Last week I wrote about the trilogy consisting of school, parents and students and what each contribute towards the development of our children. We also spoke about the need for synergy between these three components. There is, another aspect that overarches above all three and that is Tefillah – Prayer.
Chazal have taught us that even if one is in the direst of straits and the outlook appears bleak- Prayer can always turn things around. If prayer can have an impact when things are at their worst, it can certainly have an impact when things are going well (a time that needs less divine intervention).
During a Haskafah class this past Sunday a student turned to the class and sincerely expressed that he isn’t motivated to Daven as B”H things are doing well in his life – sure there are things he would like but he doesn’t have any serious problems. Another student shared that he finds it difficult to Daven because “why am I only communicating with HKB”H when I need something”. I used this opportunity to share with the boys a fundamental concept one of my Rebbeim taught me when I was still single. He said the best time to Daven is when you don’t need what you are praying for. He explained, that what you are doing, is building up credit in your bank account with HKB”H. He then told me, Daven for the right spouse, the greatest kids and a good living to support them now! while you are young and single. Baruch Hashem he was correct and when the time was right my Tefillas were answered with a wonderful spouse, amazing children and the best job I could imagine.
So let us take this time of prayer, the month of Elul as the Possuk tells us. דרשו ד’ בהמצאו קראהו בהיותו קרוב to “Seek out Hashem when He is nearby, call out to Him when He is near” (YeShaya 55:6). Hashem is closer to us during the month of Elul than any other time of the year [It is no coincidence that the school year begins in the month of Elul] and Daven for ourselves and more importantly for our children. We want them to be successful in all their endeavors and develop into frum healthy members of Klal Yisroel. This is a special time to be Davening. We get an especially high return now on banking some of our Tefillos for a future withdrawal like Davening for a successful life for our children. We can always find something to Daven for and find meaning with. In fact, if we do find ourselves struggling to connect our Tefillas to something in our lives, think of others. There is no end to what and who we can Daven for.
At Valley Torah we took all of this and went one step further. We wanted to get our students more involved with Davening. As we saw from our students, teenagers have difficulty with Davening; so we wanted to help them find something meaningful to Daven for. We all want to be connected to Eretz Yisroel and we are all sometimes guilty of getting caught up in the daily routine of our lives and unless things are really serious we tend to neglect what is happening to our brethren in Eretz Yisroel.
So here at Valley Torah we initiated a program whereby each student was assigned a different soldier who was wounded in operation Protective Edge. B”H, the list is diminishing however there are still numerous soldiers that need our prayers. It is our hope, that not only will the boys find meaning in their davening but they will also merit in the Chazal that assures us – that he who Davens for his friend will be answered first. May we all be Zoceh to have the power of tefillah help us achieve “אני לדודי ודודי לי” I am to my Beloved [Hashem] and my beloved [Hashem] is to me (Shir Hashirim 6:3).
Learn your son’s schedule. Find out when he has breaks. Find out when breakfast and lunch are. If you want to reach him those will be the best time too. He doesn’t want to get a text or a call during class time. He definitely doesn’t want his phone to ring or vibrate while it is in the call phone box on the teachers desk.
“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?” – Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
I have been thinking a lot about character this week, specifically the character of our students and what we expect of them. Much of my thoughts stem from the fact that our entire staff is working together to learn Leader in Me, an innovative, schoolwide model that empowers students to be leaders in the 21st century. I also find myself highly impressed with the character of our boys each morning at Davening and the respect and attention given to their Tefillos. Lastly, as I am getting to know our students more each day, I am just generally impressed with how they treat each other and their teachers. However, it was not until around 6pm this evening that I realized just how special our boys are.
Sitting on my living room ottoman, holding the remote, jaw dropped and teary-eyed as I watched the morning news. That is where I was the morning of September 11th, 2001. Like me, if you are around my age, you know exactly where you were when you heard about American Airlines flight 77 crashing into the World Trade Center and the subsequent terrorist hijacked flights and crashes that followed. However, if you are any of our current VTHS students you have no idea where you were. You can assume you were either in your crib, toddler bed, crawling around your house or getting ready for kindergarten. So, when we ran a special 9/11 program today, I honestly was unsure how our students would react.
The 9/11 program featured a video I had edited together a few months after September 11th, 2001.
The students watched the video followed by an impassioned and personal account of that day by Rabbi Biron. Then all the students were asked as a form of Hakaras Hatov (appreciation) if they wanted to write a personalized thank you card to our local fire department. They all did. This is where I experienced the true character of our students that I could not be more proud of.
As the program was going on I was off-campus running a presentation at the VTHS-Girls school, so I did not get to see how the students experienced the video or speech. I was told they took it very seriously and Rabbi Biron did a great job. I was glad to hear that, but I wanted to know how the card writing went. After school tonight, I had an opportunity to read the cards and what I read was nothing short of beautiful.
