“A Palace in Time”

In the beginning of one of my favorite books, The Sabbath, by my favorite Jewish thinker Abraham Joshua Heschel, he says, “Judaism is a religion of time (emphasis in original) aiming at the sanctification of time.  Later on, he refers to Shabbat using a similar metaphor – “a palace in time”.  Among the many things Heschel is describing (and I cannot recommend a book more), he points to the value of celebrating and cherishing moments in time.  That time can be sacred and holy.  For the purpose of his book, it is the Sabbath under consideration.  For the purpose of this blog, it is the idea of how important it is to stop and appreciate the everyday miracles of time all around us.  One of those miracles, to me, is the start of school – especially this year.

This week I had the blessing of welcoming my own daughter, Eliana, into school as her head of school.  If you already believe that there can be no more sacred responsibility than to be entrusted with the education of a child, the how do you calculate the exponent when that child is your own?  I realize I’m not the first teacher or principal to have his or her own child in class or school, but it does not change the surreality of it.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that looking out into the group during our Welcome Assembly and seeing her face looking back at me wasn’t a thrill of a lifetime.  A moment to hold on to and cherish.

But this was a week of firsts for many in our school.  First days of school for our kindergartners.  First days of a last year (in our school) for our eighth graders.  First days in a new school for teachers (and head!).  First days for new families.  First echoes of laughter and rolling backpacks in hallways that were still and empty just a few weeks ago. First lessons brought to life from planning and imagination.  First hiccups of a school in transition.  First successes.  First mishaps.  First steps to an unlimited future.

I blogged earlier about the implied religiosity of teaching and the teacher-student relationship.  [I think a Buber blog on how the ideal teacher-student / teacher-parent relationship can be constructed just germinated!  Hint: It all begins when the students enter the class for the first time and the teacher seeks the Godliness in each and every one.]  How wonderful it would be if our students (and parents) viewed their school days as “palaces of time”.  What an extraordinary goal to reach for!

And so…congratulations to the teachers who worked so hard for a successful start.  Thank you to all the parents who trust us with your children.  Thank you to the students for your smiles and eagerness.  And as we move from the excitement of the first week into the routines of the first month, let us all cherish the everyday moments too often overlooked – a new skill mastered, a new friend made, a new year begun.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.

8 thoughts on ““A Palace in Time””

    1. Thanks much! I didn’t emphasize so much the Conservative connection, but Heschel is the leading philosopher of our movement…plus he marched with Dr. King and so many other amazing things…really worth the read.

  1. I just finished reading your entire blog, and I have to tell you I’m so excited… about having you as the new Head of School, about the direction the school is heading (Judiasm infused throughout the entire curriculum, not just during “Jewish Studies”), about the buzz of excitement from both the students and staff. My boys have come home happy every day so far. I’m thrilled that they’re teachers expect them to read each night, that they’re getting appropriate H.W. each night, that they like all their teachers, and that they’re excited about school! I’m definitely cherishing this school year with both me boys. This year is a big transitional year for them as 1st and 5th graders, and for their school which is going through many fabulous changes. I’m looking forward to a great school year.

    1. I really appreciate that. The teachers have been working really hard and I am glad it is beginning to pay off. Your feedback carries weight with me, so I doubly appreciate it. Hopefully this will be the beginning of many years of quality education and caring community.

  2. Thanks for your blog! I’m really enjoying reading it! It makes me think of how in Kitah Alef we stop before we pray and breathe and sometimes listen to the ocean (on CD). I probably need this “sacred time and space” more than my students do! It gives me a chance just to appreciate it all……..and in a blink of an eye these first graders will be grown up second graders!

    I received a book for my birthday from my son that I haven’t had a chance to read yet but it looks good! The title is “The Sabbath World” by Judith Shulevitz and it’s available. Not quite Heschel, but still interesting.

    1. As a parent of a Kindergartner, I am particularly attuned right now to the passage of time. But I agree with you that we really need it for ourselves. I believe it was Ahad Ha’Am who said “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.”

      Good thoughts for a Friday!

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