It was a week of learning and fun tinged with sadness at Gross Schechter Day School. Among the highlights:

  • Early Childhood students continued learning about the Torah’s account of the creation of the world in exciting and creative ways. Morah Stephanie and Morah Talia even dressed as Adam and Eve for the Dagim class!
  • When studying the weekly Torah portion, third graders reenacted the scene at the well when Abraham’s servant met Rebekah — complete with costumes and props! See the weekly photo album for pictures.
  • Fifth graders neared completion of their solar system project.
  • Seventh and eighth graders traveled to Playhouse Square to see a performance of Anne Frank.

Our hearts were with our Head of School, Mr. Boroff, who lost his granddaughter, Allison Suhy to complications from an allergic reaction. We pray that our community can be a source of strength and support for Mr. Boroff and his extended family. Hamakom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar aveilei tzion virushalayim; May God, whose presence is everywhere, bring consolation to you and all other mourners.

Today, teachers spent the day immersed in professional development and responsibilities. They took part in conversations about the proper role of homework in student learning, and about how we can strengthen the level of respect and good behavior in our students. They advanced plans for the Read For Life project and our celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday. They grew as a team through collaboration and sharing. It was a great day of professional growth.

As a reminder, early Fridays begin next Friday, November 17th, dismissal will be at 2:30, and aftercare will end at 4:15 on the 17th.  Beachwood and Shaker are the only buses who will be transporting, Mayfield, Orange, South Euclid/Lyndhurst, and Solon buses will not be transporting.  Please have a plan in place to pick up your child next Friday.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan Berger
Associate Head of School for Judaic Studies and Programs

Parashat Hayei Sarah
Have you ever realized, after years of telling a story, that you had been seriously mistaken about a crucial detail? This happened to me with the story of how Abraham’s servant met Rebekah, which we read in this week’s parashah. I thought it was a tale of how God miraculously answered a prayer; in truth, it teaches us something different and much more powerful.

The basic story is familiar: Abraham’s servant went to find a wife for Isaac, and arrived at a well with a caravan of camels. He asked God to send an eligible young woman who would demonstrate her kindness by offering water to him and to his camels. In my memory, Rebekah showed up at the well as soon as he finished praying, and offered water exactly as he had requested. It was, I thought, an example of how we hope God responds to prayers. But I was mistaken.

What the Torah actually says is that Rebekah appeared while he was still praying. She didn’t come in response to his prayer — she was already on her way! But if the prayer didn’t cause God to perform a miracle, what was its purpose? The answer, which applies to our prayers as well, is that prayer shapes our priorities and opens our eyes to the good that surrounds us. The servant conditioned himself to seek a kind woman—and so he was alert to Rebekah when she appeared. Our siddur, with all of its ancient blessings, can remind us of what is worth praying for. Through tefillah, we train ourselves to see God’s blessings—many of which are right before our eyes all along.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Jonathan Berger
Associate Head of School for Judaic Studies and Programs

Questions for the Shabbat table:
  1. There are many ways to demonstrate kindness. Why do you think Abraham’s servant prayed specifically for someone who was kind to animals?
  2. What are some blessings and miracles in your life that are easy to miss? How can we open our eyes to them?

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