In Parshios Tazria and Metzora, we learn about those afflicted with tzara’as, a disease that is associated with lashon hara. Many of the commentaries state that generally one who speaks lashon hara about others does so because of low self-esteem; the speaker feels the need to denigrate others to achieve his/her personal goal. The Torah therefore prescribes a number of remedies to cure the afflicted person. First, he must be brought to the kohen to view the afflicted area, and eventually, he must be exiled from all of his friends and go completely outside of the Jewish camp. The Nesivos Shalom comments that, aside from actually evaluating the afflicted area, the kohen also serves as the spiritual advisor for the afflicted person. Many commentaries point out that one of the ways of avoiding lashon hara is to be connected to a tzaddik or rav and to find a close-knit group of friends who can strengthen each other and guide one another when one begins to stray or falter.
This week, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the weddings of three former NEAT students in Brooklyn and Toronto. In each of these cases, we were welcomed by many NEAT alumni, some of whom we have not seen for years. When sharing in these simchos, there is a certain sense of family that exists, and outsiders often comment on this when they see the tremendous camaraderie and the special friendships that lead our alumni to travel far distances to attend their friend’s wedding. It is also truly amazing to witness the remarkable growth that our young ladies have shown over the years.
NEAT provides our girls with the opposite traits of speakers of gossip through the caring and giving nature of the staff and community and through the relationships that they share with each other. A number of girls from other schools commented that they wished they could have attended a school where there is such a strong bond among students, teachers, administration, boarding families and the entire community. My wife and I returned home tired but deeply gratified to see the fruits of the school’s hard work and the tremendous growth that the girls have shown in their friendships and also on a spiritual level. The community of Providence has so much to be proud of, as each of these young ladies represents an olam malei, a full and complete world, a world that was formed through a partnership of the entire community. Our hope and prayer is that each and every one of our local families should have much nachas from their children and entire extended families. We look forward to celebrating many simchos together in the future.