Who is Pitching Tomorrow?
For many years, I have wondered why Avraham was chosen to lead the Jewish people. Although he lived during complicated times filled with wickedness and evil, there were still other people who could have merited to be “our father”.
The Torah describes Noach “as a righteous man, perfect for his generation…..Noach walked with G-d”(6:9). Our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, all learned with Shem and Eiver, the noted scholars of the day. Rivka consulted with them when she encountered questions about her pregnancy. This leads us to ask the obvious question as to why individuals such as Noach, Shem or Eiver were not chosen to spearhead the birth of our nation. What quality did Avraham possess that made him favorable in the eyes of G-d?
The Torah tells us-” for I have loved him(Avraham) because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice” (Vayeira 18:19). Avraham was chosen because he would teach G-d’s children- from this we can assume that Avraham was the first true teacher.
Noach was very righteous but in the span of 120 years he spent building the teiva, he was not able to convince even one person, other than members of his own family, to join him in the teiva. Shem and Eiver, great scholars, served as advisors and were available to answer questions for those who inquired, but they did not progress beyond that role. They did not proactively make that ever important “human personal connection”. The Torah states that Avraham “planted an eshel in B’ersheva and there he proclaimed the name of Hashem, G-d of the Universe” (Vayera:21:33). Rashi comments on this pasuk that Avraham would say to the people he served food and drink, “Do you believe that you have eaten of that which is mine? Bless Him of Whose food you have eaten.‘’ Through acts of kindness, Avraham built trust with the people he came into contact with and in doing so made them believers in Hashem. As Rashi says in Parshat Lech Lecha(12:5) “Avraham converted the men while Sarah converted the women and Scripture considers it as if they had made them.”
One can argue that today, the Shem and Eiver type of teacher might be rendered obsolete by platforms such as Google and Sefaria. What is irreplaceable, however, is that remarkable teacher who leaves an everlasting impact on a child.
As educational buzzwords come and go, and curricula and initiatives change year after year, I marvel at the continued dedication of teachers who keep pushing forward. Sadly, I read article after article about teacher shortages nationwide, a topic discussed at every educational leadership gathering and wonder if this spirit will continue. I ask my daughter’s friends at our Shabbat table what field of work they are pursuing. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, psychology, and social work are the popular answers. We are quick to size up the issue as a pay scale and benefits dilemma. While this may have been a primary reason in the past, today it’s much more complicated. One talented girl commented, “I don’t want to come home in the evening after a long day of navigating ‘more-than-ever challenging children’ to a slew of difficult emails from snowplow parents …a career of occupational therapy affords me the opportunity to make my own hours and take care of my family.”
While shuls, youth groups, and community activities are a vital necessity for our children’s upbringing, it’s great schools that ensure Jewish continuity. STEAM Labs, engineering programs, and a robust Judaic and General Studies curriculum are key components for any educational institution today. The lifeline of every great school, however, is its amazing educators.
What’s the solution? I don’t have all the answers but perhaps together we can figure out how to persuade our young men and women to consider this noble and fulfilling profession. Hopefully, by addressing this pressing issue collectively, we will continue the mission that our father Avraham began.
The Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver once said, “Momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.” Who will be our next group of ace starting pitchers?