Friday, January 30, 2009

A Week of Firsts

On Thursday morning one of our 5th grade classes gathered in my office for a moment of reflection. After months of preparation the time had finally come for them to chant from the Torah for the first time. All their classmates and parents were waiting in the library where the Torah Reading Service was going to be held. With guitar in hand I asked the students to take a deep breath and spend a moment opening their hearts. Then we talked about The Davis Academy journey-- how every day has the potential to be full of amazing and life changing experiences. But along the journey there are moments of holiness, sometimes little and sometimes big, sometimes planned and sometimes not. The 5th grade Torah Service is such a moment. Each child shared a memory from class-- lots of smiles and laughs, lots of "oh yeahs..." A few of the students got a little choked up. I did as well.
We marched quietly from my office to just outside the library. From there we watched the last few students and parents shuffling in. Once everyone was settled inside I, along with the students who were leading, marched into the library singing "Am Yisrael Hai" ("The Jewish People Lives"). In the presence of our community, gathered for the sacred and joyous mitzvah of reading and studying Torah, it was hard not to feel the most profound sense of hope that these children not only embrace Jewish tradition but will build a viable and vibrant Jewish world for future generations.

Friday, January 9, 2009

First Friday

First Friday of 09. During Kabbalat Shabbat Rabbi Peter Berg from the Temple charmed our children, transforming them into crying babies, snoring grandparents, lowing cows, doodling rosters, and quacking ducks. Message: let us bless the noise that tells us we are home. We made sure to think of Israel today by singing Kahol v'lavan, Hatikvah and also offering the traditional prayer Avinu sh'bashamayim (Mishkan T'filah, p. 113). We also did "Can you shake it better than a fifth grader during the micamocha." The answer appears to be: ehhh.

Tefillah was funky at the middle school today. Science fair has taken over the gym! While it would have been nice to have had Kabbalat Shabbat there (to reflect on the false dichotomy between science and religion) we decided to split into grades. During tefillah Mr. Kudlats and I opened a dialogue on Israel with the 8th grade since we're headed there in May. After reading an interesting article from the New York Times about the Israel Consulate's attempts to do media coverage of the war via the web service "Twitter" (which allows positings up to 140 chrctrs) we made sure to leave time to welcome Shabbat by lighting candles, blessing juice, and sharing Challah. One face of Shabbat is setting aside our worldly concerns to embrace something eternal: joy, shalom, family, rest, Shabbat. The contrast between our Israel discussion and our Shabbat singing was a bit abrupt, but necessarily so as our students had a lot to say.

This Shabbat we finish reading the book of Bereishit. It seems like only yesterday that we celebrated Simchat Torah by unrolling our Torah scrolls and surrounding our students in the sacred words of Jewish tradition. In this week's parsha, a dying Jacob blesses his children with the following words, "The God in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day-- The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm-- Bless the lads..."(Genesis 48:15-16). My prayer this Shabbat is that God protect the citizens of Israel, all the innocent civilians of that sad and troubled region, and all of us. May this Shabbat be full of peace, rest, and joy.