Inside Heschel High
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To culminate their orientation experience, students in grade 9 spent a whole day on Thursday engaged in grade bonding and culture building experiences. In the morning, each advisory took part in hesed activity and later headed to High Exposure Rock Climbing Gym. Students pushed themselves to take risks and also cheered each other on.
Students and teachers found different ways to commemorate September 11th and honor those who perished. The High School gathered as a community, as they normally do on Monday mornings, and recited prayers, poetry, and psalms. One psalm that the community read together was psalm 121, A Song of Ascents.
In a moment, we're going to close with listening to the sound of the Shofar. Throughout the month of Elul, we listen to the sound of the shofar and we recite Psalm 27 – לדוד ה׳ אורי וישעי – A Psalm for David. God is my light and my help.
The Psalm includes a verse that has become familiar to many of us through the music –
אחת שאלתי מאת ה׳ אותה אבקש
One thing I ask of God – this is that which I seek:
שבתי בבית ה כל ימי חיי
To dwell in God's house all the days of my life.
לחזות בנועם ה׳ ולבקר בהיכלו.
To behold God's beauty and visit God's sanctuary.
In the verse that follows, the image of the house changes to an image of a sukkah and then a tent.
First we ask to dwell, to sit in God's house. And then we hope that God will protect us, will shelter us in God's sukkah and in God's tent.
We transition from an image that suggests comfort, permanence and safety, to dwelling places that are more fragile.
In the same verse where the Psalmist beseeches God to dwell in God's house, the Psalmist hopes to לבקר – in God's sanctuary. The word לבקר is usually translated as visit – the Psalmist hopes to visit God's sanctuary.
Rashi, however, points us to two other meanings for the word לבקר:
- 1)Inquire, critique ביקורת
- 2)בוקר à I'm reminded of the verse from Eicha:
- חדשים לבקרים רבה אמונתך – Every morning there is newness, and therefore great is your faith.
Every relationship must begin with a sense of feeling grounded. This is the dwelling place. Rashi warns us – when you are too grounded – we tend to begin to critique. Therefore, it is on us to enter the house each morning with a sense of newness.
And then – every relationship – must open itself to vulnerability. We leave the house for the sukkah and the tent – and there we seek protection. We learn to rely on others.
9th graders – please rise:
We welcome you to the high school – we hope you make this place your home. Build roots here. Dwell here. May you come to school each day with a sense that this is the place you want to be. May you walk the halls of this building with a whole heart, with comfort and with joy.
And as you do – may you become builders and shapers. May you both לשבת dwell in this home and לבקר seek to make change where necessary – not from a need to critique; rather from a sense of חידוש – newness. We hope you leave your mark and help us as a community be the best we can be. May you dream big and work actively to build.
May you leave the comfort of our dwelling place and identify tents to hide in. May your time in the tents push you to seek, to question, to fail and then to try again. May your learning ignite within you the passion and compassion to offer shelter to others and to pursue justice with a whole heart.
חזק ויאמץ לבך – May your heart be strong and courageous.
Parents – please rise.
As we listen to Rabbi Noam sound the shofar for us this evening, we are mindful of the partnership between parents, faculty and students, as we embark on this new path together. May it be a joyous journey.
קוה אל ה׳ - A journey full of possibilities and hope.
Zeke Bronfman, Student Government President, addressed the High School students and faculty this morning at the High School opening breakfast. The text from his dvar torah is below.
Hello and good morning.
I hope each of you have had a great summer- it has certainly been an eventful few months in our collective world. From the events in Charlottesville, Hurricane Harvey in Houston and potentially Hurricane Irma, to international destabilization. With that in mind, On behalf of the whole Student Government, I welcome you back to school today and ask you to join me in thinking about our student body's collective responsibility. In this week's Parsha, Ki Tavo, Moses tells the people that God has given the them "a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear."
The heart is associated with caring and feeling; the brain is associated with knowing. This pasuk suggests that in order to truly know we must also genuinely care. Staying up to date on current events and with the happenings of our community is important. And, It is also essential to take the next step- to actually care and react to what we learn in order to really know and understand the world we occupy. That is the heart to know.
Einstein once said that the world is a flawed place not because of those who do evil but because of those who do nothing about it. Apathy is often worse than evil. So, Moshe reminds us that we have " the eyes to see", while we need not be the root of evil in the world, we bear the responsibility of combatting it. We Heschel students are fortunate enough to have been given eyes- and we must use them to see the world around us and to see how we can improve it.
The third action Moshe calls for is listening. The Lubavitcher Rebbi explains why "ears to hear" are so important. He said that when God sees that we care for one another and have the ability to respond when we see a fellow Jew in trouble or danger- the sound of the Shofar is the final equalizer. It brings us together. In the desert the shofar was used for signalling the time for the entire nation to move to the next destination and when the nation was going to to war. The shofar is used in times when unity is needed. When Collective Solidarity is not just a nice idea but even sometimes a matter of life and death. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014 when the siren would go off in the southern cities of Israel, the entire country would hear it on every radio station. When even one person is in trouble, it is on all of us to respond, whether it is Jews in Israel who face a day to day threat, or whether it is here in school- standing up for our collective values that form the foundation of our community.
And let me underscore that collective responsibility does not mean uniformly similar outlooks or beliefs. We are charged with using " our ears to hear" to truly listen to one another's perspectives with respect and acceptance, this should be a community where thoughtful debate and different opinions are welcomed.
I look forward to the next nine months that we will spend together, and am confident that, as a community, we can live up to Moshe's declaration that God has given us a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear-- and most importantly, that we dedicate those abilities to the central principle of Tikun Olam. Thank you.