This past week was quite a hectic one, as the high-school girls first celebrated their Mock Trial win against Moses Brown and with that earned a coveted spot in the playoffs. The NEAT team is renowned as playoff contenders almost every year in the Mock Trial contest.
Motzoei Shabbos and Sunday we welcomed and hosted many out-of-town families, as well as the parents, siblings, and friends of our local NEATers for the annual Production. This year’s Production heads were Shevy Taitelbaum and Hadassa Twersky, who did a magnificent job making sure that the songs, dance, and drama were arranged to perfection. Any Production has many subcommittees that expend major effort in planning and practicing for the performance. Their efforts paid off as they performed to two sellout crowds with rave reviews. Special thanks as well to Miss Goldie Taitelbaum, who served as the adult director, as well as the adult volunteers, Mrs. Devorah Raskin, Mrs. Janice Rosenfield, Mrs. Shifra Yudkowsky, and Mrs. Miriam Peromsik, who all played important roles in preparing the production. We are so proud of our students!
There is a famous argument that the commentaries discuss on the entire story of the makkos and the fact that Paro’s heart was hardened by Hashem. We all know that although we have complete faith in Hashem and understand that He controls all that takes place, we still believe in free choice. It seems, however, based on the narrative, that Paro did not have free choice, as we see over and over again that Hashem hardened Paro’s heart, making him unable to choose.
The Rambam, in Hilchos Teshuvah, codifies that in fact there is a point at which a person’s sins become unbearable, and the cumulative pain and suffering that he has caused to the Jews make him no longer eligible for repentance. In light of this idea, we can understand that Paro’s heart was purposely hardened and that his freedom of choice was simply removed from him.
Other commentaries, however, offer a different explanation to this vexing problem. While it is true that Hashem gave Paro many roadblocks and challenges based on the evil plans that he exercised against the Jews, his freedom of choice was not removed. Paro did have an opportunity to do teshuva – but he would have to exert much additional effort in order to overcome his challenge.
This second pshat has many applications for children and adults alike. We all face many challenges and they often seem insurmountable. We can either view them as a closed book and walk around feeling like victims, or we can step up our efforts and meet the challenges head-on in an effort to find a solution. We often hear stories where a person in danger receives a sudden burst of energy and power in a supernatural manner. Similarly, there are handicapped people who decide to meet their challenges head-on and put in effort, achieving unbelievable results in a manner beyond nature.
I often share with my students ten two-letter magic words: “If it is to be it is up to me.” We can accomplish anything we want in life as long as we decide to pay the price and put in the requisite effort. Overcoming challenges is what makes human beings great. May Hashem grant each one of us the strength of character to meet our challenges head-on and to use our free choice to overcome these challenges and draw closer to our families and Hashem!
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman