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Seeing the good

Mazal tov on arriving at the last Friday, the last erev Shabbat of the 2016-17 school year!  It was a wonderful school year filled with so many amazing memories, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all at our end-of-year assembly on Wednesday morning.  As my message in today’s last blog of the school year, I want to share with you something that I learned recently from my father:

We are at the beginning of the month of Tammuz (Rosh Chodesh Tammuz begins tonight).  According to Jewish tradition, each Jewish month corresponds to one of the twelve tribes.  Tammuz is the month that corresponds to Reuven, the eldest son. Reuven comes from the Hebrew word “to see”.  When her first son was born Leah said “SEE that Hashem has given me a son.”

It is during this month that the spies (see (Bamidbar ch. 13-14) were looking at the Land of Israel, and we all know how that turned out.  Despite the promise of God’s protection and the blessings that would await us upon inhabiting the Land of Israel, the spies negative, anxiety-filled report back to Am Yisrael led to the following: corresponding to the 40 days that the spies scouted the Land, God decreed that Am Yisrael would wander in the wilderness for 40 years as a result of the spies gloom and doom report, what came to be known as chet hameraglim, the Sin of the Spies.

Tammuz then, is the month of fixing how we choose to see things.

Over the course of a school year, and in life, nestled around the good times, there are many challenging, hard moments, and tests that we each have to go through.  A school year is not supposed to go by with no setbacks or times when we fall, it’s not the purpose of education, or of life.  How we choose to see these moments is critical, and makes the difference between learning to be resilient and growing or responding with fear and anxiety.  Similar to the themes of Dr. Wendy Mogel’s books “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” or “The Blessing of a B minus”, we need to learn to take the perspective that the hard times have a purpose, and is part of what we all need to grow and develop.

That too, is the very essence of our Jewish history. Every year when I begin to teach, I share the following big idea teachable moment from Rocky Balboa, who in this clip is a tzadik and a navi (albeit with WAY too much Botox and too-conspicuous eyebrow lifts):

That speech gets me every time!

On a deeper level, how we choose to see ourselves, our friendships and our families, that’s also part of the fixing of seeing of this month.  Learning to recognize the good in ourselves and in colleagues and friends and family (especially in the hard times) is a profoundly important quality to have – the Jewish middah of this quality is referred to as hakarat hatov, the seeing or recognition of good.  I aspire to this every day.

Have a great summer everyone!  Shabbat shalom u’mevorach and we’ll see you all back here for the first day of school on Wednesday, September 6!


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