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Never Fear, the Leviathan is Here!

October 1st, 2021 | 25th of Tishrei, 5782 | Bereshit בְּרֵאשִׁית

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

You just never know what is going to happen after the High Holidays are over,and we start reading the Torah from the beginning with Parashat Bereishit. In fact, today at Shabbat B’Yachad, our weekly assembly now online, we were treated to a couple special Genesis themed surprises. In lieu of our regular single Torah reader, we had 6 third grader students beautifully chant through six days of creation. Just moments later as we were reflecting on the creation of the mysterious “taninim ha’gedolim” on the fifth day (great sea monsters that Rashi describes as the leviathan), these Torah reading students were joined by a highly unexpected guest. A great big blue sea monster came dancing into their classroom, speaking in narwhal-like whispers generally inaudible to the human ear. Once we decoded the message of this fluffy beast, we discovered that it claimed to be the “Beit Rabban Livyatan,” a Leviathan that is our school’s inaugural mascot! Merriment and revelry ensued. Stickers were distributed, t-shirts can be pre-ordered.

There is nothing better than hanging around a Jewish Day School over the course of the weeks when we read from Bereishit, the Book of Genesis. These stories are accessible to all ages, read anew each year with more sophisticated skills and different lenses, like the original spiraling curriculum. Our Kindergarten teachers will inevitably dress up as Avram and Sarai and take their students on a wild goose chase in search of the Land of Canaan. Our second graders will try to translate the phrase that describes God as “merachefet" pre-creation, only to discover that people have been trying to translate that very word for thousands of years. Our older students will compare the two creation stories and wonder what there is to learn in the differences, and whether they have theological implications. Through all these years of learning and re-learning the stories of Bereishit, our students become adept at reading text closely and critically, at using secondary sources to help make meaning of the primary text, and at considering the great moral questions raised by the text. They do this in conversation with the text and with each other through our millennia old tradition of chevrutah (partner) learning, developing strong collaborative dispositions and relationship skills. This learning comes with giggles and shared memories that build community.

This is all transferable. The close reading skills, the critical thinking skills, the collaborative dispositions, the conversational training- these all have lifelong value for our students and the various communities to which they belong. So, while we may have had fewer days of school in the month of September this year, we can all rest assured that the upcoming parshiot will provide enough deep learning to fill multiple Septembers. And, we always have the Beit Rabban Livyatan to cheer us on as we dive back into routine, brush off our chumashim and re-enter consistent classroom learning. Hopefully, it will also provide some extra luck on the soccer field!

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,

Stephanie Ives, Head of School & The Beit Rabban Livyatan, Mascot

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