Printed from ChabadGreenwich.org

Rosh Hashanah ~ Day One

Rosh Hashanah ~ Day One

 Email

ROSH HASHANAH ~ Day One

 

 

I was in Whole Foods the other day with the younger kids... it was after a very long day ... I can't say they were being given all the attention that they deserve - their father had been busy all week acting as General Contractor for the YMCA (I really AM Father Joe...) and their mother was trying to calm down some very nervous parents...so suffice it to say the kids weren't at their best behavior...a little rowdy while we were on line... This exasperated elderly lady looks at me and says "sir, sorry to ask you this, but why don't you just leave half your kids at home?". I looked back at her and with a shrug of the shoulders, responded "I did". Poor woman nearly fell over...

Kids...childhood...youth...often looked at as "mature, productive adults in the waiting"...and patience is therefore the greatest of virtues in parenting...the painstaking effort always pays off, sometimes a little later than we hoped for, but our efforts do not go to waste...

However, children are much more than just "potential" … "someone good waiting to happen" … with each parent being given the obligation and privilege to bring that out in their own child ... No, this world of ours is a living organism...the life of each human being is shaped by - and shapes - the lives of all other humans...our obligation therefore is not only to our own children, but as men and women concerned for the future of the world we must realize that EVERY child is an integral part of that future...and therefore EACH of us must recognize our obligation to EVERY child in the world around us...

So let me tell you about a certain young child whose name is Bart Palosz.

“Bart – a teenager – was excited about his new Android cellphone. About a week after he got it, a student in his freshman biology class picked it up and smashed it on the ground. The bully cackled. Bart said nothing.

“Bart said nothing when a bully pushed him down a staircase at high school … Not a word when classmates shoved him into the thorny bushes every morning on his walk to school.

“In silence, he endured verbal attacks from peers who picked on him for his uncommonly tall, 6-foot-3-inch stature. His Polish accent. His extra weight. The pimples on his face. When they had almost run out of names and insults, tears would brim in his eyes, inviting a new round of taunts.

On the last day of eighth grade, Bart's forehead was cut by the corner of a locker, sending him to the emergency room for stitches. Students who witnessed the incident said a bully bashed the metal door into Bart's head on purpose. School administrators said it was an accident and refused to share video recorded by security cameras with the family.

“Bart Palosz committed suicide Tuesday afternoon, using a family-owned shotgun that had been stored in a gun locker in the home, police said. He was 15.”

This actually happened last week. And it happened right here.... I'm reading from last Tuesday’s Greenwich Time ...

Let me read you the last paragraph of that news story -

“Bart (also) had goals for himself. He had hoped to study computer programming at New York University. This summer, he lost weight by walking for an hour, three times a day. His acne started to clear up. He even started hanging around with people who seemed like genuine friends. "He was ostracized, in my opinion, but it seemed like he had finally gotten in with some people," (his sister) Beata said. "We thought he was getting happier." ...

We thought he was getting happier …

My friends...only 10 days ago right here in our cute little town, a beautiful young life was snuffed out. Not because of terrorism. Not because of illness. Not because of an accident. Bart Palosz did not live to see his goals and dreams fulfilled, because some other young people made him believe that those goals and dreams were not worth anything...

We - the adults responsible for all these children - have clearly failed. We failed Bart. And we failed the children who taunted him.

Today is Rosh Hashanah ... T H E N E W Y E A R ! The celebration of the creation of the world and Mankind at its center! The HEAD of everything Jewish that follows in the course of the next 13 months ... the highlight ... the most important day ...everyone is in Synagogue ...a shofar blast will soon call our souls to attention! ...

So what do we read in the Torah for this most important of all occasions? The Ten Commandments? The Creation of Adam and Eve? The great dramas of our Peoples' history?

No. We read about a dysfunctional family that can't get it together around a wayward, troubled teenager ... Why do we read this on Rosh Hashanah – the birthday of mankind? …. Because everything we need to know about how to heal this world and move all of us from where we are - with all of our dysfunction - to the better place we all want it to be, is right here in this reading:

This isn't a story about some righteous people who did some incredible things to demonstrate their holiness ... this is a story about how people with very serious problems made some very hard decisions, that ultimately changed history...

Sarah gives birth to Isaac ... he is weaned, and Sarah feels that Ishmael, son of Abraham's concubine Hagar, is a bad influence. "Send him away", she tells her husband, who hesitates until G‑d says "Listen to her"... Hagar and Ishmael are sent out with some provisions, but when those provisions run out, Hagar can't handle the situation and turns away from her dying son until G‑d intervenes with a miracle.

There are 2 specific points in this dramatic "child-rearing episode" where G‑d sends a very strong message to man, one lesson is heeded and the outcome is good; the other is not and the results we suffer from until today…

1) Our children are begging for guidance - For Heaven's sake (pun intended) give it to them! They want to know that there is RIGHT AND WRONG! Even when they fight it. Parents see a child acting out - perhaps acting terribly - and they lose themselves, they don’t know what to do. Abraham was a man of kindness, he hesitated to put his foot down when it came to disciplining his child, but ultimately he knew that G‑d's definition of kindness was the true kindness...

Why are parents are AFRAID to put their children in line ???? Why are they afraid to say things the way they are? To call out bad behavior when they see it ... perhaps they think that their children really aren't really doing something so terrible ... is there really such a thing as right and wrong? ... maybe they think that introducing things like a "Higher Authority" is too much ... let them make those choices about morality when they can study about it at an advanced level in college ... maybe they think their kids will be offended …they want to be "nice" to their kids ...

