THE CHOICE IS YOURS – GOOD LUCK!
“The children struggled within her, and she said, ‘If so, why am I thus?’ And she went to inquire of Hashem.” (Bereishis 25:22)
The children struggled within her: When she passed by the entrances of Torah academies of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would run and struggle to come out; when she passed the entrance of a temple of idolatry, Eisov would run and struggle to come out. Another explanation: They were struggling with each other and quarreling about the inheritance of the two worlds. – Rashi
One could easily argue that Eisov was placed in a disadvantageous position in life. He had a prenatal disposition for idolatry. Later he was born ruddy, an indication that his tendency was to spill blood. The poor guy! Why in the world should he be judged and titled as a rasha, wicked?! This was who and what he was! This was not the result of his free-willed choosing.
Then, on the other end of the spectrum, the same question can be asked. How can Yaakov be crowned a tzaddik? He too had a prenatal disposition, but his innate drive was to learn Torah. So how can he be rewarded as a tzaddik? It was not his doing! He was born intrinsically excellent.
Rabbi Label Lam, who shared this essay, presented this question to Rabbi Ezriel Tauber z”tl many years ago, who explained as follows:
There are two general ingredients that make a person into what he is. One is nature and the other is nurture. Sometimes a person is born with a difficult nature, but he must counterbalance that with a warm, loving, and nurturing environment. Sometimes a person with a very good nature has a rugged and challenging environment.
Eisov had terrible tendencies – but look at the quality of the people who surrounded him. His grandfather was Avrohom Avinu. If we would see Avrohom Avinu for one split second, our lives would never be the same. Take any hundred rebbes and put them together and then multiply their holiness by a million – maybe, maybe we would have a sense of who Avrohom might have been. Then Eisov had a father, Yitzchok Avinu, and a brother, Yaakov Avinu. His mother was one of the four great Imohos, Matriarchs, that we bless our daughters to be like every Friday night. Eisov grew up in the midst of the greatest of the greatest people who have ever walked the planet. Yet his heart remained cold and distant.
One of the major challenges that our parents and students have this year is living during a pandemic in which they are forced to wear masks all day, limit playdates, and even limit their normal travel to extended family and friends. The government and schools place stringent limits on recess, gym, and snack times to ensure their safety. How can we expect our children to succeed in the face of such difficult challenges?
Sefer Bereishis is the best place to start as we learn from our Avos Hakedoshim how to handle challenges. I have personally found that the fact that I belong to various administrative list serves, have a strong leadership group in school, and local rabbinic support, as well as local resources within the Alliance, has helped me to channel personal COVID challenges in a productive manner.
It is for this reason that the school places a strong value on chevrah, rebbeim, and teachers and keeping the school fully open so that the cure is not worse than the punishment.
We do see that after all is said and done we are required to have self-regulation and to make good choices. I often share with my students my ten magic two-letter words:
If it is to be it is up to me.
Challenges are a part of life, but we create a support system and rise to the challenges and make good choices from which we reap tremendous benefits.
The heroic efforts of our parents, teachers, and staff all working together will allow us all to hopefully succeed even with the extreme challenges of COVID.
Please see my special request in the newsletter for your help toward the annual SUPER SUNDAY campaign.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman