[This is the brief dvar that I shared with Kitah Bet, their parents, grandparents, and special friends on Thursday, May 25th in honour of their Chagigat He’Chumah (Chumash Party).]
We celebrate our children’s first accomplishments in the study of Torah with the (symbolic) gift of Torah. We choose to do this on the morning of Erev Shavuot to explicitly link our children’s receipt of Torah in school with our people’s receipt of Torah at Sinai. Your choice to provide your children with a Jewish day school education forges that link. Your choice connects your children to the generations who came before and to those yet to come. Your choice joins your family story to the larger Jewish story. Your choice honours the Jewish past and secures the Jewish future through the learning and experiences you have made possible for their Jewish present.
In our school, we try to capture the essence of this story through the notion of “journey”. In a school as diverse as OJCS, we land at “journey” as the right “North Star” to aim towards because we can neither predict where a student’s – or family’s – Jewish journey begins, nor where it is headed. What we can do – and try to in ways big and small – is to inspire movement. On a day like today, heading into the holiday of Shavuot, a midrash connected to the day is worth exploring just for a bit because it best captures the methodology and the pedagogy we use at OJCS to inspire Jewish journeys – and that is the idea of “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7).
The midrash is as follows:
When the Children of Israel were offered the Torah they enthusiastically accepted the prescriptive mitzvot (commandments) as God’s gift. Israel collectively proclaimed the words “na’aseh v’nishma “, “we will do mitzvot and then we will understand them”. Judaism places an emphasis on performance and understanding spirituality, values, community, and the self through deed.
Simply put, we learn best by doing.
That is why, as was true with the siddur they received at the end of Kitah Alef, the Torah they receive at the end of Kitah Bet is not a trophy to sit upon a shelf, but a tool to continue the Jewish journey they are just beginning. It is our hope and our prayer that the work we have begun together as partners – parents and teachers; home and school – continue in the years ahead to provide our children with Jewish moments of meaning and Jewish experiences of consequence so that they can continue to receive and accept Torah in their own unique way, infused by a love of Judaism, informed by Jewish wisdom and aligned with Jewish values.
Thank you to the parents who have sacrificed in ways known and unknown to give your children the gift of Jewish day school. Thank you for entrusting us with the sacred responsibility of educating your children. It is not something that we take for granted.
Thank you to the teachers who give of their love, their time and their talent each and every day. On a day like today, special thanks to Morah Sigal and Morah Corinne who have poured themselves into your children and into this day. Our teachers play a significant role in shaping our children’s stories and we are grateful for the care they contribute to that holy task.
Mazal Tov & Chag Sameach!