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The Power Within Us

Steve Freedman
Our words and actions can impact the entire world. A kind word or simple action of helpfulness in a child’s or an adult’s life can literally change the trajectory of that person’s path, and we may never know that our words or acts were the catalyst for that change.

One of our great rabbis, the Rambam, in his book on the Mishneh Torah Hilchot Teshuvah (Laws of Repentance), teaches that we, and the entire world, are judged by the majority of our deeds. He writes that “we should see ourselves throughout the year as if our deeds and those of the world are evenly poised between good and bad, so that our next act may change both the balance of our lives and that of the world.”  Think about the power of that idea.

Imagine a child, struggling in a science class, and thinking they are “bad at it.” A patient and loving teacher works with, and encourages them, until that student masters the concept, and gains confidence. Without knowing it, the teacher changes this child’s attitude towards science, and the child grows up to be a researcher who cures cancer!  The teacher changed the world for good, and may never know it.  This scenario could happen someday.

Imagine another child who comes from an angry home where the parents neglect the child. At school, however, the child is embraced by a teacher who shows love, compassion, and gives of their time to help.  When the child grows up, and becomes a parent, instead of remembering how their parents treated them, they remember the teacher who cared – and  turns into a loving and supportive parent. This not only could happen; it does happen.

Through Ramabam’s teaching, he is alerting us to the enormous power each one of us possesses in our words and actions. We may not see ourselves as having such influence, and yet, our words or actions, at any given moment, can have both a positive or negative ripple effect through time and space.

As we approach the end of another school year it is an appropriate time to reflect on how blessed we are to be a part of the Jewish people, which places tremendous value on acts of kindness and respectful speech and to be a part of Schechter Bergen that strives to help our students internalize these values. Each day, our teachers model the power of words and action in the way they relate to our children, and one another. In doing so, they model Schechter’s core value of Kehillah Kedosha, where we “create a sacred community of students, families and educators based on a shared commitment to each other and to Jewish life and learning. We promote positive, healthy relationships in an environment of mutual respect.” Kehillah Kedosha fosters a sense of sacredness and holiness that elevates each individual, and guides our relationships with one another. 

Living our lives with Kedushah (holiness) helps us to see that life is sacred, and our relationships should be regarded in that light. Practically speaking, we don’t have to be friends with, or even like a person, to be cognizant of the fact that our words and actions have the power to change a life - and even the world. This core principle of Judaism is powerful; it frames how we view humanity, and it demands  that we act in a way that sanctifies our lives and the lives of those around us. 

We live in a time where this sacredness is needed more than ever.  Because of the state of affairs in our society - the conflicts, divisiveness, and isolation, this Schechter Jewish core value is of profound importance and we have made an effort each and every day to bring it to life.  It is an ongoing journey - one in which we are committed to as long as Schechter is blessed to educate Jewish children.

As the school year draws to a close we hope that our children have grown this year both socially and academically, and above all else, I hope that they learned, and will continue to learn, that words and actions matter. May this opportunity to be a catalyst for good in the world be a major reason you chose Schechter Bergen for your children and may we continue this pursuit together, with our children, for our children and for a brighter future.

This is the final blog for this school year. Thank you to everyone who read them this year, and for the feedback - positive, constructive or otherwise. I try to learn from everyone!


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