NEAT serves as home to many out-of-town boarders, and their daily welfare and growth comes from the efforts of teachers, boarding families, and the entire community. Over the years we have noticed that many girls have grown tremendously under our auspices. Rabbi and Mrs. Dovid Schwartz and Rabbi and Mrs. Scheinerman attended a seudah in honor of Nissim Hasson receiving his semichah from Rav Heinemann of Baltimore. The Leibowitz family, whose daughter Hindy is married to Rabbi Hasson, credits the Providence community for allowing Hindy to grow and to experience the exceptional ahavas haTorah, middos and the warmth and friendship that so many gave to her. Mazel Tov!
This week’s Torah portion discusses the Malochim, messengers that Yaakov sends before meeting his brother Eisov, his sworn enemy looking to kill him. Rashi comments that the Malochim were real angels and Eisov seems to totally disregard the spiritual message that Yaakov is sending; in fact, all four hundred soldiers march forward to attack Yaakov. Yaakov, seeing that his brother is unwilling to accept the message of the Malochim, switches his approach and his plan on how to meet his brother.
Yaakov has no choice but to bribe and impress Eisov by offering him wealth in the form of cattle and other gifts. In the sefer Ohel Moshe, Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman recounts that Eisov lacks any connection to spirituality, as is evident from his disgracing and selling his first-born rights for a pot of stew. His lack of connection to the spiritual world is so weak that even real angels have no impact on lessening his anger toward his brother. Eisov, however, does have tremendous interest in amassing material wealth. Eisov lives his life for the moment rather than investing in forming a connection to angels and spiritual growth.
I heard a second explanation of this posuk: Eisov obviously cannot be expected to relate to the spiritual aspects of real angels approaching him; after all, he has earned the title Eisov HoRosho, the wicked one. Yaakov realizes this and immediately switches gears and decides that even though his brother is approaching him with anger and hostility, if he shows Eisov love and caring and presents him with gifts, his anger will dissipate and allow Eisov to experience some brotherly love. The outcome of his efforts bear some fruit, as the posuk tells us that Eisov kisses his brother.
In parenting and education, we often witness children whose behavior is indicative of one who is angry and unable to comprehend any spiritual messages. Yaakov teaches us an important lesson – that if we approach the situation with a loving and caring message, we can often impact on children and students in a positive manner when other approaches seem to fail.
I happened to talk to an old friend who at one point held a leadership position in his community, but he had unfortunately strayed from the path of Torah and mitzvos. I called him back this week to say hello and he shared with me that most of his communication with his peers and friends were those of understandable exclusion, anger, and disappointment. He said that my approach of listening to him and trying to understand him allowed him now to begin the return process.
By approaching our relationships with students and children with understanding and love, we can hopefully have a much greater long-term impact on their behavior and ultimately on their long-term spiritual growth.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman