Educationally Speaking – December 2020

Between Hanukkah and Tu BiSh’vat

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

In Pirkei Avot, a chapter of the Mishnah, one has sayings collected from the Sages of our past. I am going to use the interim article between Hanukkah and Tu BiSh’vat to discuss this idea spoken by Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Avot 3:21, “If there is no flour, there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour.”

In the world, we like to simplify ideas and take out the possibility of interpretation by having binary answers — yes/no, on/off, master/slave, and 0/1. Children also seek these straightforward answers in life and we eventually understand that wisdom seeks to understand what lays between the dichotomies around us. In Elazar’s statement, what is in between?

There is a world of spirituality and a world of the tangible. My imagination, personality, relationships, beliefs, actions and core values all are in between the spiritual heavenly world and the world of things. It is important for me to infuse each of our students with the notion that their Jewish affiliation means something unique to them because of who they are as people. I want to provide the building blocks of a formal Jewish education including knowledge of Torah, Hebrew, Prayer, Israel, and Judaism to each student. Then I want the children to fashion their own path to understand, believe, and practice their Jewish identity.

As we have another opportunity to start again, a new year, a new semester, a new day, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for you, the members of Temple Beth El who have put forth the flour and Torah to build a future for our children. We all pray for peace, prosperity, health and your well-being. Presently, our environment is something that we are all concerned to protect because the ‘tree of life’ is essential for us, like all other trees. Our Promised Land, Israel is noted to be a land flowing with milk and honey. In addition to the trees we have milk (our children) and honey (the Torah). The trees, the milk, the honey are as extensive as our imagination. The land and trees need us and we need them. In particular, we need the land of Israel as much as it needs the Jewish people of the world. We must support Israel in whatever way we can!