And G-d Saves Us From Their Hands

As anti-Semitism spreads around the world with devastating fury, we must

strengthen our faith and trust in Hashem and realize that it’s a time for us to mend

our ways and increase our prayers for His mercy. Throughout all ages our enemies

have done all they could to destroy our nation, yet they have been unsuccessful.

From the Inquisition of Spain, to the gas ovens of Auschwitz, our enemies have

done everything possible to wipe

us out as a nation, but Hashem has

always come to our rescue. While we

have suffered a long dark bitter golus,

we have emerged stronger than ever

before. Who would have believed

that just 60 years after we lost more

than six million of our brothers in the

Holocaust, Torah would be flourishing

on American soil?

One of the things that we must surely

improve is our brotherly love for every

Jew, since it was this particular sin that

caused the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdosh.

Love others as much as you do yourself is the

fundamental pillar of the entire Torah,” says Rabbi Akiva,

yet we still see far too much hatred amongst our own

Jewish brothers. The 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva

died when they didn’t heed his advice and they did not

respect one another properly. Even when one disagrees

with others, it must be done with respect. The halacha

follows Bais Hillel because they always would explain the

ruling of the Bais Shamai before their own.

While some schools do a magnificent job of teaching

their students proper middos and derech eretz, others barely touch the subject. We

recognize, however, that if we want to correct some of the faults and failures of

today’s society, we must begin from the bottom up. Once a tree is fully grown, it is

impossible to straighten it out. Only while it’s still young and fresh can it easily be

bent into shape.

We all complain when we are cut off in line or someone double-parks his car in

front of ours, or when someone uses improper language, yet we must realize that if

we want our children and students to be different, we must put as much emphasis

on good middos as we do on scholastic achievement. Only then will we meet with

success.

We must insist that our students display good manners in the way they walk

and the way they talk, in the way they dress and the way they act. Being polite and

greeting people with a friendly smile, a “Good morning” or a “Please” and “Thank

you” doesn’t cost a dime, but is worth its weight in gold.

The best text for teaching this is Pirkei Avos, whose principles were handed down

to Moshe directly from Sinai. It contains all the basic middos one must know. Let’s

remember that Torah and Derech Eretz complement each other, as it says “Im ein

derech eretz ein Torah,” and “Im ein Torah ein derech eretz.”

Let’s also remember that developing good middos is not the exclusive obligation

of the school, but must be strongly reinforced in the home. It’s a two-way street! Only

when our students see that the home and school have the very same goals will it

leave an indelible impression on them. However, when they see inconsistencies and

that what they learn in one place is contradicted by the other, then whatever one

tries to teach them will be to no avail. If we want to make improvements, then the

time to start is now!

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