Dean's Letter Vayishlach

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Dear Parents,

“And Yaakov remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. And he saw that he could not defeat him, so he grabbed him in the hollow of his thigh, and he dislocated the hollow of Yaakov’s thigh as he wrestled with him.

“And he said, ‘Let me go, because the dawn has broken.’

“And he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

“And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’

“And he said, ‘Yaakov!’

“And he said, ‘No longer will your name be Yaakov but rather Israel, because you struggled with the Divine and man and you prevailed.’

“And Yaakov asked and said, ‘Tell me, please, what your name is.’

“And he said, ‘Why is it that you ask for my name?’ And he blessed him there.” (Bereishis 32:25–30)

Yaakov wrestles with a malach Hashem and as a result receives an upgraded name of Yisroel, together with a special brochoh. This night-long wrestling match represents the struggle that we all face with the yetzer hora daily.

As a menahel and mechanech of many years, I see children whose struggles are exacerbated by the limitations placed on them due to Covid. Students are expected to wear masks all day and to limit their socializing during lunch and recess due to distancing requirements. Travel restrictions set forth by schools limit the ability of families to attend simchos of people near and dear to them. In some cases their own siblings had to celebrate their chasunosand bar mitzvos in a very limited manner. The effect of this on children and families is immense. Children are in constant fear that their schools may once again be shut down, and are anxious because there is no end in sight. All these limitations present tremendous challenges for both children and adults.

I would like to share some solutions that can hopefully enhance our families’ simchas hachayim and ahavas haTorah.

One of the greatest solutions to challenges is when we know that we are not alone.

The connection to our mesorah is crucial. We see that Klal Yisroel has faced many challenges over the years but both our Avos hakedoshim and our earlier counterparts held strong to their mesorah and were able to overcome challenges in a meaningful way. In times of challenge, our connection with our rabbonim and teachers is crucial for our families and the success of our children. Parents who share divrei Torah or stories from their rabbonim, roshei yeshivah, and the previous generation offer our children the inspiration needed to succeed even in the face of adversity.

Parents and teachers are heroes and must serve as guiding lights for our children. Even when we ourselves are struggling, we need to show our children and students an air of confidence that this too shall pass soon.

Too much discussion about politics and the daily COVID updates will almost always create anxiety. Unfortunately, in today’s society, news is known almost instantaneously, and much of it can be frightening and concerning. Limiting access for our children can lift a tremendous weight from their shoulders.

Create your home or classroom in an organized fashion that has a seder. A place to do homework and a time to go to sleep all enhance the concept of stability.

Try to give each child some personal time for just you and them, even for a few minutes. Obviously, there can be nothing greater than learning with our children daily, even if it is for a short time.

Model problem-solving techniques at home and at school, helping children to take responsibility for their actions and to make choices.

Encourage children to set learning goals and celebrate their accomplishments upon completion.

Just as Yaakov Avinu and all our Avos struggled with many challenges, they used the struggles as opportunities for growth and reached a lofty status. We daven to Hashem for an end to the challenges of COVID and a return to normal life.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman
Dean