This week’s Torah portion begins with a very important verse: “G‑d said to Moses: Say to the priests, Aaron’s sons, and you shall say to them: ‘Let no priest become ritually impure through contact with a dead person…’” (Leviticus 21:1) While I don’t want to get bogged down with the issue of ritual purity mentioned in this verse, I do want to draw your attention to what appears to be a very bad editing job. Why does the verse repeat itself? “Say to the priests” is immediately followed by “you shall say to them”. Certainly this could have been written better! Unless, of course, this poorly written verse is trying to teach us something deeper. This is exactly what many wise Torah scholars argue: the first “say” is a command given by G-d to Moses, teaching him what to teach the priests; the second “say” is, according to scholars, a command given by G-d to parents – telling them what to teach their children. Putting aside what exactly the parents are commanded to teach to their children, this verse is crucial because it is, according to many, the first time in the Torah that G-d instructs parents to educate their children. We all know the emphasis Judaism places upon teaching our children – and, according to many Torah scholars – it all began here.
One of our most important goals at Ramat Shalom is to help you teach your children about Judaism. Without a knowledgeable, dedicated next generation, Judaism will have no tomorrow. We are determined to make the words “l’dor va’dor/from generation to generation” a reality.
As our children get busier, as our lives grow more complex, Jewish educators find themselves facing more and more challenges. Providing high quality, engaging Jewish education in a world where people barely have time to breathe, is no easy task. Exciting our students and keeping them connected in a day and age where Instagram, Facebook, Instant Messaging and so much more are all just a click away, requires a great deal of creative thinking. We must ensure that Jewish education evolves with the times. This does not mean that we water it down and make it simpler. On the contrary! With today’s technology and our children’s willingness to embrace this technology, we have the ability to offer our children richer educational opportunities that are cutting edge and more accessible than ever.
As you know, beginning next school year, we are adjusting our Torah School schedule. Our Sunday program will be expanded to three hours for our K-6th grades. 7th grade will meet on Wednesday evenings. For our 3rd-7th grade students, we will be offering an optional Hebrew enrichment program on Wednesday afternoons at no additional cost. Family days and special programs will be spread out throughout the year to encourage hands on learning and discussions. In addition to all of this, I am excited to announce that Ramat Shalom is partnering with FYI Online (http://www.fyionlinelearning.com/), a leader in online learning, to create a unique, interactive online classroom for our older Torah School children. The program, which I have been working on for months and will be ready by the end of the summer, will be an incredible new tool for our teachers, parents and students. It will not be “busy work” or a high-tech computer game. It will be an educational experience that will connect our students with their teachers and with important lessons in ways that will enrich their Jewish learning. Through technology, the Torah School classroom will be accessible to busy parents who want to join their children in the learning experience. Plus, the online experience ensures that a busy schedule is not an obstacle. Torah School is there when you want it to be. Keep in mind, our online program will not be a substitute for community and classroom learning. It will be an amazing supplement to our Sunday and Wednesday programs and I can’t wait to introduce it to you towards the end of the summer. One more important thing, thanks to the generosity of one of our families, our online program will be free to all of our Torah School families. I am so proud that Ramat Shalom is doing so much to ensure that the next generation of Jews will be strong!