... and that’s exactly how bullies are created ... there is no red line … no moral compass … that's how drugs creep in ... and that's how dropouts drop out...

Our children expect us to lead them … to show them that there is an objective, Divine moral code to life … one that is not subject to the whims and fancies of man … a code that is eternal … in its application and in its value … and will always be there for them to rely on and to follow …

2) But together with that ... even as we discipline them, which Abraham did learn to do ... there is another important message that must come together with and at the same time of the discipline, which Hagar did not learn: we must LISTEN to them, we must show them that we BELIEVE in them ...

Our discipline is only a means to HELP them tackle their own little problems ... but the only way they WILL tackle their problems is if they believe there is good reason to do that … if they believe that they can live a life of purpose … of goodness … of dreams … of worth … of something that THEY have that can make a contribution to the world around them. Hagar's son was in trouble - what did she do? She turned away! She didn't believe in him and so he didn't believe in himself ... and ultimately continued in his wayward troubled, immoral ways ...

Our children are yearning for us to show them a path of unbending faith in G‑d ... and to show them the unlimited faith we have in THEM....

Just a few weeks ago we saw both of these principles at work in a dramatic encounter between 2 young people - with miraculous results.

Michael Brandon Hill - a 20 year old - walked into a 900-student school in Atlanta, Georgia armed with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition. He took Antoinette Tuff, the school bookeeper hostage.

The 911 calls were recorded:

"It's going to be all right, sweetie," she tells Hill at one point in the call. "I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life."

Tuff then let the gunman know that she'd been down before herself, but she'd picked herself up. He could, too.

"I thought the same thing, you know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me," she said. "But look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK."

She was obviously hailed as a hero – but in the interviews that followed she gave some profound insight to what was going on in her mind:

"I just started praying for him," Antoinette Tuff tells Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News. "I just started talking to him ... and let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK. And then [I] let him know that he could just give himself up. ... I told him to put [the guns] on the table, empty his pockets. He had me actually get on the intercom and tell everybody he was sorry, too. But I told them, 'He was sorry, but do not come out of their rooms.'

... I give it all to God, I'm not the hero. I was terrified."

She had faith in G‑d and faith in this young man. And how many lives were saved because of her...

My friends, there are no 2 ways about it: all of us in this room right now, stand in between the youth of today and the direction that they - and the entire world - will take tomorrow.

How much pain can we avoid and how much good can we create, if and when we make the children of our world the cornerstone of our days! ...

Do something for a young person -

  • Call your teenager who is away from home and listen to their answer when you ask them how they’re doing;
  • Study with your child as they do homework and talk to them about the real issues in life – G‑d is not something they need to wait for until college;
  • Contribute your time and your money to an institution that is dedicated to youth and to bringing these principles to life in the lives of thousands of young boys and girls...
  • Don’t underestimate the smile or the good word or the listening ear to any young man or woman you encounter. It’s not a stretch to say that you may save a life ... hundreds of lives ... without a doubt you will enhance thousands of lives...

This is the first Rosh Hashanah with our beloved Steve Oster…a community leader par excellence … but one of the things that touched me most about Steve – with all of his great accomplishments – was that every time he met ANY one of my children, his face lit up with a smile … he made them feel like a million dollars … like they were the center of the universe …

We all want to make an impact on the world, but there is only so much we can accomplish, we're limited and finite human beings. By channeling our time, our effort, our resources into benefiting and uplifting even one other individual – especially a young individual - we have placed ourselves firmly as the essential link in a chain of goodness that will continue long after we have done good ourselves. In fact it will be eternal, because surely that young person will go on to inspire other young people...

Once upon a time we would say "who knows, the child you help MAY end up being the next Einstein" … Today we know the world is not being changed by Einsteins, its being changed - for better or for worse - by anyone who so desires to change it!

An email Maryashie and I received a few months ago –

Subject: Mark's parent teacher conference
I totally had to share this with you guys, Mike and I just got back from Mark's parent teacher conference.
His teacher told us that they had recently had a lesson in which they used the story of the Titanic to teach
the kids about various things. One of these things was values. They asked the kids to imagine if they were passengers on the Titanic, and they had to board the lifeboats what would be the one thing they would choose to save. Kids' choices ranged from iPod touches to warm coats and mommy. When it was Mark's turn to choose he said that he would save the Torah. The teacher asked him why, and he answered that
Torah is a word of God, and as a Jew, it's his obligation to not let it drown. Mike and I immediately burst into tears, thank you so much for this very proud moment.

Best regards,

Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world ... and it is on this day that we read the Torah's PLEA to us that we remember how to SUSTAIN it...

And so my dear friends we stand here together today on this most awesome of days … we pray … we pray for the welfare of our children … we pray for the welfare of the world’s children … we know that until the Moshiach comes we can’t eliminate pain … but we pray that until he does, they find the strength inside of them to handle whatever small amount of challenges G‑d decides to send their way … we pray that they find the strength inside of themselves to believe in themselves and in how much this world really needs them!

And we pray for ourselves … we pray that we have the wisdom and the fortitude to guide them in that direction … as so much rides on us. It’s scary … but it’s the reality … let us have faith in OURSELVES as well…

Every Friday night when they light the Shabbat candles this is exactly what Jewish mothers cover their eyes and pray for … listen to this song and prayer as our beautiful children walk in to the room and join us for Shofar …

 Yom Kippur ~ Kol Nidrei Speech       Yom Kippur ~ Yizkor Speech

 

 Email