Dean's Letter Vayeira

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Dear Parents,

This week’s parshah is replete with messages of chinuch that we can all learn from and incorporate in our daily parenting and teaching. Rabbi Label Lam illustrates this with a thought and personal story from the parshah.

    “Avrohom! Avrohom!” The repetition of the name expresses dearness! (Rashi)

    How is the doubling of Avrohom’s name an expression of endearment? Simple! That’s the way people express themselves when, for example, a child does something worthy of praise. “Dovi! Dovi! That’s terrific!”

    The question is, why do we repeat the name? Is it only for emphasis? Maybe! The Zohar says that whenever a name in the Torah is repeated it means that the person has actualized his potential. How is that potentially helpful here?

    I was to learn with a South African buddy who was as much of a beginner at Talmud learning as I. Upon entering the study hall, he arose from his seat as one should do to pay proper homage to a Talmud scholar. I looked behind me to see if perhaps one of the yeshivah’s rebbeim was not trailing behind. Immediately I let him know in forceful tones my objection to his irreverent behavior.

    “Zach, you can’t joke around like that!”

    To which he retorted, “Reb Label, I wasn’t standing up for you! I was standing up for your potential!”

    Zap! The good news is, “You have potential! The bad news is you have potential!”

As a mechanech, I learned long ago that children grow at their own pace and often their greatness may not shine through until much later in life. Often, we mistakenly become frustrated with a child’s performance at home or at school and we run the risk of limiting their potential. We see, however, that many great Torah scholars and others achieved greatness later in life. One of those was the famous Netziv, Harav Naftoli Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, who struggled with learning as a youngster. He overheard his father one night suggesting that he leave yeshivah and apprentice as a blacksmith. Upon hearing this, he decided to renew his efforts in learning and he became the great Netziv.

The lesson is never to underestimate or place a limit on our children’s or talmidim’s potential. Many great people were late starters and did not excel in their early school life.

Another lesson learned from this week’s parshah is the importance of chessed. This is a lesson from Avrohom Avinu, shared with him directly from Hashem.

“For I have loved him (Avrohom) because he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Hashem to do acts of charity and justice. (Bereishis 18:18–19)

A woman was buying clothing for her boys for an upcoming holiday, when she noticed the rather sad face of a child pressed against the window of the store on the outside. She recognized the boy and, remembering that he was an orphan who had recently lost his father, asked her own children to step aside momentarily while she went outside to speak to the young fellow. Within minutes, the mother had kindly coaxed the youth into the store and was urging him to pick out a jacket, pants, shirts, and a tie just as if he were her own. While she stood on line to pay for these items the boy queried naively, “Are you Hashem?”

The woman chuckled and responded in all modesty, “No! I’m just one of his children!”

To which the boy responded, “I thought you were related!”

We are fortunate to have a community that emulates Avrohom’s middah of hachnossas orchim and chessed. I have found that one of the most important qualities required in preparing our children for marriage is teaching them to value chessed and to integrate it into their daily lives. Some examples I would like to share are:

  1. My friend Sol Teichman a”h used to call his children into the room to witness him giving tzedokoh to meshulochim.
  2. My wife and I used to take our son on a weekly trip to visit the nursing home.
  3. Several local families are involved in Nshei Chessed and provide meals for the sick and needy, and in all these cases it is a family affair.
  4. Others are involved in the Chevra Kadisha, providing the deceased with a kovod acharon.
  5. On a weekly basis there are a few volunteers who check our eiruv.
  6. Our close-knit community is replete with chessed, where we share and attend our friends’ simchos

These profound acts of chessed have greatly impacted their own children and shaped their lives, but vicariously they affect each one of us. We are all referred to as Bnei Avrohom, as we imbibe Avrohom Avinu’s everlasting lessons of chessed that we now impart to our children.

Good Shabbos
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman
Dean