Over the course of the past week I have had the opportunity to drop in on many Zoom classes and to speak to numerous parents in the school. It is astounding to hear of the trials that families are going through in Zoom learning and just in getting through day-to-day life in a “stay-at-home” environment. What is striking to me is the tremendous resilience and strength that families are showing. I am amazed at the new role of the Jewish mother, running a home school daily, as well as that of our teachers, juggling their home and school responsibilities. Listening to many shiurim locally and from further afield, it is abundantly clear that we are all able to grow immensely through this process.
Rabbi Berel Wein, in an article summary, shared with us that the challenges we face today are not new to Judaism. Jewish life from birth is an ongoing process of growth comparable to climbing a mountain. I hope you enjoy this summary.
This week’s Torah reading seems to emphasize that the granting of the Torah to Moshe, and through him to Israel generally, took place at the Mountain of Sinai. Mountain climbing is a sport for the hardy of spirit and the physically fit. However, most of us are perfectly content with our lives without attempting to scale cliffs. Yet, in a spiritual sense, the Torah seems to indicate that living a moral and observant Jewish lifestyle requires spiritual mountain climbing.
The Talmud teaches us that Mount Sinai was a rather modest mountain but it still required effort, energy, and purpose to be able to ascend it.
Life is never smooth or easy – it is always an uphill climb that many times leaves us short of breath and doubtful of hope. This is true of our physical lives, and doubly so regarding the spiritual component of our existence.
The Prophets always speak of Jewish redemption as being a formidable mountain that somehow will be flattened and made into a smooth and level plain. What appears to be formidable and forbidding, almost impossible to overcome, a gigantic mountain that blocks our view of the horizon, will somehow eventually be transformed and made accessible and comfortable. I think that that is a proper metaphor for Jewish life generally and for Torah life and values particularly.
The Torah bids us all to be mountain climbers. We are to steel ourselves against the difficulties that living a Jewish life presents and realize that according to the effort will be the reward. There is no easy way or smooth path to a concentrated Jewish life. The example of Moshe climbing Mount Sinai remains the metaphor for all of us and for all Jewish life for eternity.
While we are all facing challenges, I am happy to announce that in partnership with the Jewish Alliance of RI, Parks division, and with the support of RI Kosher and several dedicated moms, we have been able to arrange for the “Grab and Go” lunch program. The program will provide over two hundred children through the age of eighteen with free lunches daily, supplied by Ahava Caterers, which meets the highest standards of kashrus. These meals, breakfast and lunch, will be provided daily with pickup, twice a week. Parents in other towns have shared with me that they are saving over $100 per week for their families. Special thanks to Mrs. Rachel Schloss, who has taken on a strong volunteer role with some other moms to help kick off the project. The pickup will be at Congregation Beth Sholom. If you are able to volunteer to man the pickup site, please let Rabbi Gallor or Mrs. Schloss know. We look forward to continuing to avail ourselves of all the relevant government programs.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman