Parshas Emor

Rabbi Gidon Goldberg's picture

Dear Parents,

This past weekend, many teachers had the opportunity to attend the Torah U’Mesorah convention. A mere look at the crowd is enough to begin to understand the inspiration that our teachers receive by attending the convention. We had the ability to connect with peers from other, similar communities, and to attend professional workshops at the pre-convention seminar discussing such issues as student anxiety and how to enhance parent-teacher communication. We were inspired by answers on vexing chinuch issues from Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, the Novominsker Rebbe, and Rav Aharon Feldman, shlita. These elder roshei yeshiva set the tone for Torah U’Mesorah, but they were complemented by many other roshei yeshiva who shared the wealth of their wisdom and experience.

Rabbi Yudkowsky attended the Mashgiach course, which is part of a two-year professional program to train school mashgichim in the most modern student mentoring techniques. Mrs. Lapin attended the Nurtured Heart Approach workshop, which shared research on the need for teachers to emphasize the positive in shaping student behavior. Mrs. Jakubowicz related to me that the convention exposed her to many new ideas relating to preschool education, while Rabbi Jakubowicz reported how appreciative he was of the skills he learned at a session delivered by Rabbi Baruch Hilsenrath on the topic of classroom management. I realize that when teachers and administration are away from school it affects our children; but the convention provides immediate benefit to our students in giving them teachers who are well-trained and who are following the rich mesorah being transmitted to us by our Torah leaders. There were also many educational booths which were selling and sharing new textbooks, technology, ideas on school safety, materials for teaching Emunah, and much more.

While the goal of the convention is to enhance our personal growth and that of our students, another topic that received attention was the rise of anti-Semitism and how to live in a non-Jewish world. Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, discussed in detail the rise in anti-Semitism in America and worldwide today. He related a story about his father, the great sage Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l. In his earlier years in Monsey, Reb Yaakov used to take personally, and to share with others, not to wear a tallis above their clothing on the way to shul on Shabbos. Reb Yaakov felt that it was important not to flaunt our religion at our neighbors.
In this last week’s parsha of Kedoshim, we read the verse which states, “Vaavdil eschem min haamim, And I will separate you from among the nations.” Rabbeinu Bachya explains this verse to mean that the Torah commands us to be separate in the manner in which we eat, drink, dress, and act. This distinction makes the outside world jealous of us, which leads to its hatred of us. Many sages who discuss this verse explain that this jealousy is based on the difference between Torah values, such as commitment to truth and purity, and the world’s more permissive values. Awareness of these issues allow us to enhance our personal holiness while at the same time making sure not to anger our secular neighbors.

A few years ago, our son moved into Chestnut Ridge, now a rapidly growing religious community. When our son was looking at the house for sale, his future neighbor across the street was holding a sunbathing party in his front yard, blasting music, and made clear that our son’s religious family would not be welcome. When our son and his family moved in, they brought these neighbors cookies, and a few months later they brought a graduation gift for their child. These few simple actions transformed this neighbor from foe to friend.

The convention trains our next generation of teachers that we are an am kadosh, a holy nation. We must be careful to always be mindful to make a kiddush Hashem, to sanctify G-d’s name. Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky was simply stressing that with the growth of the Torah religious community, it is important to realize that our interactions with our neighbors and the outside world are equally important.

Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman