Here are the words I shared with Kitah Alef this morning in celebration of their Kabbalat Ha’Siddur:
A morning like this inspires a few thoughts about time…
Jewish time is a dance between the straight line of temporal life and a circle of sacred moments. On the one hand we move from one rite of passage to the next; our children are born, they take their first steps, they speak their first words, they make their first friends, they attend their first day of school, and one day they receive their first siddur. On the other hand, we return and revisit waystations of meaning – Shabbat comes each week, Rosh Chodesh comes each month, holidays and festivals come each year – and each year Kitah Alef receives their first siddurim. For those of you for whom this is not your first Kabbalat Ha’Siddur you are sitting in both spaces – for your child it is the next stage of their trek through life; as a parent you are returning to a sacred family moment. I believe that part of the magic of living a Jewish life is to recognize and to celebrate when and where this line and this circle intersect.
One of our school’s North Stars is that “we are all on inspiring Jewish journeys” and the Kabbalat Ha’Siddur is a significant stop on a journey that began together under the chuppah on the first days of Junior and Senior Kindergarten. But by linking this moment to Tefillah – to prayer – we are teaching our children and, perhaps, reminding ourselves of an important idea. For all the reasons we can and do pray – to express gratitude, to connect to community, to be part of a chain in history, to offer petition, to engage in mindfulness, to talk to God, to take an opportunity to measure ourselves against our best selves, etc. – perhaps the idea that links them together is that it forces us to zoom out and appreciate the twin journeys a Jewish life represents. You are about to sing Adon Olam with your child on the day of his or her Kabbalat Ha’Siddur, using the Siddur our school gifts you, covered with the love you put into its decoration. You have likely sung Adon Olam before and will likely sing Adon Olam again. Those words will be the same. But you and your children will not. Adon Olam will forever be linked with this moment and who you were at this time.
We give our students – your children – the gift of a Siddur not to be a trophy, but to be a tool. And this tool will hopefully serve many purposes on the journey forward. But I also believe this Siddur is more than a tool for prayer literacy, it is also a compass, if not a time machine, for the Jewish journey of your children and your family. Each time you open it, you are everyone you were up until that point, with all the memories and experiences that came with you. You read the same words with different eyes and, thus, they elicit different meanings. When my daughters led services at their Bat Mitzvahs they used the siddurim they received in Kitah Alef. And when my older one goes off to university next year, she’ll add that siddur to her bookshelf.
My prayer for this class, and for you, is that the siddur we gift you today serves as a reminder of -and a guide for – the extraordinary and unpredictable Jewish journey ahead. A journey that our school is honoured to share whilst entrusted with the sacred task of educating this wonderful group of children. As we share our gift with you, thank you for the gift you have given us with your trust. Mazal tov to us and mazal tov to you.