The Kabbalat Siddur is the culmination of months of preparation. Hebrew proficiency is a skill that can only be obtained through significant effort. The children certainly have spent a great deal of time working on their command of reading and writing. While everyone is expected to sing together, each student was given the opportunity to distinguish themselves individually as well. The goal is to instill a sense of investment and pride in a text that has helped to carry the Jewish people through millennia of history. In addition to receiving an overview of the meaning and import of each prayer, students were each given a particular prayer to focus on using a variety of media. This included a video captured by Sheri Gross, where the children explained the meanings of the prayers and was put together beautifully by Danielle Shainker. Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Lash worked with the children to create beautiful art projects that sought to express the inner meaning of the tefilot. These prayers are not simply opportunities to demonstrate language fluency, but are rather the vehicles that generations of Jews have used to commune with G-d.
I am delighted that parents also took part in making the Kabbalat Siddur so special. Helping to design the covers and inscribing personal notes in the siddurim help elevate the significance of this event. Unlike many subjects, the siddur and personal prayer is an endeavor that permeates the culture of a Jewish home.
In addition to parents and family blessings, my own personal blessing is that the siddur remains on the tongue and in the hearts of each child. I hope they are able to maintain some of the irrepressible excitement and novelty of saying these prayers for the first time in front of family and friends.
The siddur is a mixture of Jewish texts culled from so many sources. There are passages from Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Gaonic wisdom, Medieval piyutim, and more. It is an inexhaustible resource and conveyor of tradition. I leave you with the wisdom of the Talmudic sage Ben Bag Bag whose words in Pirkei Avot resonate with us across the centuries, “…turn it and turn it again, for all is in it; see through it; grow old and worn in it; do not budge from it, for there is nothing that works better than it.” – Pirkei Avot 5:22