On Motzoei Shabbos last week we learned of the first cases of COVID that affected our school. Beginning on Sunday morning, we moved into high gear, sending out letters to parents and planning for the distribution of Chromebooks. I would like to publicly thank the following people who gave up their entire day and evening to help the school. Through their efforts limud haTorah never ceased at the school and we were up and running with remote learning on Monday morning. Special thanks to Mrs. Frazier, Nadia Benz, Mrs. Ellen Benz, and Rabbi Yehudah Leib and Sarah Brown, who prepared and distributed the materials and Chromebooks. Rabbi Yissocher Frand shared a profound lesson from this week’s parshah on this topic.
- The Midrash in this week’s parshah says, “Rabbi Yochonon said, ‘G-d only reveals Himself to idolaters at night – a time when people separate from one another – as it is written: G-d came to Avimelech in a dream at night [Bereishis 20:3] or: G-d came to Bilom at night [Bamidbor 22:20]. However, G-d reveals Himself to Jewish prophets during the day, as it is written: And he sat at the opening of the tent in the heat of the day [Bereishis 18:1].’”
What is the meaning of this Midrash? The Ateres Mordechai explains that this Midrash is telling us a very significant difference between Judaism and other religions. Many religions believe in a basic dichotomy between the physical and spiritual. They believe that if a person really wants to reach the highest levels of spirituality, he must separate himself from physical things, be celibate, become a monk. The more separate a person can become, the more holy he can become.
Judaism teaches us just the opposite. Torah teaches that the highest form of holiness – v’anshei kodesh tih’yu li – comes through material matters. As the Kotzker Rebbe explains, “V’anshei kodesh tih’yu li – holy people you shall be to Me. I want you to be both ‘holy’ and ‘people,’ not holy angels.” That is why we believe that a person can sanctify that which is physical. He can take a meal and make it into a Shabbos meal. He can take any act and elevate it to a higher form. That is our goal. “Through all your paths, know Him” [Mishlei 3:6]. By infusing all our activities – our eating and sleeping and drinking and work – with holiness, we can become close to G-d.
Our school family are all role models on what it means to elevate the physical into something spiritual. Upon hearing that families were in quarantine, people reached out to shop for their friends and to give of their time to help each other.
This week, we celebrated the wedding of Rochel Weiner, a PHDS and NEAT alumnus and daughter of our principal, Mrs. Miriam Esther Weiner, and Shammai, who spends their time in constant care for the welfare of the community. They are a family that uses their physical beings and their possessions for the sake of the klal and the school. We wish them a special mazel tov!
As Rabbi Frand says, “By infusing all of our activities – our eating and sleeping and drinking and work – with holiness, we can become close to G-d.” This week, like so many others this year, we as a community showed that our values and efforts have brought us closer to Hashem. Pesach is called Zeman Cheirusainu – time of our freedom. There can be no better sign of freedom than at a time when families, rabbonim, and the school are all working together to a common goal. We are hopeful that the upcoming year will be one of freedom from the stress of the pandemic and a time of increased chessed and giving, bringing us all closer to Hashem.
Chag kosher vesome’ach,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman