Parshas Vayechi

Rabbi Gidon Goldberg's picture

Dear Parents,

This past Shabbos I had the opportunity to speak twice in Toronto. While preparing for my speech I thought about the proposed curriculum changes being discussed in New York. The following Torah thought can help shed some light on this troubling topic.

In Parshas Vayigash we read about Yosef’s question to his brothers (Bereishis 44:19): “Hayesh lachem av o ach” — Do you have a father or a brother”? The Nesivos Shalom extrapolates from this passuk a lesson that is applicable to us in our day-to-day lives. He explains that there are two things that are crucial to us as individuals trying to build homes of Torah and mitzvos. The word “Av” in this passuke refers to the need for each family to have a Rav — a Rabbi who understands the family and can offer spiritual insight and direction. The word “ach” refers to the need for every family to establish a social network of chaveirim — close friends whom they can learn from and whom they can turn to in their time of need. One of the tremendous benefits of small-town living is the accessibility to our mechanchim (educational leaders), Rabbanim, and a close-knit community that relies on each other in times of happiness and in times of need.

There is another aspect that defines us as a people and a school. This is the ability to submit ourselves to decisions made by great Torah leaders, otherwise known as Da’as Torah. These leaders serve as the eyes of our people, giving us guidance to properly deal with national trends and at times prescribing solutions that we follow with great pride, even though we may not fully understand their decisions.
Over the past few weeks yeshivos in New York State have been facing a frightening proposal that would require them to follow a curriculum mandated by the government. One of the terms of this proposal would mandate the teaching of general studies for a minimum of seven hours per day.
Jewish leaders and Roshei Yeshiva nationwide have signed a Kol Korei (a religious proclamation) stating that such laws represent tremendous danger to schools both in New York and across the country. This proposal represents one of the greatest challenges that we, as Orthodox Jews in the United States, have ever faced. If the proposal were to pass, the authority over the curriculum would be placed in the hands of the government. The rabbanim have asked all schools to use the fast day of Asarah B’Teves as a Yom Tefillah. They have also requested that all religious Jews nationwide sign a petition, which we circulated earlier this week.

These are lessons that can resonate with each and every one of us as we continue with our important lifelong task of raising children in the path of our mesorah, with the direction of our local and national Rabbinic leadership. May we all merit to see that the sacred aspects of our curriculum remain in our own hands and that any efforts to tamper with our educational system be abandoned. May we be zocheh to raise “banim u’vnei banim, oskim b’Torah u’vemitzvos” —– Children and Grandchildren, occupying themselves in the Study of Torah and the fulfillment of the commandments”.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, Dean