May 24, 2018

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

Shavuot has so many different traditions, stories and minhagim associated with it. Our children have been studying many of these and connecting them to their personal lives. The story of Rabbi Akiva's disciples treating each other without compassion has led to a friendship focus throughout the Omer period in some classes. The midrash about how Har Sinai was chosen for Matan Torah inspired our Pre-K class to dedicate their own special "Har Sinai" on the highest hill in Central Park. Some of our older students studied Bikkurim, the ceremony in which farmers would bring their first fruit to the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. They then made their own "Bikkurim" baskets representing the learnings and accomplishments they have amassed this year.

I especially connect to the tradition of the Bikkurim ceremony when I prepare for Shavuot. Bikkurim is a biblical requirement, and the Book of Deuteronomy instructs that upon bringing first fruit to the Temple, each person would offer a standardized recitation to the priest: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation..." This story is just as much ancient history to us today as it was to the Jewish farmers of the Second Temple period. How could it have seemed remotely relevant to these farmers after traveling distances to to recognize God's blessings in the first fruit of their harvests? Maybe the mitzvah of Bikkurim is not exclusively meant to appreciate the role God plays in our successes. It may also be intended to help us appreciate all those who came before us, whose investments allowed us to reap the fruit of a bountiful harvest. In the case of Second Temple farmers, they were meant to appreciate all those ancestors upon whose shoulders they stood, starting from the very beginning of the Israelite community with a wandering Aramean.

Like our Second Temple ancestors (and the Beit Rabban third graders) who use the holiday of Shavuot as a moment to appreciate all the bounty they have amassed over the year, I also reflect back on a year of plenty. It try to be mindful that my successes are built on the investments of so, so many others and to be grateful for all they have done to bring me to this day.

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat and Chag Sameach,