Educationally Speaking – July-August 2019

Puzzling Puzzles

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

The final piece placed in a jigsaw is what summer breaks are for our students. We get the chance to finish the puzzle and gaze at its magnificence for a fleeting moment. It does not matter if the puzzle has only six pieces or one thousand. That final piece means something.

As we begin the summer vacation and start to envision the coming year, take a moment with the child you have, the one inside you, or the one you are blessed to watch grow up, and reflect on the puzzles that have been solved this year.

The wisdom of the Jewish calendar is at once predictable and the essence of how Jews sanctify time in service of God. We finish the year with Shavuot and look towards a few months punctuated with few holidays until we have a juggernaut of autumn holidays beginning with Rosh HaShanah. There are a few pieces to the summer Jewish calendar. I want to pay attention to the holidays of Av.

Tisha B’Av is the ninth day of Av. The holy day is Rabbinic in nature and is a day of being aware of our fragility in an insecure world. It is the second of two 25-hour fasts in a year, the other being Yom Kippur. It is a time when we see that we are incomplete. Someone somewhere is broken or being broken and we cry together as a community in sadness for what has been broken.

The rabbis gave us another holy day that is not so often celebrated to heal the broken. It is called Tu B’Av or the fifteenth of Av. It is the celebration of love. Many Jews choose it to be an ideal time for a wedding or other romantic celebration. To me, all of the noncommercial aspects of Valentines day are captured in Tu B’Av, but through a Jewish lens. The love is the feeling of putting the last piece of the puzzle in place.

The month after Av is called Elul. During this month, Jews have the tradition of preparing for the High Holy Days. The shofar is sounded daily. The reading of penitential prayers is done in group prayer or alone. The year is put to rest, and as if almost by magic, we pull out another year to start to assemble.

We all know how to start the puzzle, find all of the corners and straight pieces to make the frame. Manipulate every piece through sorting, placing, moving, understanding. The new puzzle for the new year will be an astonishing experience for every child in our school and I hope for every person who takes a moment to look at the puzzle they have built in the last day, week, month, season, or even decade and lifetime.

I wish you a wonderful, blessed, healthy, and meaningful summer.