Deans Letter Shemos

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Dear Parents,
This week was a busy one at school, with the second of Rabbi Dr. Dovid Jacobson’s workshops in NEAT. These workshops use the chochma of teaching research and applying it to our daily teaching in Torah and General Studies. Ongoing staff development over the course of a year always has a much higher and deeper level of teacher participation and growth.
NEAT has had a profound impact on many young ladies from out of town, and this week was a shining example. Hindy Leibowitz and Kayla Isaacs got married this week and their chasunos had more than one table of participants from Providence. The common theme in these weddings are girls who not only gained from the school, staff, and community, but have also given back to the community, visit often, and maintain relationships sure to last a lifetime. Mazel tov to these kallos, their chassonim, and their families – and a special thanks to all of you who gave and continue to give so much to these young ladies.
This week’s parsha, Shemos, speaks of the meyaldos, the midwives, commanded by Pharaoh to kill all the Jewish boys. The meyaldos refuse to cooperate and allow the babies to live. The Torah tells us that Hashem gives them botim, houses, referring either to actual houses and riches, or perhaps the blessing of Kehuna. Why did they deserve such large rewards for not killing the babies? After all, their response was just the moral and ethical thing to do!
Over thirty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit NEAT and heard an answer from the dean, Rabbi Moshe Miller. He said that morality is subjective and unfortunately changes from time to time. What is totally unacceptable in one period or decade often becomes more accepted in society later, often in contradiction to Torah values. Assisted suicide was once referred to as murder, but today is viewed in the secular world as honoring the wishes of elderly people or their families, denying treatment even when there is clear hope that the treatment can help. For this reason, the actions of the meyaldos were praiseworthy and deserving of reward.
The Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, Harav Mordechai Katz, explains that the rationale for the defiance of the meyaldos is inherent in the pasuk. The pasuk says, “It was because the meyaldos feared Hashem.” The Rosh Yeshiva teaches that this fear of G-d is what gave the midwives the strength of character to deny Pharaoh’s request. The Rosh Yeshiva continues, saying that Yosef Hatzaddik, in Sefer Bereishis, was challenged with the test of a lifetime, but his response was, “How can I do this evil? I will have sinned to Hashem!” In a similar manner, when Avimelech objects to Soroh being identified as the sister of Avrohom and not as his wife, Avimelech complains bitterly that Avrohom had almost caused a sin to be perpetrated. At face value Avilmelech’s complaint seems justified – until we hear a few powerful words of response. Avrohom tells Avimelech, “Rak ein yiras Hashem bamokom hazeh – there is no fear of Hashem in this place.” The Rosh Yeshiva explains that success in life for us is also having the appropriate fear of Hashem and living our lives through the prism of Torah and mitzvos.
Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman,
Dean

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