On 12/16/16 The Davis Academy 2nd graders and their families participated in our annual Kabbalat HaSiddur ceremony. In keeping with past years, today's celebration was incredibly moving. Tears of joy, words of blessing, songs of praise, and so much more filled the morning. Kabbalat HaSiddur is a L'dor V'dor moment-- a time when the generations meet, when past, present, and future all become one. It is a time for opening hearts and connecting souls. This year's ceremony featured a special video made by Morah Rivkah, the children's Jewish Studies teacher, as well as a very thoughtful and poignant D'var Torah from Charlie Janko, a member of this year's 8th grade class and representative of our student government.
Every year I discover a new aspect of what makes Kabbalat HaSiddur so powerful in the lives of our families and our school community. This year I am struck by the fact that Kabbalat HaSiddur represents a true partnership between Davis parents and The Davis Academy, between home and school. Together, home and school have elevated the presentation of the child's first siddur from a simple transaction to a magical life cycle event. Without ever having to discuss it explicitly, the most influential adults in our childrens' lives have decided that the presentation of the prayer book will be one of the most sacred and cherished of the Jewish experiences at Davis. This communal accord, this commitment to shared values between home and school, infuses Kabbalat HaSiddur with authenticity and sanctity. The siddur becomes a symbol of the shared hopes, dreams, visions, values, and blessings that we want for our children. Presented by each family in the broader context of the school community it represents the unique character not only of each child and family, but of The Davis Academy as a whole.
The educational importance of milestone moments and life cycle moments like Kabbalat HaSiddur cannot be overstated. The level of anticipation coupled with the experience itself make a profound impact on every child. When you read Charlie's words below you can see how Kabbalat HaSiddur at The Davis Academy continues to nurture a child's religious, spiritual, and character development for years to come. And this is truly a cause for celebration.
Here's Charlie's D'var Torah (and Morah Rivkah's video is at the end):
First off, I would like to say mazal tov to the second grade class and to all of their families. You guys are doing an amazing job. I am here to share some thoughts in my role as an 8th grade student government representative of MSLTI, our Middle School Leadership Training Institute. At the beginning, let me start by saying that after going to Davis for nine years, I have many memories. Receiving my siddur, in this very ceremony, is one of my favorite of these memories. Before I tell you about my siddur, I want to share a little bit about this week’s Torah portion, called Vayishlach. This week’s parsha tells the story of Jacob and Esau. It specifically tells the part of the story where the two brothers are reunited after not seeing each other for 30 years. 30 years? That is a long time. And it turns out that both Jacob and Esau changed a lot during those 30 years.
It is hard to believe that I have had my own siddur for almost 7 years. When I got my siddur it represented who I was as a 2nd grader. Amazingly, when I look at my siddur cover today, with its sports theme, I see that unlike Jacob and Esau, I have not changed one bit. I am still a die hard Alabama Fan, Roll Tide, and though the Braves record is not on the winning side, I still root for my hometown team. It is certainly easier to be an Alabama fan than it is to be a Braves fan. To me, my siddur cover symbolizes family, tradition, personality, and the idea of living a life full of Ruach. And while I just said that I have not changed much, on another level, I have. I have grown, I have had many new and different experiences. I have thought about things differently. And, at least sometimes, I am more mature. Which brings me to the idea of what’s inside my siddur.
Even though my siddur cover may represents my personality, the inside represents my Jewish identity. Most teachers have to influence students to open their siddurim during t'filah, but for me it is just second nature. Having my own siddur is something to cherish and I hope these students will feel the same way. Not everyone has a chance to become so close to their religion, and I for one do not take this opportunity for granted.
Many only children hope to have a sibling to play with. Jacob and Esau took their chance for granted and left each other for thirty years. If I were to not see my brother or sister for thirty years, I think I would die of boredom. I was even getting bored when they went on they four day Charleston trip. My lesson here today is to not take anything for granted. It is a privilege to go to Davis, hang out with family, participate in activities outside of school, get your own siddur and many other things too. So sometime today, say thank you to your parents, grandparents, coaches or teachers, because whatever they are doing, they are doing it for you. Thank You