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Torah: Celebration & Repair

January 28th 2022

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

It has been a particularly intense Torah week at Beit Rabban.

Yesterday we held our annual Shtillim (second grade) Torah Reading Ceremony, one of the most critical rites of passage in the Beit Rabban experience. After months of studying biblical Hebrew and taamei ha'mikrah (trope to chant the Torah), and then plastering the walls of our school with signs declaring their love for Torah, Shtillim students read the story of Creation from a Torah scroll. Each student was also presented with their first Chumash, surrounded by their proud family members, cheering them on. Then we all enjoyed a gallery walk of the students' watercolor paintings interpreting each day of Creation.

In pre-pandemic times, our whole school would join together for the Torah Reading Ceremony and then enjoy a festive "kiddush" and Ktivat Stam (Torah calligraphy) session with a sofer/et. We have had to reimagine this experience due to COVID limitations, and the reimaging has added new layers of beauty. Instead of the whole school gathering together, each class prepared something special in honor of the Shtillim students: eight graders wrote divrei torah, seventh graders made each student their own "yad," sixth graders interviewed Shtillim students for a scrapbook of sorts, third graders wrote a recorded a Bereishit puppet show, preschoolers made wrapping paper for the Chumashim, and all the students came together to prepare a mazal tov video (see below). Instead of an in person kiddush, the students, their immediate and extended families, and friends joined together for a virtual celebration in the evening. We shared l'chaims over sparkling grape juice, learned about the process of writing a Torah from Soferet Julie Seltzer, and, of course, boogied. It has been a week of profound celebration of the Torah and its centrality in our lives.

At the same time, we are preparing to honor the Torah in a more somber way as well. Next Thursday, February 3, we are hosting a communal Yom Tikkun La'Torah, day of Torah study as a means of repair. Unfortunately, our middle school community experienced something you hope will never happen. Our Torah fell during minyan one morning. If you have ever seen this happen, you probably remember it well. It is a moment of collective gasp, almost panic. We have studied the laws and traditions connected to a Torah falling and have decided to devote a day of school to marking this experience and making a "tikkun," a repair of sorts as a community. We hope that this will offer our students and community a context to explore and reflect on the role of Torah (both the concept and the physical object) in Jewish life and culture as well as personally in our own lives. Our middle school students will study halachot (laws) related to the Torah; explore different types of Torahs; create artistic gifts for the Torah; and collect tzedakah. Some community members may choose to fast, as is also traditional. In the evening, we will be hosting a virtual family learning session with Rabbi Ethan Tucker. We hope you will join us.

This is all part of the Jewish experience: treating the Torah with the utmost of respect and love and, unfortunately, sometimes dropping it and figuring out how to pick up and lift it even higher. We hope that our children remember the feeling of both of these experiences, and that each of these experiences deepens their relationship with our people, our traditions, and our texts. What is most important is that we do this together, the celebration and the somber repair.

Wishing you a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,


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