Tuesday, December 04, 2012
odds and ends
1. One of my kids (6th grade) had a test in Shmuel I ch 6 that I helped her study for. Whenever I help my kids study I can't help also thinking about what and how the teacher taught them (of course, my kids don't necessarily absorb what the teacher intended to impart, but even so, I assume that on average what they remember is a fair indicator of what the teacher stressed). This inevitably increases my blood pressure. Since this is elementary school Navi, the teacher gave a list of vocabulary words from the perek the kids need to know. I always try try to do two things with new words: 1) Make sure they know the shoreh/root; 2) See if there are other contexts where the word apperars that they know or should know and I can now bring to their attention. One of the words on the list was "alos" ("shtei paros olos" in pasuk 10). The teacher translated the "alos" as female cow. I am not sure why she did not use the word "nursing" -- I think a sixth grader would know what that means -- and use the opportunity to point out the same not-so-common word also appears in parshas hashavu'a. Ya'akov Avinu tells Eisav he has to travel slowly because "hatzon v'habaker alos alay." Female cows don't move more slowly than males -- it's because the cows are nursing calves that they move slowly. Why not use the opportunity to reinforce the parsha while on the topic?
The kids were also given a map to learn in conjunction with the perek. The map had Be'er Sheva, the five Plishti cities mentioned in the perek, but also other places, e.g. the area of sheivet Dan, Yerushalayim, Ramatayim Tzofim. I'm just not sure why these places had to be included here (not that there is anything wrong with knowing where they are). Anyway, once you are talking about Plishti cities such as Azah and Ashdod and looking at them on a map, don't you think it might be a good opportunity to discuss why these cities have been in the news as of late? Not a word about it. I understand the teacher wants to focus on Navi, but schooling should not come at the expense of education, as a greater mind than mine put it.
2. I've done a few posts in the past on the seeming contradiction between Ya'akov's fear of Eisav and the fact that he had a promise from Hashem that everything would work out OK. Chazal address the issue and explain, "shema yigrom hacheit," Ya'akov was afraid that his sins would cause the promise to be negated (how this fits with Chazal's statement that Hashem's promises, even if conditional, always come to fruition is a major topic of discussion in the Rishonim). I saw for the first time this year that the Oznayim laTorah quotes an interpretation from R' Leizer Gordon that was heard from R' Yisrael Salanter. He draws an analogy: There was a worker hired to perform some task. If that worker fails to complete the task, his boss certainly owes him nothing, but might choose to pay him anyway if he is feeling generous. Another worker was hired to guard some valuable object. If the worker not only fails to do the job, but worse than that -- he smashes the object himself -- the boss certainly owes him nothing and is not going to pay him. If the boss is feeling generous he might choose to forgive the loss and call it equal. If Ya'akov Avinu had merely failed to fulfill all that was expected of him, he would be like that first worker and might still get the benefit of receiving all Hashem promised. However, Ya'akov was worried that he was more like that second worker. Not only had did he worry whether he had perhaps failed to do that which was expected, but he worried that he may have been guilty of acting against Hashem's will (yigrom *hacheit*). In that case the best that could be expected is that Hashem would do chessed by not exacting punishment -- there certainly would be no reasonable grounds to still hope to collect extra gifts.
3. This past Shabbos a local shul had an appeal to raise funds for the communal pool of $ that has been collected to provide relief to those hit hardest by the hurricase. Pledges from other shuls and communities were read aloud and I could not believe the hundreds of thousands of dollars from all over the county that have been raised. Until recently the gym in Shor Yoshuv yeshiva looked like a department store except for the lack of cash registers -- there was an open door for anyone who needed clothes, bedding, etc. For a few weeks after the storm various shuls provided catered meals for people whose kitchens (and whole homes) were wiped out or who had no power. There were loans given by Achiezer to families who needed cash in hand to get them at least started along the process of getting back on their feet. I tend (especially lately) to take a pessimistic view of human nature, but even I cannot help but feel some of my belief in human goodness and generosity restored by what has been transpiring as these relief and rebuilding efforts continue. This is not a political post, but I can't help but contrast the situation in our community with the poor woman from Staten Island who had her picture being hugged by Obama splashed all over the news as they looked at her flooded and destroyed home. As reported recently on a follow up news story, she has yet to receive any real help. The government with all its billions in promised aid is no where to be found for those who most need it, which is in my view symptomatic of the problem any time government controlled bureaucracy manages anything. Is there any comparison between the outpouring of compassion and help among Klal Yisrael to any other group of people? I don't think so. Too bad it all too often takes a crisis to unite us...