Working through challenges nourishes our lives—and our children’s

Epstein Hebrew Academy Head of School offers ‘nuggets of wisdom that may help fuel your child and the child within you’


Rabbi Shmuel Miller is Head of School at Epstein Hebrew Academy.


Yeshalem scharamThe Almighty rewards those who work for the Klal, the Jewish community.”

This prayer that we recite on Shabbat is a comfort, a reminder and a charge for communal leaders: God notices your toil. Your work is important. Keep going.

The Klal is understood as the community of individuals. In a sense, though, each individual is a klal — ‘a whole’ — as in the whole self. Even those who do not hold communal positions are charged to consider the many facets of their own needs and the needs of those around them.

Each of us is a child, a son or daughter, even if we are grandparents. Each child is a universe of emotions, thoughts, intellectual capacities, physical potential and a unique soul, which is plugged into God. For healthy development, which continues throughout our lifetimes, we need for our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to be nourished. We are also social beings. We thrive in environments that reinforce the reality of our worth, while encouraging us to think, take responsibility and grow.

Most recently, all of us, we and our children, have been confronted with ordeals that have triggered unhealthy reactions and consequential side effects, which have left us malnourished in some areas. Integral relationships have been strained and broken, some more silently than others. Hurtful words have been hurled that cannot be taken back. We have sometimes allowed fear to lead us and our children when we could have used our more adult faculties to meet each ordeal in a healthy manner.

I firmly believe that ordeals have purpose. They are not about merely getting through. They are not only about finding medical cures, especially for those of us not directly involved in finding medical cures. Ordeals challenge us to not only emerge greater, but to be greater while we’re in them. To be resilient, grateful, compassionate. Alive!

Sadly and understandably, we sometimes have lost our way through the maze of recent circumstances. With uncertainty as a resounding theme, we’ve been invited to lead ourselves and those in our charge, through a maze of conflicting news, ideas, experiences and recommendations. To maintain focus while we’re in the maze, we need to stay connected to others who strive to maintain focus, too.

We also need to recognize when we feel anxious and set aside the desire to find scapegoats to blame for our predicaments and discomfort. True leadership calls us to keep our heads and hearts as we simultaneously plant, build and respond to challenges.

I believe that we can maintain equilibrium in the ordeal maze when we remember that there is purpose in the circumstances and that we each have a whole child to nourish through every circumstance.

In discussions with institutional and organizational leaders, rabbis, mental health professionals and through my life experience, I’ve gathered a few nuggets of wisdom that may help fuel your child and the child within you.

1.    Remind yourself of your intrinsic Godly worth. These reminders will keep you on track and bring you more swiftly to repair when you err.

2.   Remind yourself of the intrinsic Godly worth of others. Look people in the eye and say with a smile, “It’s good to see you!”

3.   Stay close to people who live in the solution rather than in the problem.

4.    Make music part of your daily nutrition.

5.   Pray. Yes, we are the “people whose strength is in our verbal expressions.” Talk to God. If you are having a setback, are in pain or want to express appreciation, might as well go to the source.

6.  For a few moments each day, take full interest in one person, listening and acknowledging without trying to fix.

One of my colleagues wrote to me recently: “Thank you for your note. Especially during these times, I can use all the chizzuk/inspiration I can get.”

And I was thanking him for inspiring me.

May we feel God’s pride and encouragement as we strive to lead our whole selves and our whole children through life’s challenges. God notices your toil. Your work is important. Keep going.

And feel free to add nuggets of your own.

Rabbi Shmuel Miller is Head of School at Epstein Hebrew Academy.