Month: December 2020

Sight vs. Visual Processing – Knowing the Difference

Presented by Dr. Neil W. Margolis, O.D., F.C.O.V.D
Presented in collaboration with Walder Education of Torah Umesorah

ATT in collaboration with Walder Education offered a very informative and most useful professional development session on Visual Processing, presented by Dr. Neil W. Margolis, O.D., F.C.O.V.D., a board-certified developmental optometrist.  Dr. Margolis defined and described the different visual processing skills and their application to learning. Whereas sight refers to seeing clearly, visual processing refers to the brain’s ability to use and interpret visual information. Students whose academic performance does not meet aptitude predictions may have visual processing weaknesses.

Eyesight of 20/20 has little to do with how the information is processed or understood. Vision is the understanding and interpretation of what is seen. A person’s vision cannot be measured like eyesight because vision itself is cortical, utilizing the whole brain. When efficient, vision is thought to account for up to 80% of learning and when inefficient, it interferes with learning.

Dr. Margolis stressed that adequate visual processing skills are required for:

  • Learning to read
  • Reading to learn
  • Copying accurately

And he provided specific examples of visual processing skills such as:

  • Recognizing known words correctly when reading
  • Navigating the page accurately when tracking
  • Checking copying accuracy
  • Judging spacing and layout
  • Remembering and visualizing what one sees

Poor tracking causes a student to lose his/her place, skip words when reading, and misread known words. Teachers should observe a child’s posture, horizontal head turn, vertical head tilt, and blinking/winking. Visual spatial skills affect the navigation aspect of tracking, organizing spacing when copying, direction of letters and words, and lining up columns. This will affect a student who is struggling with this skill in the following ways:

  • Determining where to go next on the page
  • Spacing between letters and words and size of letters and words
  • Finding correct spot when looking back and forth
  • Discriminating between b/d, was/saw, 13/31
  • Understanding math diagrams & graphs

Puzzles and games can help students strengthen their visual spatial skills.

As students self-regulate their learning, they need visual discrimination. This includes:

  • Noticing differences between similar words/letters
  • Noticing errors of copying
  • Checking one’s work
  • Noticing directional differences
  • Reading accuracy – misreading similar looking words

Visual discrimination requires noticing differences based on size, color, shape, internal detail, orientation, pattern, internal or external features. Ways to improve visual discrimination include:

  • Matching objects based on criteria of color, shape, size, etc., especially helpful for younger children
  • Using multiple criteria
  • Picture matching/pattern matching/word matching/word search
  • Spotting the difference/error correction
  • Sorting objects/coins
  • Listing words having the same beginning/different endings and visa/versa

A teacher can help by circling differences not noticed in copying and highlighting the beginning or ending of words before reading. Other ways to compensate for students with difficulties in visual discrimination are:

  • Use highlighters
  • Use different colors
  • Increase white space on the page – larger spacing between lines
  • Cover non-relevant components
  • Put less on the page
  • Use bigger print
  • Stand against plain background
  • Read slower
  • Use text to speech software
  • Specifically point at a figure/word – child uses finger on the page

Visual memory also influences learning. This type of memory includes working memory (both short and long-term) affecting recall and recognition of letters/words/sight word vocabulary. Often there is visualization through verbalization. This helps a child visualize objects, words, sentences, and paragraphs of information. Visual memory is necessary for recall and comprehension.

Dr. Margolis stressed the importance of the above appropriate classroom accommodations that can be used to support students having visual processing difficulties. Because visual processing affects classroom performance, it is important to address correctable visual skills. One way to do this is to help students notice what is relevant to the task or situation. This will ultimately build student self-esteem and confidence as the child uses effective effort and practice to achieve better outcomes in learning.

How to increase student participation with Zoom

After 10 months in a global pandemic, keeping classes Zoom engaging remains challenging. Though it’s impossible to simulate the energy from a classroom experience, there are tools and techniques to make learning virtually more optimal and enjoyable. 

