Ds15 attends a yeshiva high school that I’ve never visited, due to the distance from our home. Yesterday were parent teacher conferences, which neither dh nor I were able to attend earlier in the year because of the travel involved. We felt it was very important to be there and get to know his teachers, for them to know that we’re behind him and for ds to feel our support, but it meant taking a full day from work and that was something we couldn’t to do.
With dh not working at this time, he was able to spend several hours traveling in each direction to get there, leaving at noon and returning at 2 am. It was a long, tiring and expensive trip but we’re both glad he went!
Something that I thought was interesting is that the student goes into each conference with his parent and hears everything that is said by his teacher. I commented to dh that I would think the teachers might feel uncomfortable speaking openly about a student in front of him, but dh laughed and said this didn’t seem to be an issue. It must be part of the more open and direct Israeli communication style.
Ds is doing wonderfully, for which we’re very grateful. I really grappled with the decision of what school to send him to: a local typical charedi yeshiva where he would be close to home, or to this yeshiva, a charedi yeshiva high school with a full secular studies curriculum and a bagrut. The biggest downside of this was that ds would have to live away from home in a dorm. Our next concern was that the boys who attend this school tend to be more modern, which if you understand the charedi dynamic in this country makes sense. I wasn’t sure what kind of influence this would be for him; I knew it could go either way – either it would help him strengthen who he was and wanted to be, or he would be pulled after his peers.
I’m happy to say it’s been a really good choice for him.
Ds is thriving. His Torah learning is excellent, his secular studies are excellent, he’s socially very well-integrated (this is a school that is predominantly Israeli with just a sprinkling of Anglos). All his teachers had only good things to say – two of them asked my husband what he had done to merit a son like him! The commment that made me the most happy was from the mashgiach. He told dh that ds is the most popular kid in the class and has consistently been a positive influence on the other kids, without coming across as a frummy or goody two shoes.
One example was from that morning. The rosh yeshiva gives an early morning Torah class at 6:30 am. Usually only three boys in the yeshiva attend – it’s very early! Yesteday morning, ds15 woke up extra early and went around the yeshiva waking up lots of boys and encouraging them to attend the class (not only boys in his grade), and shocked the rosh yeshiva when he had 20 or 30 kids there instead of the usual three!
Ds doesn’t talk about this much but I had an inkling about this dynamic (though I didn’t know how clear it was to teachers), based on something that came up in conversation not long ago. A couple of weeks ago I shared with him that a local rosh kollel had expressed his dismay (that his wife then shared with me) that the local yeshiva missed out on having ds as a student there, and I said to ds that even though he would have done great locally, I’m glad he’s happy where he is. Ds15 responded that he’s not so sure he would have done so well if he was learning locally. Where he is, they appreciate him and that makes him want to live up to their hopes and expectations for him.
He mentioned that kids look at him and think if he’s doing something, it must be okay and that makes him more careful. Once there was a water balloon fight and he realized his involvement encouraged other kids to feel it was okay to do it also. Social power is a big responsibility. But, he continued, if he was somewhere where they took him for granted (eg the local yeshiva), he wouldn’t be as motivated and would probably have been tempted to slack off. It’s a good insight.
At the same time that I’m grateful for the positive reports about my son, the thought of the three kidnapped high school students doesn’t leave me. The first thing on my mind when I wake up is the boys, the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep is the boys. It is now over a week since they have been missing and their parents don’t have reports like this to fill them with joy, only the terror of knowing their children are being held by ruthless murderers who place no value on human life.
Please continue to pray for Eyal ben Iris Teshura, Gil’ad Micha’el ben Bat-Galim and Ya’akov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah. Rabbis are recommending that people all over the world take in Shabbos early as a merit for the boys, which I hope to do today. I saw the idea of lighting three extra candles for Shabbos for them as well, and asked dh if there’s any problem with this. He checked with a rosh kollel, who said to do it with the intention that I’m not making a neder/long term commitment, and then told him ‘yasher koach’, that it was a very nice idea. It’s a powerful thing to pray for each of them along with each of my child each Friday night and I’ll certainly add my prayers for them, just not sure about lighting more candles. Taking in Shabbos early is a big thing for us and I want to be able to make a full commitment I can stick with rather than spread myself too thin and then not follow through.
It’s unquestionably a tremendous merit to do something to increase one’s observance of Shabbos/the Sabbath, even if someone isn’t observant. The army is doing their part to find the boys, our part is to continue to add merits through prayer, Torah study and increased mitzva observance.