Several years ago, I had the privilege of studying in the Kollel Elyon at Yeshiva University. In addition to our intensive learning and chaburas, we had the privilege of having lunch meetings with prominent Jewish leaders alongside Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm for a conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish community. One such luncheon was with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in which he shared an insight into the Exodus that has stuck with me 10 years later.
On the eve before the Jewish people left Egypt, Moshe shares one final message with the Jewish people.What message does Moshe want to impart to his people? The Jewish people have waited over 200 years for this moment to come. Their leader addresses them for the last time before they become a free nation. Moshe expresses the same message three times in this speech:
“And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’ you shall say... (Ex. 12:26-27). And you shall explain to your child on that day (Ex. 13:8). And when, in time to come, your child asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ (Ex. 13:14)”
What is the message that Moshe is conveying to his people?
Rabbi Sacks explained so eloquently (quoted from his website): “About to gain their freedom, the Israelites were told that they had to become a nation of educators. That is what made Moses not just a great leader, but a unique one. What the Torah is teaching is that freedom is won, not on the battlefield, nor in the political arena, nor in the courts, national or international, but in the human imagination and will. To defend a country you need an army. But to defend a free society you need schools. You need families and an educational system in which ideals are passed on from one generation to the next, and never lost, or despaired of, or obscured. So Jews became the people whose passion was education, whose citadels were schools and whose heroes were teachers.”
Just a few nights ago, many of us revelled in our children’s questions, insights and contributions to the Seder. This left most of us proud of our children’s day school education. At the same time, I believe we can all agree that the yeshiva day school tuition crisis is a real issue that is not going away soon. We are often left with asking, what can we do? Many of us who have tried to get involved have been left jaded or cynical. I believe that Teach NJS is a step in the right direction, and as a communal leader, I invite you to come to its kickoff breakfast Sunday, April 15, at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe from 9 to 11. Teach NJS is dedicated to securing government funding to ensure that nonpublic schools in our community are fairly funded and will help us work to be safer, stronger and more sustainable. To sign up, go to: teachadvocacy.org/newjersey/breakfast/
Rabbi Andrew Markowitz
Associate Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Torah