Middle School Virtual Classroom
I am sharing my text from today’s Eighth Grade Moving Up Ceremony. We wish our eighth graders mazel tov on finishing Middle School and moving up to High School!
Dearest Eighth Graders,
I am at home right now. Most likely, you, too, are at home right now.
And since I’ve been spending a lot of time at home lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be at home.
You don’t have to be in your own home to be “at home.” For example, you might be in our shared space--the Heschel School building. There your grade seems to be at home in the classrooms, at home in the lunchroom, at home in the nook, at home in the library, at home in the gym, at home on the stage, at home at the teapot in my office, at home in the art room, at home in the science lab, and especially at home working on the floor of our hallways.
But I don’t think that being at home is really about the space. You, eighth graders, seem to be especially “at home” together. You know each other’s idiosyncrasies, you appreciate each other’s talents, you accept yourselves and each other for who you are.
In this week’s parsha, the Israelites are not “at home” in any sense. They are wandering in the desert having fled slavery in Egypt. The parsha begins with Moshe sending twelve spies to tour the land of Israel. When the spies return, only two of them offer a positive report. The Israelites beg Moshe to take them back to Egypt, and God tells the Israelites that now they will need to wander the desert for forty years.
As devastated as *you* were that you couldn’t go to Israel this spring, I can only imagine how the Israelites felt, and the sense of despair and anxiety they must have had knowing their trip would be delayed forty years! This story from the Tanach offers only cold comfort because the cancellation of *your* Israel trip was truly heartbreaking; I know you would have felt very at home in Israel. But your response was heartwarming. Your incredible eighth grade advisors, faculty, and dean worked non-stop to develop impressive substitute programs--a color war, a cooking day, electives, a virtual campout. But it is a tribute to YOU, and your relationships with each other, that these programs were successful, brought you together as a community, and enabled you to continue to feel “at home” together while each being in your own homes.
At the end of the parsha, God tells the Israelites to tie a tzitzit on the four corners of their garments in order to remember the commandments. We can find these same tzitziyot on the corners of a tallit, which we wrap around our bodies during tefillah. Why does the mitzvah of tzitzit appear in this week’s parsha, after the Israelites are told they will wander for forty years? I wonder if the tzitzit gives the Israelites a feeling of something constant and permanent that they can hold onto during a time of deep stress and an uncertain future. Perhaps when wearing the tzitzit, the Israelites can maintain a feeling of comfort and a feeling of being at home and grounded, wherever they are in their desert wanderings.
Perhaps, eighth graders, the reason you feel so “at home” together is because your grade is like a big, enveloping tallit. You are always there for each other, embracing each other, nurturing and protecting each other, accepting each other for who you are, making each other feel at home.
I know we are here to celebrate you and your accomplishments, but let’s pause for a moment to consider the many people who do not always feel at home in our society, even when they are inside their own homes. As we all know, the past few weeks our country has grappled with racism and its terrible, brutal realities. In addition, this month is Pride Month when we celebrate and actively show love for people of all identities and orientations, people who are sometimes the targets of hate. There are many people in our broader community who do not always feel “at home” in our society. So, the ease with which *you* feel “at home” is wonderful, and not something to be taken for granted. As you go forward, think deeply about how to welcome others into the places and groups where you feel “at home.”
My bracha for you today is that you continue to be a strong community, that together you weave the fabric of a tallit...that this tallit reminds you of who you are, that this tallit reminds you of your responsibilities to each other, and that this tallit reminds you of your responsibilities to include the world at large under your protective canopy. Because at home is a place, but “at home” is mostly a state of mind.
We know that Heschel is one place where you feel “at home” and we hope to see you back at home very, very soon
We love you and will miss having you at home in our Middle School classrooms, offices, and hallways.
Mazel tov on reaching this milestone!
Schedule Week of June 15
יש בי אהבה
Because of recent events in New York and around the world, the Middle School Hebrew classes of Evyatar listened to the song Yesh bi ahava - I have love within me, a song about how love always creates hope in the world, and made signs about those events to accompany the lyrics.
Middle School Schedule
Grade 6 Yom Zoombabas
Grade 6 began their Yom Zoombabas with a Morning Madness breakfast and a game for Wacky Wednesday. The activities were a continuation of "Yom Sababa" (Awesome Day), a program designed to bring the class together and integrate a large cohort of new students into the grade.
Grade 7 Reads "Chicken Soup with Rice" to Kindergarten Buddies
Grade 7 Humanities
This week, you only have Humanities on either Monday or Tuesday. Everyone will have social studies. We will spend the time fine tuning your work for the conference. You will need to meet with each other outside of class time to finish prepping and to practice. Also, remember that the final drafts of your papers are due next Wednesday. You should continue to make use of office hours all week.
Additionally, some of you will be recording with Anna or Cency this week for Midsummer. Please look out for emails and, if your scene is recording, be there promptly at the appointed time.
Monday and Tuesday schedule:
Tal A: Will
Tal B: Will
Mat A: Josh, then over to Will
Mat B: Josh
Mat C: Josh