Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Tree of a Good Name

If you find yourself with a little bit of free time on a Thursday morning you should really come and check out a typical Thursday Tefilah service at The Davis Academy Middle School. There, you'll find a community of teachers and students coming together to celebrate Jewish life by honoring those students that will become B'nai Mitzvah during the upcoming weekend.

During the Tefilah service there are many touching and poignant moments. We hear the Torah read aloud. We invite younger siblings to help dress the Torah. Often there are alumni, who we invite to give an "Alumni Update," and there is always a heartfelt and inspiring D'var Torah shared by one of our faculty members.

While each of these moments is special, there is one additional moment that stands out in my mind. At the beginning of the service, each student honoree presents their Keter Shem Tov project. Keter Shem Tov means, "The Crown of a Good Name." It's an old Jewish idea that basically points out the importance of being a mensch as we journey on the path of life.

Under the careful and thoughtful vision of their 6th grade Jewish Studies teacher, Ilan Weismark, students create a leaf that is decorated with a Jewish teaching that relates to their name. Perhaps it contains a verse of Torah that has their name in it. Perhaps it's a particularly meaningful teaching from the week's Torah portion or the week they were born. Perhaps it's something that they studied in class that spoke into their lives in a profound way. This is the Keter Shem Tov project.

Each leaf is accompanied by a short description of what the leaf symbolizes. And it is this short speech that stands out and deserves special recognition. Invariably, words of mature, thoughtful, spiritual wisdom are shared by each and every student. It is impossible to deny that we are in the midst of great Kedusha (Holiness) when students present their Keter Shem Tov.

The richness of the Keter Shem Tov project led The Davis Academy to work hand in hand with our incredibly talented PE Coach, Sean Coffey, to design a tree that we could use to display these leaves during the months following their presentation. Below is a picture of the tree as well as a few samples of some of the leaves that will shortly adorn it.

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