the Torah at the end of Sefer Bamidbar describing all the laws of inheritance. The law that a firstborn gets a double portion should be placed there. It seems incongruous to mention it here between the laws of the yefas to’ar and that of the ben sorer umoreh. It does not relate to the flow of the narrative.
The Shem M’Shmuel writes that the Torah is trying to teach us a vital lesson: beginnings are very, very important. Beginnings set the tone. He asks: Why is it that the firstborn gets double? Being a firstborn, after all, is merely an accident of birth. What did he do? Why should he get double the portion of his father’s estate over and above the rest of his brothers? The Shem M’Shmuel answers that it is because the bechor casts an influence over the entire family. The children who come after the firstborn are influenced by him. Therefore, the bechor gets double because he sets the tone for the entire family.
For example, the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman (1900–1987) zt”l married a woman named Feiga Kramer, which set the tone for all her sisters to marry talmidei chachomim.
Beginnings don’t just happen on their own, but rather come about through tedious preparation. In this vein, after a summer of intensive planning, we anticipate an exceptional school year. I would like to close by highlighting two new important positions, sure to add excellent value to our school program. Using two very popular and competent existing staff members, we welcome Rabbi Yaakov Zimmerman, a beloved rebbe and consummate professional, who will serve as the resource specialist in the school using his training in social work to help students, teachers, and parents. Rabbi Yechezkel Yudkowsky has been hired as a mashgiach for the middle-school boys. He already has a strong bond with both students and rebbeim, and is sure to have a strong impact on the school. If you have any questions regarding staffing or any other concerns, please contact the school principals or me.
Best wishes for a kesivah vachasimah tovah.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman , Dean