I am happy to announce that, boruch Hashem, our journal ad campaign has been most successful and that we have exceeded our goal for this year’s fundraiser. We look forward to an exciting evening on Sunday and to paying tribute to this year’s honorees, who have all had a positive influence on the school. The reception will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the BAKST SOCIAL HALL IN THE JEWISH ALLIANCE OF RHODE ISLAND. Mincha will be at 5:10 p.m. and Maariv will follow the dinner. Special thanks to the Barbershop Quartet and the violin ensemble, which will feature our local school parent and community talents. We look forward to greeting you all at the dinner.
This week’s parshah relates Moshe’s warning to Yisro concerning his choice to return to Midian, where he planned to do outreach with the people of his town. Moshe warns him that the streets of Midian posed a risk to his spiritual wellbeing. There is a mishnah in Avos that tells a story of a great scholar, Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma, who was approached by a wealthy man from a nearby town offering him the position of Rabbi. He told him, “Retzon’cha shetodur imonu – Would you like to live with us as our Rabbi and we will pay you a most handsome salary?” Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma declines the offer and tells him that he must remain in the makom Torah, the place of Torah where he lives and no dollar amount or offer would change his mind. He seems to decline the offer based on the verse, “Tov li toras picha me’alfei zohov vachesef – Your words of Torah are better for me than thousands of gold coins.” Why did Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma give up the opportunity to join as the Rabbi, where he would be paid handsomely, allowing him to use all his time and energy to potentially have an impact on others in that community where he lived? Sefer Ohel Moshe answers this question by examining the words of the posuk. The people said, “Retzon’cha shetodur imonu – Would you like to live with us?” He explains that the community seeking a Rav was seeking someone who would not limit his focus on his personal study but remember that the community’s goal was that he should live with them and leave them alone. Don’t change our way of life; study as much as you want but just leave us alone. Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma realized that in such a case not only would he be unable to influence others but he would also be personally impacted by their less-than-positive outlook on personal growth.
Over Shavuos I was so impressed by the heightened level of Torah learning where students and adults attended shiurim all geared to enhancing the spiritual aspect of our families and community. Special thanks to all the parents and community members who joined together to enhance the joy of our Yom Tov. In a comparable way, we need to thank all our teachers and staff who positively affect our students’ spiritual and academic lives on a daily basis. This culture of growth has resulted in many of our middle-school boys learning outside of school daily, as well as their making many siyumim celebrating their completion of various tractates in Mishna and Talmud. I can only imagine that if we approached Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma or his modern-day equivalent, they would be overjoyed to join the list of Rabbonim who have made Providence their home.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman