Farm Fresh Ingredients

January 17, 2020

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

I cannot wait to go to synagogue tomorrow with my 6 year old daughter. She and all her friends in our Shorashim (1st grade) class had their Siddur Celebration yesterday morning, and she is so excited to bring her magical new siddur with her to shul on Shabbat. The Shorashim students, their families, and their younger friends in Kindergarten came together to share a powerful tefillah and to celebrate receiving their first official, printed siddurim. The joyful tefillah, filled with nachas in our children and comfort in our community, was unforgettable, a truly special shared moment.

I suspect many of you have been to a ceremony marking students' receipt of their first "big-kid" siddurim, you may even remember your own. I will never forget mine, the siddur was so heavy and I was so excited that I kept dropping it! Like all Jewish schools, our children are also blessed with this rite of passage. Ours has changed over the years to become more of a communal tefillah than a ceremony. The students, their families and friends sang all the tefillot together, accompanied by our musical tefillah teacher on the guitar and the words of each prayer projected on a screen. Between tefillot, each student spoke about their favorite tefillah while the screen displayed the painting they made to represent how that prayer makes them feel. We talked a little bit about all the adventures they and their siddurim would share together: subway rides, airport layovers, climbing Massada... The children giggled, one child shared loudly, "my Abba davens in airports!" Then each student stood up to receive their beautiful Koren siddur, inscribed with a blessing from their parents. And, of course, we ended with kiddush, as all good Jewish events should.
When the celebration was over, one parent said that Beit Rabban reminds her of the sort of restaurant that showcases farm-fresh ingredients: maybe they add a little salt, but really the chef wants you to experience the essence of the ingredients without a lot of sauce. This is one of the most apt metaphors for what we try to achieve in designing rites of passage for our students. We want the children to share their accomplishments in authentic ways and to feel the embrace of our community while doing so. We do not want to convey that they need to entertain their grown-ups, and we try not to overshadow their real accomplishments with the sort of "heavy sauce" that comes with a perfectly choreographed performance. Of course, we add a little salt to enhance the flavor by way of the children making special crowns with their Hebrew names, wearing "bigdei chag," and having snacks after the celebration, but it is the unadulterated farm-fresh ingredients that steal the show. At this week's Siddur Celebration that was the children and their deep, joyful relationship to prayer.

May our Shorashim students' have a lifelong, intimate relationship with prayer, one that continues to grow, to evolve, to serve them and to serve our people.

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,

P.S. Join us on Monday for another meaningful, communal prayer experience at our annual MLK Day Community Tefillah. RSVP here !

Read the full Ta Shma, Beit Rabban's weekly newsletter, here.