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A holy sanctuary...

February 25th, 2022 | 24th of Adar I, 5782 | Vayakhel וַיַּקְהֵל

Dear Beit Rabban Community, I was recently reminiscing with a parent about the impact of daily prayer on our community during the months of pandemic lockdown. Throughout those months we shared musical tefillah each morning over Zoom. Many of us remember that ritual, the tunes and sounds of our leader's voice, as having provided a much needed meditative anchor of calm and connection. As it turns out, it has been harder to pray as a community since we returned to in-person school last year because COVID restrictions have limited our ability to gather together, and especially to sing together in-doors. This year we did start daily minyan in the Chativah, the middle school, allowing students across those grades to pray together in one of our minyanim. Until this morning, however, we had not reinstated the special Beit Rabban tradition of whole-school musical tefillah. Today is the second day of our annual Whole School Project, when students in K-8 learn and bond in cross-grade groups while exploring a particular topic. In the past we have studied topics of all sorts: the postal system, architecture in Israel, the winter solstice etc. It being a Shmita year, the theme of the 5782 Whole School Project has been Shmita. Shmita is the biblical commandment to leave the land fallow every seven years of the agricultural cycle, and it is still practiced in Israel today. Last week students learned about Shmita in their individual classes in order to prepare for the Whole School Project (if you're interested in learning more, see Hazon's Shmita Project website), and this week we divided into cross-grade groups enjoying more hands-on learning and shared experiences such as building composting bins, planting microgreens with Grow Torah, and volunteering for a mobile food pantry. We also prayed together, all together. I left my office this morning and followed the magical chorus of multi-age communal prayer down to our first floor. When I entered the room, I found 5-65 year olds sitting on the floor and singing tefillot, accompanied by guitar and tambourine playing teachers. I felt that I was entering a holy place, a space transformed from a physical room into a dwelling of Godliness. Sitting down in the midst of a few students, putting our arms around each other, and raising our voices together in prayer, I thought of the famous quote from last week's parashah: וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם And build for me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell among you. Tomorrow we will read through all the detailed and technical instructions for building the mishkan in Parashat Vayakhel. It took a ton of work to build, there are so many details and so many roles. The work of building and sustaining a holy space is intensive and heavy even when the physical structure already exists, and every minute of that work is worth it when you can sit among your community in a sanctuary of Godliness. Wishing you all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat, Stephanie

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