May 27, 2024
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May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Vayera: Do the Right Thing

Bereishit 18:18

The yellow buses pulled up in the school parking lot to take the kids to the rally in the city, and Rabbi Rosencrantz stood at his usual spot in the front of the line of students, cell phone in one hand, clipboard in the other.

“Sixth graders on the first bus, seventh graders on the second,” he called out.

The kids followed the rabbi’s instructions and climbed aboard. They wore red T-shirts that read Save Darfur in front, with a map of the Sudan drawn behind the lettering, and with the logo of the Nachmanides School on the back. A fifth grader had done the drawing for the shirt, and naturally, Rabbi Rosencrantz had her artwork transferred to the T-shirts for everyone to see. He wanted as many students involved in the rally as possible.

A group of parents came up to Rabbi Rosencrantz as he guided the junior high school students to their seats.

“Rabbi, can we have a word with you?”

“Sure, Mr. Steinbach,” he said, as he handed his clipboard to one of the teachers. “Get them in their seats quickly. If we’re late, we won’t get a spot up near the speakers. Now, how can I help you?”

“Rabbi, we’re a little concerned about all these rallies the kids are going to.”

“Yeah,” another parent chimed in. “Almost every month there’s some demonstration our kids are attending. Last month it was World Hunger Day. The time before that it was…” she looked at the other parents.

“I think it was AIDS Awareness Day.”

“Right. AIDS Awareness. Don’t you think they’re missing too much class? Junior high school is a time where there’s a lot of subject material to cover.”

“Not only that,” Mr. Steinbach continued, “but if they’re going to go to rallies, don’t you think it should be for Jewish causes? I know there’s enough problems for Jews in the world that we really don’t have to go far to find a Jewish cause to support.”

“Well, we did go to the rally against Ahmadinejad back in September,” Rabbi Rosencrantz said.

“Who?” one parent asked.

“You know, the president of Iran,” another parent said.

“Right. Still, I don’t think that our kids need to go to every rally that’s held for every underprivileged group in the world. Let their own communities worry about them.”

The children were all in the buses, and everyone was waiting for the rabbi to climb onto the lead bus so that they could get moving, but he stopped what he was doing and turned to the parents.

“Actually, I couldn’t agree with you less,” the rabbi said. “I would venture to suggest that these rallies—and the other social action programming that the school does—are one of the most important educational tools that we as a yeshiva day school have to teach the children social responsibility and racial equality. And those lessons are just as important for your children as the reading, writing and arithmetic. I’m only sorry that there isn’t more that we can do.”

“Rabbi, sometimes enough is enough,” Mr. Steinbach said.

“Mr. Steinbach,” Rabbi Rosencrantz said, “when God was planning to destroy Sedom and Amorah and kill all their residents, he gave Avraham a chance to bargain for their lives. The Chumash states, ‘VaHashem amar, hamichaseh ani me’Avraham asher ani oseh—God said, Shall I conceal from Avraham what I do?’

“God gives Avraham a chance to bargain for the people of Sedom because He knows Avraham cares about every person, whether they are from his family, or his tribe, or not. That was a large part of Avraham’s greatness.

“We are Avraham’s descendants. Certainly we Jews are one tribe, but like Avraham our father, we should care about others, no matter what their race or background. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach our students. And I can’t think of a better way to teach the next generation about kindness and caring for others than by getting on the bus to this rally for Darfur and protesting cruelty that is happening to strangers half a world away.”

Rabbi Rosencrantz climbed up the first step on the yellow bus. “And on that note, I’m going to the rally with your children and many other people’s children. There are still a few seats. Do any of you want to come?”

Mr. Steinbach and the other parents smiled politely, but no one got on the bus.

The rabbi swung the door closed, and the bus filled with Jewish children headed toward the protest for Darfur.

By Larry Stiefel


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