Thursday, October 11, 2018



Chayn Miller is a teacher in Mishmar Hasharon[2]. At a seminar for teachers in Tel Aviv in 2016 she related the following personal anecdote:
“During my first year working in the educational system I was a teaching intern. I walked into the first-grade classroom on the first day and saw in the middle of the room was a little boy with big eyes sitting on a chair spitting, cursing, and screaming. He looked at me and I looked back at him. Then I walked over to him and whispered in his ear, “I know you have a big heart, I know you’re a smart kid, and I know that you want to be a good boy.”
“The little boy laughed at me disdainfully. In front of the entire class he announced, “You’re a dumb teacher! You don’t know anything! Everyone says that I’m a disturbance, including my teachers and the principal. Even my parents say that I’m a pain in the neck!”
“I gently repeated the same words again, “I know you have a big heart, I know you’re a smart kid, and I know that you want to be a good boy.”
“Every day I would repeat this same message to him, and every day he seemed to mock me and the message. But then after three weeks, I walked in one day to find a small chair next to my chair and the little boy with big eyes was sitting on it quietly. That day he accepted me as his teacher.
“On the last day of the year, he approached me and asked me how I know that children are good. I replied that I had a secret to share with him:
 “I told him that when I was a student in school, I felt lost. The first day of first grade was the hardest day of my life. Until fifth grade I couldn’t read or write, and most of the time I sat in class and just stared mindlessly at the teacher.
“Before I went to sleep each night I would ask myself why I came into the world? I thought I was an idiot with a defective brain, and I was sure that I would never amount to anything. Whatever I know about education, is not from what I was taught in University, but rather what I learned from the tears that rolled down my cheeks each night. That’s how I was sure that even though you may not have seemed to be, and even though you yourself didn’t believe me, I knew that you are a really good boy with a good heart.”
Chayn Miller then continued to address the assemblage:
“Often people ask me why I became a teacher. This is my greatest pride. I, Chayn Miller, the special education student who the system wanted to give up on, has joined that system as a teacher in the hope that I can change and improve it.
“Teachers, Principals, esteemed members of educational system, realize that your words matter, as do your attitudes and hopes for each child. At some point your encouragement and positive approach will be internalized by the student. There is no child that cannot; there are only children that can! Working in education is an opportunity to save souls.”

One of the beloved Shabbos zemiros sung on Shabbos morning has as its refrain a reference to the dove of Noach. “Yonah matzah vo manoach… – The dove found on it rest, and there will rest those who are weary of strength.” 
What is the connection between the dove and Shabbos?

After the conclusion of the flood, Noach wanted to ascertain whether the floodwaters had adequately subsided. He first dispatched the raven, but it flew around the ark, refusing to venture further. Noach then dispatched the dove. It flew three missions before it found dry land and didn’t return.
If the purpose of sending the birds was to find out if the land had dried, why would the relatively docile dove be a better emissary than the raven, which is a bird of prey?
The Torah also uses different phraseology when it describes each time Noach sent the dove. The first time Noach sent the dove the pasuk states: “He sent off the dove, away from himself.” The second time it states: “He sent off the dove, away from the ark.” The final time it says “He sent off the dove” without specifying any further detail.
What message is the Torah conveying by relating about each mission in detail?
Rav Dovid Hofstedter[3] explains that the animals were very apprehensive to leave the ark. During the year they were there, they had all of their food and needs provided for them. Leaving the ark meant that they would be entering an entirely different world than the one they had last seen before they entered the ark. This was why the raven refused to leave the general area of the ark.
Targum states that the dove Noach sent was his own personal pet[4]. Noach concluded that the only animal that would be willing to venture off into the unknown was his own dove. This was not despite the fact that Noach had a personal relationship with it, but because of it! The dove was comfortable to fly even an extremely long distance from the ark because it knew that Noach would accept it back at any time.
The wording of the pasuk reflects the reason why Noach chose the dove. The first time, “he sent the dove, away from himself”. He sent the dove that he had a personal affinity for, away from himself. The dove returned, but after another week, “Noach sent off the dove, away from the ark”. This time he sent it even further, into the unknown where it could no longer see the ark. The final time, he didn’t send it from himself or from the ark; he merely sent it off on its own.
Because the dove knew that it was lovingly reaccepted by Noach both times despite its failed mission, it was willing to venture forth again, and each time it went even further, until it didn’t return.
This contains a very practical message for us as parents (and educators). Our ultimate dream and hope for our children is that they leave our homes to go out into the world on their own. But the world is a scary and unnerving place, full of challenges and unknowns. The more confidence we invest in our children, and the more love and encouragement we show them during their formative years, the more willing and confident they will be to venture forth into the vagaries of life.

Based on this approach we can add the following: Shabbos each week affords us the opportunity to bask in the knowledge that Hashem loves us and cherishes our efforts. We state in the Shabbos Kiddush “And grant us a heritage, Hashem our G-d, with love and favor Your holy Shabbos.” The love and elevation we feel on Shabbos is meant to carry us throughout the week. As we head out of the spiritually elevated and comfortable confines of the holy Shabbos, its boost of inspiration is meant to help us navigate the spiritual challenges of the workweek and workplace.
On Shabbos we sing about the rest that the dove found on Shabbos because it is symbolic of our experience. The dove was able to leave the protection of the ark and go into a vast and ominous world because it was sure of the love of Noach which it had experienced for so many years. “And there will rest all those weary of strength”, i.e. in the Shabbos we become rejuvenated and reenergized to face the outside world.
In the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah[5], we state: “And also Noach You remembered with love.” In the Torah there is no mention of G-d remembering Noach with love. How can we state with such conviction that it was with love?
Perhaps it’s because Noach could only have accomplished the incredible feat he did – to save and sustain the surviving world – because he felt and knew he was loved by Hashem. How else could he have spent one hundred and twenty years building the ark, a year on the ark, and then having the confidence to emerge from the ark into the frightening emptiness that awaited him?
The love we feel from others encourages us and fills us with confidence to accomplish and venture beyond our comfort zones. The love we give to others infuses them with those same capabilities. There is hardly a greater gift we can be given, or give others.

“Grant us a heritage with love and favor Your holy Shabbos”
“There will rest those who are weary of strength.” 

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] The following is the lecture I was privileged to deliver in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Noach 5777.
[2] A kibbutz in Central Israel
[3] Dorash Dovid
[4] See also Ha’amek Davar who explains that both the raven and the dove were Noach’s personal pets, and that was why he had the right to send them out of the ark. If they were not his personal pets and they were the only male remaining of that bird, jeopardizing their lives would have been jeopardizing the entire future of that species.
[5] In the introductory paragraph of the Zichronos section


Post a Comment