ATT’s Chani Friedman shared essential aspects of the remote environment from a physical and an emotional perspective with ATT teachers. These are factors that every teacher must consider when planning a Zoom lesson. 

The physical Zoom environment 

Teachers pour effort and energy each year into making sure their classroom is an appealing and effective learning space. With virtual learning, there is less time spent making bulletin boards and more time learning how to make Zoom learning more appealing. 

You don’t have to get a green screen or spend hours perfecting your background. However, Zoom presenters must make themselves visible and interesting. Make sure to pay attention to your background, position and lighting. Adjust your camera position because how the audience sees you as the presenter affects their engagement in the presentation. 

When missing so much of the energy from the classroom, your facial expressions as a teacher can still serve to keep students engaged. That means smiling and appearing approachable to minimize the feeling of being on autopilot for lessons. 

Breaks are even more crucial during remote learning. After 15-20 minutes of instruction, be sure to take a break. This could be an exercise break, a question, poll or asking students to react to something. The more you can get them actively engaged, the more enjoyable the lesson will be. 

Technology provides the ability for continued effective education during the pandemic. However, when there is a glitch or something isn’t clear, it can be frustrating for even the most motivated students. To enhance clarity, screen share your document, especially the daily agenda or lesson plan. 

The emotional Zoom environment 

The importance of connecting with students in any classroom environment cannot be over-emphasized. In the Zoom environment, this can be a challenge. Try saying each child’s name throughout lessons. Keep a daily checklist when you name a child or give them active roles in class that day to ensure that each student is participating. 

Take time to promote questions, comments or reactions from students. The Zoom chat feature is excellent for getting students involved. Allowing students to be the presenter at times and share is a great way to get them to actively participate. You can make one student at a time the “chat monitor” on a rotational basis. 

Students thrive with structure and routine, so create as much structure and predictability as possible on Zoom. By posting the schedule and needs for materials and texts on a daily basis, students will know what to expect and be more prepared. Especially with students in younger grades, ensure that parents are clear on directions and expectations. 

While it’s important to create an organized online classroom, there should also be an emphasis on creating a warm virtual experience for students. Try playing music as the class starts or during attendance. 

Choose words and phrases that are motivational. For instance, “You have several choices to consider,” “Your next challenge is,” “Here are three things to try.” In each of these instances, the pronoun “I” is intentionally omitted to place the emphasis on the student. 

To make the virtual classroom feel warmer, use techniques to build community. One technique to try is when you join the classroom, have students turn on and off their camera as an answer to a question. For example, ask students to turn the camera on if they are feeling happy, tired, or any other emotion. You can also use an emotion wheel with faces to provide a visual for students.

Together as a class you can create a “gratitude slide” with an image to stress feelings of appreciation or thanks. Ask students what they are grateful for on an individual level, as a class or a community. You can use the chat feature to make this even more interactive. 

Internal Zoom tools

Taking the time to familiarize yourself with Zoom’s capabilities will greatly improve the effectiveness of learning remotely. Set the Zoom meeting to mute microphones upon entry to keep it organized. 

You can use the screen share feature and its tools such as the whiteboard, ability to annotate shared documents, share files and audio. Be sure to always check your Zoom meeting feature settings before you start your session. You can also use breakout rooms for short periods of time to have students discuss topics. 

To promote active participation, enable the Zoom poll or ask a question with chat. Chat can be to everyone or you can have students send responses directly to the host when necessary. The chat must be monitored and it can be set to save automatically for future reference. 

Non-verbal feedback within Zoom is a great way to get feedback easily from students. Students can give a thumbs up, show their paper to the camera or use a hand signal. In a 20-30 minute lesson, stop every so often and request some student participation to keep them actively involved in the learning. You can use a side by side view when you share your screen so the students can see both the teacher and material. 

