A Moment of Enlightenment


When a girl was rejected from school just because she was not part of the right crowd.

Equality for Who?

In our day, everyone claims to believe in equality, but we all know that when it comes to institutions of higher education, or even high schools, some people are more equal than others. 

This is true in every community and every society. 

Here is a story I read this week by Aharon Kliger, which was published in the Orthodox media in Israel about an experience he had with his daughter when she was supposed to enter high school. 

He lives with his family in Beit Shemesh, where he’s a respected journalist and his wife is a popular lecturer and well-known home organizer. When their eldest daughter was supposed to enter high school, they applied to the prestigious high school in the neighborhood and secured an interview with the principal. 

When they arrived, the principal received them with incredible coldness; it was very clear that she wasn’t interested in them. They tried very hard to be pleasant, but it didn’t help. When they told her about their intention to enroll their daughter, the principal gave them a cold look and told his wife: “You know there’s a parents’ committee here, and they’ll have to decide whether your daughter can be accepted to the school.” In other words, they had no chance.

No amount of arguing or pleading helped. After forty minutes sitting with the principal, they left broken and crushed, realizing the principal somehow believed they weren’t suitable for this “elitist” institution.

They returned home disheartened, and his wife couldn’t stop crying. Mrs. Kliger herself had experienced the same rejection in her youth. 

She had lost her father when she was four years old. They lived in Jerusalem at the time, and for some reason, the local school refused to accept her. On the first day of school, her mother decided to send her daughter to school as if nothing had happened. She entered the class happily with all the other girls, but suddenly the principal entered and announced her name: “Come, take your bag, and leave the classroom! You don’t belong here!”

She never forgot this trauma. She remained at home for a long time until someone found her a school, far from home, where she ultimately studied.

Years passed, and this little orphan became a sought-after lecturer, but she never forgot the pain and shame she experienced that day.

Thirty years later, she received a call from the same principal. She immediately recognized her voice. The principal said she was calling to ask for forgiveness. She explained that she had been going through many difficulties in her life, and her mind kept returning to the moment where she had humiliated the young orphan; it gave her no peace.

Hearing her apology, Mrs. Kliger burst into tears. All the pain resurfaced; the principal cried with her, and they cried for a long time until Mrs. Kliger declared that she forgave her with a full heart.

Now, with her daughter’s experience, all these emotions came to the surface again.

As a well-known journalist in the Orthodox community, Mr. Kliger has connections with many influential people and he could have used his connections to force the institution to accept his daughter. But before taking any further steps on this matter, he decided that as a Breslover Chasid, he would first do hisbodedus, –he would have a “personal conversation” with the Almighty, before deciding on his next step. So, at midnight, the couple went out for a hisbodedus session in a secluded park.

After a long, tearful conversation with the Almighty, they calmed down with a sudden realization. They realized that this wasn’t the education they wanted to give to their daughter.

They didn’t want her to grow up in a school where everyone looks down on others. They decided they wanted their daughter to be in a place where she’s wanted, appreciated, and, above all, loved.

They turned to a Chabad school in the city. The principal received them warmly, showed interest in their daughter, and was happy to accept her into the school. They found a place where every teacher feels like they’re doing the Rebbe’s shlichus, and truly loves her students. A place where they don’t check how connected the family is to the right places, but where instead, they look into her soul. The girl is thriving and happy, and the joy is felt throughout the home.

Are We Wanted There?

In recent weeks, student protests against Israel have swept through prestigious campuses across the United States. The concern is not new; just about a year ago, in April 2023, an extensive article—almost like a research piece—in “Tablet Magazine” caught my attention. Its headline read: “Ivy League Exodus.” It highlighted a concerning trend: over the past few years, the number of Jewish students accepted into America’s elite universities has been decreasing, and in some cases, it’s plummeted by half.

Of course, they have some nice explanations—the universities want to provide opportunities to other segments of the population and so on. But it’s evident that over the past decade, Jewish students aren’t exactly welcome in these esteemed academic institutions. In recent weeks, this underlying anti-Semitism—simmering for at least a decade if not more—has erupted. Now we know with certainty what awaits Jewish students in these institutions.

Perhaps we should take the Kligers approach – just a thought….  

A Lesson from the Parsha

Now, I’m aware of the argument that we shouldn’t give in, and we should fight for our place because otherwise this trend will spread to other places. It’s hard to know the right thing to do. But perhaps we can take a message from our Parsha. 

The Parsha begins with the prohibition against entering the Holy of Holies without permission. Our sages point out that this prohibition is written immediately after the death of Aaron’s sons, proving that they died because they entered the Holy of Holies without permission. 

On the first of Nisan, the day the Tabernacle was inaugurated, there was an incredible celebration, and Moses and Aaron entered the Tabernacle and offered incense, but Nadav and Avihu weren’t satisfied with just entering the Tabernacle; they wanted to draw even closer to G-d. So, they entered the Holy of Holies—a place even Moses and Aaron dared not enter—and they died.

It’s true, we should aspire for greatness. But when it’s made explicitly clear that you’re not welcome somewhere, perhaps it’s better to seek a different path (Toras Menachem 72:154).

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