Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The following Dvar Torah was written and delivered by Grant Miller (The Davis Academy Class of 2017). Currently a student at The Weber School, Grant's Dvar Torah demonstrates his ongoing engagement with Jewish teachings and personal theology. His concluding advice to "keep on reading" challenges us all to dig deeper into each and every experience that comes our way. 

In the  parasha from  last week, Va’etchanan, the Torah expresses three themes in Judaism: To find unity with God, to love God, and to know God through the study of the Torah. In my eyes, these themes are too limiting: how can we as human beings exist together in harmony if our focus is entirely on God? If our lives are centered only on showing love to God, how will we learn to  love one another, to find unity within a community or learn  with each other, or study texts, issues and ideas  we have a passion for?

    Fortunately, the themes referenced in this portion do not reflect the entirety of Jewish thought presented in the Torah - rather, it provides a snapshot of a 5000 year old tradition of literature and law.  As we will see during the upcoming high holidays, the charge to love and find unity with God is meant to model and inspire us to love and build relationships with one another.  Similarly, the commandment to study Torah is not only to expose us to those five books - rather, it is to also inspire us  to become lifetime readers and learners across broad subject areas, with the eventual goal of finding our individual areas of passion and our own individuality within those passions. 

As  this parasha represents only a small fraction of the entire Torah, it is important that we do not  define all of Torah  according to this message (to focus our life solely on God). It’s simply a small snapshot, just like our time here at Weber. There is only so much time we have on this campus together - it is our job to look past the flaws we may see and the hardships we may face at a particular moment. We must unify together, love one another, and study that which we love. It is important that we don’t get stuck on life’s negative and momentary snapshots but, instead, to keep on reading. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Faculty Dvar Torah-- Elul

The following Dvar Torah was written and delivered by Ilan Weismark earlier this week. "Moreh Ilan" teaches grades 3,5, and 8 at The Davis Academy. He shared this Dvar Torah during Middle School Tefilah. As he shared, he projected a series of iconic and personal images on the screen. His message, of focus and intentionality, is truly in the spirit of the month of Elul which begins soon. 

What makes a picture memorable? (PIC 1 Einstein Image) Is it the subject of the image? (PIC 2 Ali v Liston) Or the strength and character of the images subject that resonates with each of us personally?
(PIC 3 Black Power Salute) Could it be the historical moment the image captures, OR
(PIC 4 Man on the Moon) the pride we feel in our communal accomplishments?
(PIC 5 Abbey Road) Maybe pictures go viral or become famous because of the way they make us feel.
This coming Shabbat we observe Rosh Chodesh Elul, the month before the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Elul is the month when we have an opportunity to better ourselves, and return to the people we once were, and the people we are capable of being.
Today, when we take pictures, we first tap the screen or twist the lens to bring the subject into focus. Seeing the improved image through the screen gives us a feeling of satisfaction that we have perfected the image we want to capture. So, click. Then, we look at the screen and see the result.
If we are proud of that picture and want to keep it, we have to do something with it or else it becomes just another 3 megabytes on our camera roll that may delete itself when we run out of iCloud space.
What do I do with the pictures I want to remember or keep?
(PIC 6 Josef) Well, like most of you, I share it or post it for my dedicated and loyal followers,
(PIC 7 Amishai), I make it my phones background or lock screen, OR,
(PIC 8 Grandpa) I have even made a canvas so I can see the picture every day.
(PIC 9 Grandpa in classroom pic) If you come by my lower school classroom you’ll see my favorite picture of my grandpa and me at Minyan on Thanksgiving back in 2016.
If you want keep a picture you love, you might even print it to hang on your bedroom wall or in your school locker.
(Pic 10 Josh, Maya, and Me!) Or, you might volunteer to give a d’var torah for a B’nai Mitzvah service at Davis so you can show off one of your favorite snapshots.

It’s the same in Elul. Elul is an incredible time when we can be intentionally introspective and bring the actions of our lives into a deeper focus. If we are honest with ourselves, we can identify the deeds we want to improve and focus in on them. Then, before we post it for the world, this is our chance to assess and reflect on what we want to portray to the people around us and the kind of people we want to be. The English poet Alexander Pope said “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
If we take advantage of the opportunities provided for us during the high holidays, we can maximize our potential and live healthier and happier lives. Afterall, we are human, and it’s apparent that intentionally or unintentionally we will err or make mistakes, but, ?should? we be judged on how we acted – OR, how we respond? Most of our faults are forgivable if we respond by learning and changing for the better. While we should always be in the mindset to correct our mistakes and improve our behavior, it can be easier initially to ignore it and hope it goes away. Elul gives us an opportunity to confront ourselves naturally and holistically, enabling us to better ourselves and strengthen our relationships with others.

Elul is a time of self-reflection and personal admonishing, but not much different than tapping your camera screen to bring something into better focus. To reiterate, the important step is not when you focus the camera, it’s when you identify something special about what is in focus, and want to do something about it. If you love what you see in focus after snapping the picture, you will likely post it, print it, or make it your phones new background or screensaver. If you identify a behavior, a feeling, or an action you want to change, then this is the time to give it the focus it deserves and make the changes that will lead you to being a better you.
With the first day of Elul this coming Sunday, use this week to think about what you want to focus on this year. What habits or behaviors can you identify that need a little extra attention? If you begin the month of Elul with an intention to work on something, you are more likely to see it through than if you wait until the month begins to think about it. 
Focusing the lens of your camera can bring imperfections to your attention of which you were unaware, but also of which you have less control over. It is the focus on what’s inside of us that can lead to more substantial and lasting changes in our lives.

Friday, August 9, 2019

A Blessing for the 2019-2020 School Year

This blessing can be read the night before the first day of school, or the morning of...

A Back to School Blessing for 2019-2020
By Rabbi Micah

Tomorrow our family goes back to school.
While we are sad that summer break is coming to an end, we are excited for all that the new school year brings.
There will be new friends, new teachers, new subjects, new experiences, new adventures, new discoveries, and so much more.
Dear God, as the new school year starts, we pray for Your blessing for our family.
Help us to make the most of the gift of our children’s education.
Help us to greet each day with a smile, a positive attitude, and an eager mind, ready to learn and grow.
Help us to appreciate our classmates, friends, and teachers.
Help us to live our values every day.
When the alarm clock rings, remind us that we are blessed in more ways than we can count.
Remind us that we are blessed, and that it is our joy and honor to be a blessing to our Kehilah (community) and our world.