Our year is off to a great start here at ShalomLearning! We are so excited to launch another great year of learning, engaging discussion, and thoughtful questions in our classes and communities. Our numbers have grown significantly, and we welcome our new friends along with our old ones. We look forward to all the joys this year brings for our extended ShalomLearning family!
Our first value, Teshuvah: Taking responsibility for your actions is directly connected to the holidays in our Jewish calendar. With Rosh Hashanah having just past and Yom Kippur and Sukkot soon approaching, many of us are busy planning, cooking, and spending time with family. We, at ShalomLearning, are here to infuse your families and communities with learning opportunities to enhance your experience during these Jewish holidays. Our students are learning what it means to do Teshuva, to reflect on who they are, how they act, and what it means to make the effort and do our best in the year ahead.
The beginning of the school year can be hectic; throw in a few Jewish holidays, and it easily turns into a time of running from one activity to another, crazy schedules, too much food, not enough sleep and stress. However, the good news is that the Jewish holidays provide us with a welcome a time of reflection, calm, introspection, and family. But if you focus on only the chaos of our busy lives, it’s simple to forget the things that truly matter.
During this very busy month full of holidays, we hear the blasts of the shofar (throughout the last month of Elul, as well as on Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur) in synagogues around the world. These sounds serve as an alarm clock. They wake us out of our daily routines and stress, and they remind us to prepare for the upcoming holidays. We need to focus on ourselves, who we are, how we act, and how we want to be in this coming year of 5777.
Take this special and holy holiday time to reflect with your children and family. Here are some good questions to discuss at the breakfast or dinner table:
- What did you do well last year?
- How did you act towards others especially during times of stress?
- How do you imagine your year ahead?
- How can you engage Jewishly in your daily lives?
By becoming our best selves, we share a brighter Light of goodness with the world. Teshuva is both a personal and a communal process.
- How can your family engage with the Jewish community more in this coming year?
- How can your family make the world a better place?
- How can you live the value of teshuva, of constant reflection and repair, in this year ahead? (Oh yes! Teshuva is a process that lasts all year, not just for the high holidays. Think of your Teshuva now, as a time of heightened reflection, like a spiritual booster engine)
As we celebrate the holidays, let us all hope for a sweet year ahead. All of us at ShalomLearning are here for you, your families, and communities to ensure 5777 is a year full of sweetness, joy, and of course, meaningful Jewish learning.
From me and all of the staff at ShalomLearning, we wish you and your families shanah tovah u’metuka, a sweet and happy new year and G’mar Hatima Tova, May you be sealed for a good year.
Rabbi Danielle Eskow
Rabbi in Residence
This weekend we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot – the day where we celebrate receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is one of the three pilgrimage holidays when back in the time of the Temple Jewish people would schlep to Jerusalem and celebrate as a community. Today, Jewish people around the world celebrate Shavuot by studying Torah (often all night!) and visiting synagogues for local celebrations. Since our community here at ShalomLearning educates families from all over the world and from all different Jewish journeys, how can we as a community celebrate this very special holiday?
The essence of Shavuot is the appreciation of and commitment to a life of Jewish learning and studying Torah. All of us at ShalomLearning are committed to providing your students and families with a highly accessible Jewish learning experience. Shavuot is an opportunity for each of us to recommit to our journey of Jewish learning, and in doing so, strengthen our connection to our tradition, our families, and the greater Jewish community.
On Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah from God through Moses at Mount Sinai. When our ancestors were standing at the foot of the mountain they said “Naaseh v’nishmah” when asked if they would uphold the laws outlined in the Torah. The Hebrew means, “We will do and we will listen.” What does this mean? The Jewish people first committed to doing to action, before actually knowing what they were committing to. The people agreed to act in accordance with God’s Torah before understanding it. Jewish people connect to God, to each other, and to the tradition through action. This Shavuot, let us be inspired by the celebration of the Torah to commit ourselves to a life that pursues Jewish learning (with us here at ShalomLearning!) as well as a life of living Torah. Let us not only understand and study Torah, but also experience, live, and spread the values in the Torah.
Wishing you and your family a Chag Shavuot Sameach-a Happy Shavuot! And hey, if you want to commit to some more Jewish learning-let us know-we have your back! 🙂
It is time for one of our children’s favorite holidays: Purim! Why, you might ask? Similar to Chanukah, kids love a fun holiday that includes eating fun foods, dressing up, and more. Purim seems more similar to other “American” holidays, such as Halloween. While it is customary for us to dress up and celebrate that our people survived at the hand of evil Haman, Purim could not be any more different than Halloween. So do not worry, you do not have to hang up your Haman hat or Achashverosh crown, but let’s take a closer look at this holiday that we have all come to love so that when we do dress up and eat those delish hamenstaschen cookies, we infuse it with a deeper meaning!
Purim is a holiday that took place in a place called Shushan. Long story made short, the king was looking for a new queen and a young Jewish woman named Esther entered the competition (under the nudging of her uncle Moredchai) and by becoming queen actually ended up saving the Jewish people from the evil decree of Haman (the king’s right hand man). It is a true Jewish underdog story: the world was out to get us, we persevered and did not shy away from our Judaism and tradition, and as a result we survived! This is why we celebrate, dress up, and of course, eat a lot of hamentaschen cookies!
What is the deeper message of Purim that we can share with our children and families? The Purim story teaches us to be proud of who we are as Jewish people and not to shy away from our Jewish identities when the going gets tough. The story is infused with the values that we learn together with your students each week: betzelem Elohim and gevurah to name a few! Had Haman viewed each and every person as created betzelem Elohim perhaps the whole drama could have been avoided! Esther and Mordechai demonstrated great acts of gevurah-standing up against the king and his evil sidekick and in turn saved the Jewish people!
The takeaway message is this: We will face situations in our lives where our gevurah will be tested. What will we do in the face of adversity? How will our children act if they one day face anti-semitism? The characters of the Purim story teach us that each and every one of us can be a gibor a hero. Each of us has the power to stand up for ourselves and for others: our family, our friends, our community, our people. The true message of Purim is that each of us has the power to create incredible change in the world. While we may dress up this Purim and mask our faces in favor of another-we can also work to strengthen our true Jewish identities and in turn, ensure that a threat like the one in the Purim story-can never come to be again.
Wishing you and your families a Happy Purim!