Dean's Letter Nitzavim-Vayelech

Rabbi Gidon Goldberg's picture

Dear Parents,

I am gratified to have worked with an amazing team of volunteers, who helped us in so many ways to produce our first – unforgettable – virtual Dinner. At PHDS, we thank you all from the depths of our heart.

As Rosh Hashana is rapidly approaching, I read the following, penned by parenting and kiruv expert Mrs. Emunah Braverman, featured on Enjoy!

A billboard I saw out my window a few weeks ago highlighted another lesson. It was an advertisement for joining the Marines that caught my eye: “Battles are won within,” it said.

Never having followed that other path and never having been a Marine, I cannot testify to the slogan’s accuracy on the battlefield, but I can certainly recognize its truth in life. The real tests come not from external enemies but from internal ones. The real challenge is the inner struggle, the war against the voice within us urging us to be self-indulgent and callous, to be takers and not givers.

I imagine that if I were a Marine (quite the stretch, I know!), that voice might tell me to give up – it’s too difficult, it’s too risky, it’s not worth it. And if I were a Marine, I would learn to push back against that voice, reminding myself about principles and bonds of trust and going beyond my potential and never ever giving up or giving in.

Whether inside or outside the armed services, the voice is the same, the struggle is the same. It’s life’s challenge, life’s struggle – and we all have to lift up and recognize that the truly important battle is the internal one.

Like the Marines, we too need training and preparation. We cannot fight the battle without a strategy and a plan. The battle with our internal enemies is no less relentless than with our external ones. We will not succeed without a plan, without determination, without consistency and constancy.

I am not sure why the Marines chose these words as their recruitment slogan; I am not sure that would encourage me to sign up! But it is definitely an expression of truth, of reality – a description of how to achieve success. And like all carefully conceived battle plans and strategies, it just needs to be implemented.

When I read this article, I realized how true it is. This year has been a most challenging year with schools being closed. Davening at home, chassonim and kallos having backyard weddings, socially distanced minyonim – and now a return to school with all kinds of new rules. If we focus too much on all of this, we can become depressed and despondent. But we must realize that this is just another challenge, and that our response to the challenge is to recognize that all comes from Hashem, including the challenges related to COVID. While these challenges are real and formidable, we have also witnessed tremendous chessed, giving of tzedokoh, and Torah learning. Being a Marine requires daily focus, planning, and diligent effort. For us, the month of Elul and the Yomim Noro’im are our time to plan and explore strategies to improve ourselves for the upcoming year. May we all be blessed with an uplifting Yomim Noro’im and a year of sholom and good health in both the spiritual and academic domains.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman