Why’s Yoel’s Principal Smiling like That?

Why’s Yoel’s Principal Smiling like That?

The first day of first grade for my boy.

When Yoel and I walked up to his new school hand in hand at 8 AM this morning, the principal was standing by the entrance with a big bag of toffees and a big smile on his face. Not a pasted on smile. Not an I-have-to-smile-for-the-first-day-of-school smile. A real smile. A smile, it seemed to me, expressing true excitement and joy to be seeing “his boys” again.

This rabbi is not a young man, he’s probably a grandfather by now. And he’s been standing by that door for the first day of school for many years by now. Seeing him smiling like that, I remembered how completely my one school-aged boy tires me out. How, I wondered, does the principal possibly maintain that unflagging smile running a school of 400 year after year, with all the challenges any mother of boys knows that entails.

But then I remembered what he told us yesterday at the welcome gathering for the 50 new first graders. The rabbi said, “Each child we are educating here is a soul. That’s what we do here: we are working with Divine souls. Today’s children face many new challenges and temptations from the outside. And our goal, therefore, is to increase holiness. To increase Torah learning. To increase the connection with what is eternal.”

And I realized that in the principal’s smile is the glow of shlichut and the twinkling eye of a person who glimpses Hashem’s eternal light in the face of every child who walks through his door.
I was eating some hard candy on Shabbos when my filling felt out…

So this morning, I was waiting for the dentist. In my hands was this week’s issue of Family First, and above my head was an Israeli morning show with a panel of experts and parents discussing “Raising children with values in an age of material abundance.”

As I waited, my attention shifted back and forth between the article about Mrs. Chana Wesel, one of America’s most senior Bais Yaakov educators, and Channel Two.

I looked up and heard a mother say:

“My eight year old is already asking for a smartphone, and I have no problem with that!”

I looked down and read:

“As danger replaced the art and culture of Vienna, Chana’s father planned their escape and the family sailed to America…”My father was a true yarei Shamayim and man of truth. He cried rivers of tears for the children.””

I looked up and heard:
“And I’m happy to give her a smartphone. She can learn so much. This is a better phone, it’s not like the old ones, it’s smarter!”

I looked down and read:
“The strength of the fire that our father ignited in his children, the holiness that the walls of the house witnessed, the kisses and even the anger of a man of unwavering truth gave us our identity.”

I looked up and heard an expert on parenting say:
“In my new book I write about the dark alleys that await our children. All four of my kids spend hours a day looking at screens—computer screens, smartphone screens, TV screens—and I am terrified for them wandering around unsupervised on those dark alleys…”

I looked down and read: “My father made sure we davened every day before public school. He taught us what every blessing in the Shemonah Esrei meant on our level, and showed us where to ask Hashem to help us do well in school, to heal the sick, and to help him make a living. You could have put us [children] on the moon and we’d have remained the same.”

Last week, I read a different article in the same magazine about a 92-year-old woman who saved the life of the Satmar Rebbe during the Shoah. She explained, “People say that the world is so different than it was. But I know two things that are eternal. Two things never, ever change: the Torah and HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”

I have a friend who is always on the run doing a lot of important things and doing her very best to save the world, and the screensaver on her tablet is a photograph she took while sitting on a beach chair by the sea one day. It looks something like this:
feet beach
In the midst of her crazy, pressured life this photo provides her with profound chizuk.

It reminds her: I am a human being. I am small, limited and mortal. And that means that the world has problems I’m not solving as quickly as I would like.

But G-d is like the sea. Mighty, eternal, unfathomable.

And if I stay connected to him, and refuse to let go, His eternal light can shine through me to perfect this broken world.


  1. loved this post! every part. thank you Chana

  2. This post was a three course meal for the soul! Thanks for the chizuk.
    Much nachas from your first grader and all your lovely family.

  3. Just one thought – why start off the year with candy? One year I gave ballons at the end of a first day, another year pencils, or erasers. B”H our preschool is a candy free zone.

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