External program tools 

Zoom’s built-in programs offer interactive tools to make learning more engaging. For even more engagement, there are many online programs that you can use to enhance virtual education:

Math and reading tools

Engaging tools

Make time for games or brain breaks during remote learning

When you need a break or want to incorporate some fun into learning, there are an overwhelming amount of games and online resources. We’ve narrowed it down to some favorites with some possible applications: 

  • Word-maker: How many words can you make from a larger word? Display your word on the shared screen.
  • Whiteboard ideas: Hangman – using Hebrew or English words.
  • Pictionary: Create teams with a designated drawer (rotate drawer role) Students draw a picture/scene having to do with the lesson and classmates guess it; the student needs access to the whiteboard and you can also use the private chat.
  • Scattergories: Color with a letter, any category with a letter – Judaic or general studies.
  • Four-square: Name, place, animal, thing in 4 squares – can use specific alphabet letters.
  • Boggle: Points for words that are not shared.
  • Fact or Fiction: A derivation of the 3 truths and 1 lie activity. Give students three facts and one false fact about a particular topic. Use the chat to have each student figure out the wrong fact. This can be used as a review activity or just for fun.
  • National Geographic: Online ready-made trivia games
  • Surveys and Polls
  • Bingo: Use whiteboard or shared screen for visuals: create your own related to your lesson content. Create a BINGO board. You can use Hebrew fonts, as well.
  • Dress up game: Relate this to your class content.
  • Create a story: Open a word document on a shared screen. Teacher starts a story and types it. Go around the class. Each student adds a sentence. Teacher can type the sentence as it is said.
  • You’ll need to sign in to use timers, stoplight, clock, choose students, dice, textbox, drawing tool.
  • Multiple choice quiz maker.
  • Can use Hebrew fonts too.
  • Read together: Put pages of a book (or find a story online) into your PowerPoint and read as a class. You can unmute student microphones that are doing the reading. You can actually read a book as well and use the camera.  The website  allows teachers a free account for a year due to the pandemic. 
  • Show and tell: Using the camera can be very effective.
  • Word find/search: You can create Judaic ones with Master Teacher in DavkaWriter – use your shared screen to annotate as an activity related to your lesson content.
  • Eye spy: Google them or create your own related to your lesson content.
  • Flashcards: Both Judaic and general studies. You can create your own related to your lesson content.
  • Creation of flashcards, use of created sets of cards – free sign up, will take Hebrew fonts – create your own related to your lesson content.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas VaYigash

Written by: Avrohom S. Moller

VaYigash is the third parsha which discusses the dramatic events which took place around Yosef and his brothers. This week begins with a very intense exchange between Yehudah and Yosef climaxing with Yosef’s revelation of his true identity and his brothers’ stunned reaction. Instead of pressing his advantage and telling his brothers that he has prevailed and is vindicated, he comforts them and encourages them. “Do not be saddened or distressed that you sold me to this land, as Hashem has sent me ahead to preserve life.” Yosef repeats this message to his brothers several times, and it is clear that he truly viewed the entire struggle and hardship that he had endured with this perspective. He saw himself as an agent of Hashem to save his family and to save human civilization from a devastating famine and that his brothers had only acted as agents of Hashem to see this grand plan through.

This outlook is definitely rooted in Yosef HaTzaddik’s great faith and belief that, “…one doesn’t nick a figure in this world unless it has been decreed in the world above”(Chulin 7a). Dovid HaMelech expressed a similar sentiment when faced with the horrid curses which Shimi ben Geira hurled at him in his moment of distress. Dovid’s perspective was, ”Hashem told him to curse.” There is also a very important psychological lesson and benefit which should be learned from these great people’s behavior.

Victimhood is a toxic state of being. While some people might be justified in considering themselves victims of circumstance of other people’s bad choices or bad fortune, it is the feeling of victimhood that actually is the most debilitating. People who see themselves as the misfortunate target of negative circumstances feel helpless and don’t have any agency. They engage in self-pity and focus on the injustice of everything that happens to them and take no initiative to better their lot. If a person sees challenges as opportunities to grow or to be part of a bright but unseen future, they are empowered to improve their situation and grow tremendously from the experience.

Yosef did exactly that. He could have railed against his brothers, his father, and even Hashem for all the unfair things which had happened to him. That would not have gotten him anywhere, and he would have died in the pit in squalor and self-pity, unknown to anyone. Instead, he became a champion, a powerful man who used his talent and wisdom to save a generation and make a future for his people. This was all a result of his acceptance of what life dealt him, his faith in Hashem and his enormous ability to overlook the pain and wrong inflicted by his family.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Miketz

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

As we come to the end of Chanukah, I would like to share a message to take us through the winter. There is a famous question from Rabbi Yosef Cairo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), that is asked. If there was enough oil to last one night, why do we celebrate eight nights if the miracle was really only for seven nights? 

One possible answer is the first night was the catalyst for the miracle to occur. After the total defilement of the Temple, when the Jews returned and searched for the oil, did they really think they would find something after such destruction? Our ancestors taught us a great lesson. Aside from not giving up, we learn that they were expecting to find something. They were looking to reconnect with Hashem and the service of the Temple. G-d saw their sincerity and responded with the miracle of the oil. We should model this behavior. For when we truly reach for something, His hand guides us to go beyond what one would have imagined. This is not just a message for Chanukah but all year round in all of our efforts to serve Hashem

A Taste Of Torah – Parshas Vayeshev

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

Shabbos Parshas Vayeshev often coincides with Shabbos Chanukah, and it is always instructive to look for a connection between the holiday and the parsha. The main protagonist of the parsha is Yosef HaTzaddik who endures terrible ordeals brought on by his brothers’ hatred and lack of understanding who he really is. He faces all of this with patience and fortitude emerging from all of his suffering and mistreatment as the powerful viceroy of Pharaoh. Indeed, the animal used to symbolize Yosef’s virtue is the ox, a patient and powerful animal that plods on and is unstoppable.

Chanukah is the celebration of our nation’s emergence from the darkness of Yavan, the Hellenist culture which dazzled the world and indeed is still one of the greatest influences in the culture of modern civilization. We consider it to be darkness, not because it is all bad. Actually, Noach blessed his son Yefes, the progenitor of Greek culture, with beauty. There is no question that the Greek civilization brought the world to a new and highly sophisticated aesthetic which enhances life to this day. The darkness of Yavan lies in its absolute opposition to divine wisdom and subjugation of our intellect to the intellect of Hashem. While the Greeks had many deities, they saw them as gods which needed to be cultivated and allied with, not sources of wisdom and understanding. This created a society that built magnificent buildings, produced moving theatre, engaged in groundbreaking philosophical inquiry all while being hedonistic, cruel and depraved. This paradox is the reason we refer to it as extreme darkness because it is confusing and difficult to navigate.

When the Greeks began their rule in Eretz Yisrael there wasn’t much friction. Alexander was busy with his military conquests and he didn’t focus on the Jews. As the years progressed and the Seleucid Greeks came to dominate our land, things changed. They wanted to establish the supremacy of their beliefs and way of life and impose it upon us. They saw the Torah and its morals as the antithesis of their culture. Our emphasis on subjugating ourselves to Hashem’s will and seeking divine wisdom from his Torah as benighted and threating to their world order. The rest, as we say, is history. Things became very bad as our people went through a terrible period of shmad, religious persecution, often orchestrated by our own brethren who had gone over to the other side as Misyavinim, Jewish Hellenists. This led to widespread despair and the Jewish community of Eretz Yisroel came to the brink of total collapse. It was only the heroism and sacrifice of the Maccabim that turned the tide and restored the national spirit to resist this cultural and religious onslaught and after many years of fighting and casualties, we finally prevailed.

This encounter and struggle with Greek culture has not ended. As a wise and devout people,  we seek truth and beauty wherever it is found. We have adopted some of the best aspects of Greek culture in our language, math and sciences and even some aspects of their classic philosophy. However, we totally reject the morals of this culture, its disbelief in a Creator and, most importantly, the belief that human behavior is predetermined by fate.

Yosef HaTzaddik is the only one of the Shevatim who lived in the deeply religious world of his father Yaakov who was thrust into a completely alien culture, also immoral and deterministic. He didn’t just reject it and isolate himself from it; he engaged it on his terms. While he always  invoked the name of Hashem and showed tremendous self-restraint when faced with temptation, he managed the affairs of his master’s  house, later his prison and eventually the affairs of the whole Egyptian empire. He was able to synthesize and use that which was useful and good from the prevailing culture and reject all that was corrupt and immoral. He also showed enormous faith and trust in Hashem in the darkest of times, with a solid trust that the light will come after the darkness.

Perhaps this is why the story of Yosef’s saga coincides with our national story of encountering an aggressive and confusing culture. Yosef as an individual was the model of how to respond to this threat, not by complete rejection, rather with a selective engagement while maintaining complete clarity about what being a Jew is.

Lesson Planning for Chumash

By Rabbi Avrohom Moller

When planning for teaching Chumash, there are three levels of planning necessary:

  1. The annual plan is the overarching goals and content paced out for the year.In this process, the teacher identifies the learning standards which they are expected to meet over the course of the upcoming school year.
  2. The unit plan prepares a group of lessons for 2-3 weeks. It focuses on the specific themes and concepts that are unique to this unit and identifies effective instructional methods to teach them. Summative assessment should be planned for the unit as well.
  3. The daily lesson plan is the actual choreography of what will happen in the classroom on a daily basis. It includes the content to covered, the methods that will be used, the timing of the lesson, the materials and activities that will be needed and how the lesson will be evaluated for effectiveness so that the teacher is certain that the students “got it”..
teaching chumash

These planning phases are necessary when teaching any content but this discussion will focus on the specific considerations when teaching Chumash.

A rich curriculum in any subject includes a focus on content, skills and a hierarchy of skills. When it comes to Chumash, our goal is for students to view the text as a Divine text(תורה מן השמים) which serves as a guide to our lives. It is written in a unfamiliar language which the students needs to master and, at the same time the student needs to absorb the content, analyze it and adopt it to their lives. As the student progresses, he/she needs to become more analytic by applying more sophisticated thinking skills and also open to multiple readings and commentaries.

The planning process for teaching chumash

Annual Plan: The first phase of planning involves clarifying the content to be taught over the year, the standards of learning and the time available to teach the content. This information is provided by the instructional administrator and it is important to have complete clarity about the standards so that they can guide all of the instructional activities. The school calendar should be studied and all of the time allocated for Chumash identified. A pace for the learning should be established with the recognition that not every posuk will take the same amount of time to teach to the standard.

Unit Planning: The next step is to plan the units. Different sections of Chumash lend themselves to building different skills. Some contain important hashkafa or halach. Some units can teach language skills such as numbers. Some can be used to teach gathering information and tabulating it. At this point it is important to make sure that the standards that are being used are developmentally correct. If the students aren’t cognitively ready for certain information it will quickly become frustrating for them. An example is teaching Hebrew verb conjugations based on tense and/ or person when the student has no concept of these ideas in their mother tongue.

Daily Lesson Planning: The daily lesson plan is a careful choreography of what will actually occur in the classroom. It includes the instructional plan and the timing of execution. It contains everything that the teacher needs to prepare in advance, materials, technology, supplies, etc. It describes activities such as frontal learning, games, cooperative learning, independent learning, and how these will advance the goal of meeting standards. The lesson objective will be a clear description of what the student will be able to do if the lesson is successful. The assessment will plan how the teacher will be able to demonstrate that the lesson was successful.

Hunter’s Model for Lesson Planning:

Madeline Hunter (1916-1994) formulated some of the key components of successful lessons. Many have created lesson plan templates based on her formulation. It is a good practice to incorporate this template in the instructional section of the lesson plan.

Elements of a solid lesson plan:

  • Anticipatory set: the hook and bridge of prior knowledge 
  • Objective and purpose: tell students where one is going
  • Input: what students need to understand the lesson
  • Modeling: show them what they’re learning in a concrete way
  • Check for understanding: a variety of strategies to assess learning
  • Guided practice: do something together with the students and check on their progress
  • Independent practice: give students time to work independently
  • Closure: wrap up, the lesson and reflect on learning

Hunter’s elements do not make up the whole plan since teachers need to add time management, activities, materials and differentiation for a complete plan. Good lesson plans ultimately benefit teachers by making them more prepared, creating lessons of high quality and providing clarity for all.

ATT Annual Campaign with the 2020 Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky Memorial Lecture

Close to 1000 viewers joined the Associated Talmud Torahs on Motzaei Shabbos, November 28, 2020, to participate in the 34th Annual Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky Memorial Lecture and the launching of the ATT’s annual campaign and week of community-wide inspiration and virtual learning. The annual parenting program, sponsored by the Mayefsky family in memory of Rabbi Isaac and Mrs. Florence Mayefsky, featured the captivating speaker and renowned scholar, Rabbi YY Jacobson.

The presentation, entitled Keeping Positive in an Age of Uncertainty, focused on strategies for dealing with the effects of the current pandemic.

Rabbi Jacobson opened with a tribute to the ATT and Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky, z”l, as he explained the importance of leaving no child behind. The attitude to children has to be: “I believe in you and I will not let any child fall through the cracks.” This is a testimony of Achdus in a community with the goal to let every child continue to sit in the laps of our forefathers and matriarchs with Yiras Shamaim, Ahavas HaTorah, hope, dignity and inner confidence that defines the eternity of the Jewish people. He quoted the Ponevezher Rav, the Steipler, who noted than an orphan is a child without parents. But an orphan generation is a generation without children. Children are the “anointed ones” – each child has the power to change the world and every child can find his/her place in our people.

So how does one stay positive in this age of uncertainty and insanity – one that has created fear and anxiety that has overwhelmed all of us. Rabbi Jacobson suggested the following ideas:

1)     One needs to be upbeat for the immune system to operate on a level of optimal health. One must eat well, sleep, exercise, and maintain a positive attitude for the physical immune system to do its part.

2)     Everyone is going through so much with the lockdowns, job effects, quarantines, etc. To combat this, one needs to keep a spirit of simcha in the house.

3)     Maintain an environment of connection – the Lekovitcher Maggid says: Hashem told Noach (Bereishis 7:1) You and your household should go into the “teivah.”The word teivah means Ark but the Baal Shem Tov says it also means “word”. The Lekovitcher Maggid teaches that when there is a flood outside, all of you have to enter into dialogue – conversation. When there’s a flood – a pandemic – and uncertainty outside, make sure there is communication between husband and wife, between parents and children – talking AND listening to the best of our ability. This will enhance relationships which create emotional connections.

4)     The Sefer Beis Aharon, a commentary on Chumash, written by Rav Aharon of Karlin says on Parashas VaYeitzeh: (Bereishis 28: 10,11) “And Yaakov went out of Beer Sheva and went to Charan. And he encountered the place (“makom”) …and he slept at that place.”
The Medrash Rabbah says that the word “makom” – place is a euphemism for Hashem – the Omnipresent – for He constitutes the space of the universe. In fact, this is the first place in the Torah where Hashem is mentioned in this way. So why doesn’t the posuk just say that Yaakov met Hashem? Why is this reference of “space/place” made at this point in the Torah? Rav Aharon of Karlin explains: In Shma it says: (Devarim 6:5) “And you should love Hashem with all of your heart.” Rashi explains there: “all of your heart” means that “your heart should not be divided or at variance (in a fight) with the “space” (Hashem).” You must always be at peace with G-d. A person might think – “If only…” this or that conceptually, existentially, or emotionally, things would be different. Those two words do not allow us to make peace with our situation. We need to remember that G-d is always present in our reality – you are never a victim of your reality. This, in fact, is where Hashem has placed you and you will find your purpose if you allow yourself to rise to the occasion. It is easy to surrender to a place/circumstance. Don’t! Hashem sent you there – embrace it with your tools even when there is pain and there are tears. This will be the place where you can find your deepest self. Don’t squander the opportunity – flex your muscles and bring out the best in yourself. It is an opportunity from Hashem.
So, in our present age of uncertainty – one place to start is to develop one’s relationship with one’s spouse and children. All of our lives have changed and we are living in difficult circumstances. We need to see ourselves, not as victims, but instead in a position to encounter G-d emotionally, physically, and psychologically. We need to say to ourselves, “My purpose is here.” The worst thing about a crisis is to squander the opportunity to rise to the occasion and grow. These are times to create our best marriage, intensify relationships with children, relate to Hashem one-on-one in our Tefillah, the way for us to connect to Him. We can take the challenges of today and the pain and change them into opportunities for self-awareness, extraordinary growth, deeper relationships with loved ones, maturity, and self-discovery. How can we become ambassadors for light, love, and hope? This is a time to be there for each other. We must ask ourselves, “what can I do for my community, for others, for my family?” It can be a gesture – a text, a phone call, words of encouragement to a spouse, a child, a neighbor, a relative, a principal, a teacher. Be a source of love, strength, and inspiration. You must always be at peace with G-d – make peace with every situation and accept the challenge. “Carpe diem” – “seize the day,” suck the marrow out of the “space,” and you will find your real self and make true meaning out of the situation.

This lecture is part of the ATT’s expanded program designed to address the challenges of creative teaching and rewarding parenting. Over the years, it has become an excellent resource for parents of children of all ages. Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky was a gifted educator who, in the course of more than 40 years of communal service, developed many key programs within the Associated Talmud Torahs, including the Russian Transitional Program and the Oscar & Bernice Novick P’TACH Program. The ATT’s annual campaign and week of community-wide inspiration and virtual learning will culminate in a lecture by Rabbi David Fohrman on Sunday December 6, 2020 entitled “The Unfinished Story of Jacob’s Ladder” sponsored by the Tanielle Miller Foundation.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayishlach

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

In G-d We Trust

In this week’s Parsha, Vayishlach, Yaakov faces a dilemma. He is about to encounter his brother, Esav, who hates him and continues to plot against him. Because of their history, Yaakov has no idea how Esav will behave when they finally meet. The parsha teaches us that Yaakov prepares for this confrontation by doing three things. First, he sends Esav a present. Second, he prepares his camp for war. Third, he prays to Hashem for a peaceful meeting.

The unusual point to note about these preparations is that the Torah also states twice that Vayolen Shom, and Yaakov slept. Two questions arise from this statement. First, how could it be possible for Yaakov to sleep when he is preparing for a confrontation that might conclude with his death? Secondly, why does the Torah assert that Yaakov slept twice?

With these two mentions of Yaakov’s sleeping, the Torah teaches us an important lesson for life. Yaakov did everything he could possibly do to be ready for his encounter with Esav. He sends the customary present, makes the necessary preparations for war, and he prays to Hashem for a successful outcome. At this point, Yaakov understands that there is nothing else he can do to guarantee a positive conclusion when he meets with Esav. He realizes that the meeting between Esav and himself is in Hashem’s hands. Having faith in Hashem, he peacefully sleeps recognizing that not everything is in his control.

This is a valuable lesson for us to emulate. It is only natural for us to fret over circumstances that concern us even when they are not in our control. From Yaakov’s behavior we learn that the first step in dealing with unpleasant situations is to put forth our strongest efforts in the hopes of solving them. The second step is the acknowledgement that sometimes we do not have the ability to control everything and after doing our best, it is time to move on. This step is a difficult position to accept but a crucial one for our own peace of mind and true Bitachon (trust) in Hashem.