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Increasing Happiness

Dear friends and families,

The well known phrase and song “Mishenichnas Adar, Marbim B’Simcha”, which translates as: When the month of Adar arrives we should increase our joy, is often taken at its literal meaning that we should act and be happier during the month of Adar (which begins this Saturday night with the close of Shabbat). This year, of course, is a leap year, and we have two months of Adar – Adar Aleph and Adar Bet, the month we are currently in. On a simple level, increasing ones happiness in this month generally revolves around Purim and celebrating all of its aspects. But let’s look a little deeper, because really, where’s the fun in keeping it simple?

As parents, when are we truly happy? I think most of us would agree that we are truly happy when we see our children fulfilling their potential, being mentsches, and helping others – making a difference.  I know, I know, it wouldn’t hurt if they were to become a doctor, but bear with me here.  We took part in something truly special and joyous this week, and so many of our children had an opportunity to learn how much they indeed have to offer this world and make a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Gods name.  As part of Random Acts of Chesed (RAC) Week, our grade 6 and 7 students joined with their counterparts from Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy, and under the vision and organization of our Shoshi Burton and Az-Zahraa’s Jesse Claudio, did something extraordinary that pushed back the darkness in this world, and replaced it with the happiness, light and warmth of  chesed, the act of loving-kindness.

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Along with parent volunteers, management from Save-On-Foods, Richmond RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department, we delivered over 1,000 lunches along with toiletries and blankets, all generously donated, to residents of the Downtown East Side, the poorest neighborhood in Canada.

A lot of times, we worry about our kids, and we hide the harsh face of the world from them – we sanitize things.  For example, when we talk about tzedakah to kids, we often do it in philosophical terms, and can get caught up in discussions abut tithing, charity starts at home, Maimonides and his levels of charity, teach a man to fish, etc.  When you enter the downtown east side, nothing prepares you for the visceral experience of poverty, of homelessness, of addictions and mental illness.  None of it is hidden, and the people wear their life experiences on their sleeves.

IMG_2369I cannot begin to tell you how amazing our students were, some who, like Avraham Avinu running out to meet the three travelling angels, would run out to people on the street to offer them  a lunch bag, a cupcake or a smile.  If our students were nervous, it melted away with the first kind word.  They were so excited to do a mitzvah, they spoke to people, they listened to their stories, they saw people behind stereotypes.  You can`t teach this type of educational experience, you have to live it.

I want to leave you with some words from some of our parents who were witness to this great program.

From one parent:

We are here… because of what our school did today. While we hear about all of the problems in the world, our children are learning to reach across religious lines, find common ground, and support our community’s most vulnerable members. If we ever need a reminder of why we need to reinvest ourselves in this school, let this be it. We are building something so much bigger than any of us and with a reach so much further than any of our families’ alone. We are part of making this a better world…”

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And from another:

For me it was an amazing feeling.  It is something that I have never done before, something that I have always wanted to do, and something I never felt confident to do.  As a parent, watching my child shine with pride as he gave to the residents of the east side – I couldn’t be prouder to be his mom and a RJDS parent.”

I couldn’t be happier.  Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha, When the month of Adar arrives we should increase our joy.  RJDS, Kol hakavod!

Shabbat Shalom u`mevorach.

Mar Abba

 

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