Sincere thanks are due Mrs. Scheinerman for all her efforts in planning and organizing a super-special NEAT Retreat (please see the enclosed Retreat article). Many thanks to the entire staff for their superb presentations.
I recently saw an article by Rabbi Dovid Green that has a lesson applicable to us certainly as educators, but that is really applicable to all of us. We are living in the last few days of the Jewish year, and with it we will begin a new cycle in the progression toward fulfilling G-d’s purpose of creating the universe. G-d will judge us all on Rosh Hashanah regarding past performance, and accordingly, He will make promotions and demotions, “revise and renew contracts” in terms of “period of employment,” what His expectations are, and the circumstances under which we will play our unique role in the year to come.
It is noteworthy that Rosh Hashanah is a fearful day, but at the same time it is considered a yom tov, a day of celebration. Rabbi Chaim Friedlander zt”l points out this paradox, and explains that it can be understood in the following way: There is mercy in judgment. The concept of mercy in judgment applies itself when a judge knows that the person being judged is truly remorseful for his actions, and is ready to change. If a judge were able to know that with certainty, then the means necessary to effect change in the wrongdoer can be much more lenient. Punishment reflects a need to force someone to change, and instill fear in those who would otherwise act inappropriately. Stringent punishment is unnecessary when the “criminal” truly recognizes the evil of his “crime,” and wishes to change. Punishment is not revenge, but a purposeful way of bringing about change. If change will come by itself, there is no need for punishment.
If we acknowledge that we are here in this world to grow and improve ourselves, and that growing is an ongoing process, we look forward to seeing results. We welcome evaluation that facilitates our personal and communal improvement. When Hashem takes notice of our sincere eagerness to become better agents of His will, He views our shortcomings as the judge would who sees the “defendant” is committed to change. It goes without saying that growing is still a painful process, and the evaluation and decision-making that G-d does strikes in us a fear of the unknown even in the best of circumstances. We can’t help but wonder what it is that Hashem may be sending our way this coming year to affect our growth and to bring out our unique potential. Knowing these decisions are made on Rosh Hashanah makes it a truly fearful day, with a lot hanging in the balance.
At the same time we are aware of the greatness of the day, and we take advantage of that knowledge. We dedicate the day to crowning G-d as our king and accepting the “yoke” of performing His commandments. We are confident because we are in G-d’s hands, and we can hope for judgment mitigated by mercy. We will ultimately be better people for undergoing this process. This gives us reason to celebrate.
Over the course of the past year, the administration, in partnership with the lay leadership, spent a great deal of time introspecting, focusing on perceived areas of strength and weakness in the school. In an effort to continue the process of continued school growth we made some strategic and important staffing decisions that will allow for our continued growth, with the establishment of two new positions unveiled this year. Growth is a process that we must all constantly embrace. With Rosh Hashanah approaching this weekend I thank all our school partners for their efforts on our behalf.
Parental feedback has been excellent, especially with regard to the new positions of Rabbi Zimmerman, who serves as a resource specialist, and Rabbi Yudkowsky, who now serves as the middle-school boys’ Mashgiach. These and all other PHDS programs are geared toward the continued training and ongoing growth of our staff, which will certainly have a huge impact on our parents and students.
Best wishes for a kesivah vachasimah tovah – a happy and healthy new year!
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman