This past weekend, my wife and I, together with Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin, attended the Torah Umesorah convention. The weekend was uplifting and exciting, with a full range of speakers on topics such as secular education, mental health, and words of inspiration from many of the roshei yeshiva from the Torah Umesorah Vaad who were in attendance. It was most inspirational to hear their words, many of which I will be sharing with the teachers of the school. I have also purchased a site license to disseminate the lectures to the many staff members who wanted to attend the convention.
One of the lectures that I found most inspiring was a plenary address by the rosh yeshiva of Darchei Torah, Harav Yaakov Bender. The theme of his address was shared by Dayan Abraham, who was in attendance from London, England. The convention theme was to strike a passion for Yiddishkeit in the hearts and minds of our students. Rabbi Bender complimented the staff and teachers of the yeshivos but stressed that we live in trying and challenging times. He commented that as educators and parents we are in positions to be extra sensitive to children and families that have special circumstances and needs. An example of this is that many communities have changed the name of “Avos Ubanim” to “Dor Ledor.” A yosom, orphan, told him that every time he hears “Avos Ubanim” it was like “daggers in his heart”; a simple shift in name resolved the issue.
Parshas Mishpotim teaches us that a curse is incurred when one starts up with an almonoh, a woman who lost her husband, or similar cases. Rashi reminds us immediately that the warning not to hurt an almonoh actually applies to how we treat each other, our spouses, and children, as Rashi says, “ Hu hadin lechol odom – you may not hurt anyone,” but the posuk just speaks of the most common application.
Rabbi Bender explained that children who are down need the utmost loving and caring both in and out of school. Families struggling with parnossoh create a stress on children. He then cited a Gemoro in Yevomos that describes why the students of Rabbi Akiva died during Sefiras HaOmer. We are told, “Shelo nohagu kovod zeh lozeh – because they did not accord honor to each other.” The Midrash, in Bereishis 61:3, comments that one of the biggest challenges is that people are jealous of other people’s material acquisitions. He mentioned that in Woodmere, a community near him, someone built a beautiful home, and someone else in Woodmere wanted to build the same home. He didn’t ask for the building plans but instead just hired an architect to replicate the home. When the first owner found that his house was copied, he sued the person. Another example many people can relate to is when two women arrive at a wedding both wearing the same dress, and all types of anger and jealousy break out.
Another big point he mentioned is that with so many young ladies struggling in the area of shidduchim or women suffering infertility, he asks us to feel their pain and avoid discussions that only serve to highlight the pain. While one cannot avoid walking around with a baby carriage or playing in the park, we just need to be careful not to raise conversations in front of them that talk about the clubs and camps children will be attending or the diapers that they are changing all the time.
Rabbi Bender closed his passionate speech by sharing that people who are mevater on their personal kovod, affronts they might receive, are promised manifold blessings for their positive actions. I am proud that in Providence we live in a culture where the school and its families all try to be careful in these areas. His lecture was a stark reminder to me on our obligation as educators working with children. His other takeaways on the topic of interpersonal relationships leave us with ideas and suggestions that can help us all to grow as we prepare for Shavuos. I am hopeful that our joint efforts in these areas will enrich our lives and those of our families. In the merit of our acts of kindness we ask Hashem to shower us all with the blessing of sholom and success in the education of our children.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman