On December 24 my wife and I had the opportunity to visit and call some of our alumni in New York. We heard of their many successes and their desire to hold another alumni reunion. One of the highlights of their time at NEAT that has stayed with them is the attention they received from the school, their boarding families, and the entire community. I think that our girls truly felt the sincerity of the community’s educators, parents, and Rabbanim. The lessons taught will last them a lifetime.
Over 30 years ago, when visiting NEAT with a group of out-of-town students, Reb Moshe Miller, former NEAT principal, addressed us at shalosh seudos. He quoted from Parshas Shemos, where we learn of the meyaldos — the midwives — who defied Pharaoh’s command and allowed the Jewish children to live. The verse tells us that the meyaldos were rewarded with batim — houses — referring either to lineage or to actual homes. Rabbi Miller asked, why were the meyaldos deserving of a reward when they were only acting morally and ethically by not killing the babies?
Rabbi Miller then explained that the crux of the question is whether morality is objective or subjective. If there is a set standard for morality, then the meyaldos would have been expected to pass the test of morality and to follow these precepts. Rabbi Miller noted that its clear morality is subjective, and that what was once considered to be murder is today called “mercy killing.” Morality, then, is based on the norms of the day.
We can see that the meyaldos were only able to withstand this test based on the verse (Shemos 1:21), “Vayehi ki yaru hameyaldos es Ha’Elokim — and it was when the midwives feared Hashem.” This indicates that this challenge of morality would be resolved based on their fear of Hashem. We see that when Yosef was challenged, he too responded (Bereishis 39:9), “Ve’eich e’eseh hara’ah hagedolah hazos vechatasi l’Elokim — and how can I perform this wrongdoing, as it will be a sin against Hashem?” In a similar manner, when Avimelech took Sarah, assuming she was Avraham’s sister, Hashem warned him not to marry Sarah. He complained to Avraham that he hid the fact that Sarah was his wife. Avraham replied (Bereishis 20:11), “Rak ein yiras Elokim bamakom hazeh — there is no fear of Hashem in this place.” Avraham was telling Avimelech that he would have taken Sarah even if he had known she was a married woman because morality is subjective unless it is accompanied by the fear of Hashem.
We at PHDS/NEAT are thankful to have a committed and dedicated staff whose moral compass is based on yiras Hashem and a commitment to Torah and mitzvos, which guides us to live moral and ethical lives. Baruch Hashem, we have a number of staff members who are or will soon be celebrating simchos with us, as well as a rebbi who after many years of learning just celebrated a Siyum Hashas, the completion of the entire study of Talmud. May we all merit to be personally inspired in our service of Hashem. We wish a hearty mazel tov to our staff and their children and look forward to the continued celebration of simchos for many years to come.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, Dean