Schools are starting in Jewish communities throughout the world, and along with them come a host of old challenges and very significant new ones.
The sight of kindergarten students fidgeting with uncomfortable masks as high school students grapple with a list of mandatory regulations, such as daily temperature checks, are external reminders that the upheaval caused by the global pandemic is continuing. Inside the classrooms, Rebbeim and teachers who themselves may have far more questions than answers are facing traumatized students who need tremendous amounts of moral support and guidance as they try to adjust to a new normal.
In reality, the schools that are opening are the fortunate ones, as Israeli schools in areas deemed to be “red cities” were kept closed, and reports of positive cases in a one large yeshivah in the New York area raised the prospect that this institution will have to temporarily close its doors as well.
In general, a feeling of uncertainty and instability is in the air, and while we are in need of siyatta DiShmaya at all times, the need is even more obvious now than ever before. This is a time for redoubling of our tefillos — for spiritual and physical health of young and old, and that all those entrusted with the chinuch of the next generation should be granted the wisdom and stamina to make the right decisions.
Getting children dressed, fed and to school on time in the morning has always been a daunting challenge for overstretched and exhausted mothers. The new reality — which in addition to a list of regulations also means that the many schools that rely on city-provided buses are currently not providing transportation — is making a most stressful time even more difficult. What these heroines pull off morning after morning is truly remarkable.
At the same time, it is vital that we bear in mind that no matter how vital what was left upstairs is, allowing a 5-year-old to watch her 3-year-old brother downstairs is never an option — even for a few seconds.
It is also crucial to remember that every mother who keeps a bus waiting for a long minute isn’t merely arousing the impatience of the frustrated bus driver, she is also riling up the drivers of all the vehicles stuck behind the bus. She also is making every other parent wait longer at their respective stop along the route — and the cumulative effect of 10 such waits means that the mother at the very end of the route will be 10 minutes late to her own workplace.
It is imperative that school administrators recognize that buses must be safely parked alongside a sidewalk or in a yard when dropping off or picking up students in front of the school building. Blocking off the street was always a sore point and source of resentment for the neighbors, but as the traffic situation in larger communities continues to worsen, it no longer is something that can even be considered.
Now, when we all want to accumulate extra zechuyos for ourselves and all of Klal Yisrael, it is an ideal opportunity to make an extra effort to avoid causing — even inadvertently — agmas nefesh to our neighbors. In the process, our communal life will be enriched as well.