I expected to read a few gems and some thoughtful words. What I did not expect was that each and every card I read was written with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, appreciation and caring. There was a deep understanding of what the firefighters do for us each and every day as well as the loss they must be feeling for those heroes who rushed into those buildings to save others. It is not that I do not think highly of our students, but given their age and disconnect from the live experience of that day, I assumed they could not possibly have the understanding of what that day meant.
Here are some excerpts from the cards as well as a poem written in one of the cards:
“Thank you so much for risking your life day in and day out. At Valley Torah High School your inspiring actions certainly don’t go unnoticed.”
“On this dark day I wanted to express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart.”
“Thank you for everything you do and for your willingness to wake up every morning risking your life for other people who you may not know.”
“May G-d protect you
in all of your
May the fire unschathe you
and not burn your skin
May you go back home
and be with your family
after the last time
you think you’ll see them
And may you live a long
healthy, safe and purposeful life”
“I know this day must bring sadness for your brothers lost on 9/11, but I thank them and you for being our guardians. While they were lost on that day, they will never be forgotten.
“P.S. I hope this made your day better as you do ours everyday.”
I know I have been writing a lot about my educational vision for VTHS and how creativity, innovation and meaningful learning are paramount to preparing our students for their future. However, all of that is useless if we are not ensuring that our students are of strong character and moral fiber. We want to send them out in the world with all the right tools to be successful, but they must also know how and when to use these tools appropriately. We are here to help develop our students into strong positive Jewish leaders and it is only upon a solid foundation of Jewish values that learning must take place. At VTHS it clearly does.
As a principal I was very proud of our students today. As parents you should be proud as well. As students, you guys are an impressive bunch and I hope you continue to shine as Jewish leaders in school and out.
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “Serve Hashem with a Smile.”
This past Thursday, Valley Torah hosted a school-wide 9/11 assembly. A chilling video was shown, recounting the horror that America endured thirteen years ago. After an inspiring talk from Rabbi Biron, the boys took several moments to write expressions of gratitude to the local firemen, who lost so many comrades in their selfless effort to rescue victims of 9/11. The students’ letters were delivered to the local firehouse.
Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As a General Studies Principal this may be an odd statement to get behind, but I could not agree with it more. In fact, it was the theme of the first day General Studies assemblies as I introduced some exciting new programs, electives and an overall vision for what it means to be a Valley Torah student. You see, while knowledge is very important, what you do with that knowledge is what truly matters. Each student at Valley Torah is unique and should never be reduced to a hard drive that we download information onto. They are more than a test score and can’t be described solely by their transcripts. As Albert Einstein’s continued, “Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” We are limiting our students if we don’t incubate, nurture and support their imaginations.
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “Don’t Cool Off.”
The Slonimer Rebbi tells us in his epic work the Nesivas Sholom that there are three elements necessary for efficient growth in a child, a good educational environment, healthy and caring home atmosphere and a child with good character. The Slonimer Rebbe derives this from Hashem’s appeal to Avrohom to leave his land, his birthplace and the house of his father. Hashem wanted Avrohom to leave the negative surroundings he had grown up in and instructed him to go to a place that would be conducive to start a nation and become the father of Klal Yisroel. As a child continues on the path of growth if given the appropriate educational tools coupled with the modeling and encouragement of a healthy and caring home, he has all ingredients for success.
Shlomo Hamelech assures us that Ve’hachut hameshulash lo bimheirah yenatek (4:12) that it is not easy to break a three-fold string. I would like to add another twist; one can also translate the word hameshulash as intertwined, suggesting the synergy of all three. Having a triple-braided rope consisting of fantastic students, parents, and high school that are all interlaced with the same goals and aspirations, will result in a child not (yenatek) breaking [away].
My wish is to use this newsletter as a springboard to create this partnership. I want to be able to share insights into your child’s growth at school as well as to share recommendations for you to try at home. I want you to be able to give feedback (via the blog) on what we do at school and hear your suggestions for enhancement. I believe that if we have this mindset and are ready to work towards it, we will see tremendous success in our son for this school year.
Be involved in your son’s life. Boys at this age may seem reticent to share what is happening in their life with their parents. This behavior is very consistent with life changes—such as new friends or starting a new school. They still need you! So don’t be hesitant, ask questions and become engaged with your son.
Yes. Human Foosball was the starring attraction at the Boys Division Back to School Carnival. That and pizza, popcorn, sno-cones and much more.
Never heard of Human Foosball? See for yourself..
Students and teachers both had butterflies in their tummies on the first day of school. There were two orientations throughout the day and regular classes.
Dr. Eliezer Jones – a VTHS Graduate – was introduced to the boys as their new Secular Studies Principal. We are all very excited about all the new developments for this year.
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “Just One Requested.”
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “See the Correct Direction.”