Monday, June 22, 2009


Today was my last prayer service with the children of the Hebrew day school where I have taught for the past five years.
I have grown quite attached to these kids; a mixture of innocence and uncanny understanding fascinates me and draws me to their company. Over the past years I have tried to teach not only the skills of prayer-more fluent reading, understanding the choreography of prayer, and the many hows of praying-but also the soul of prayer, to somehow create an environment in which each student will feel something special, something of gratefulness and blessing about their lives, in spite of their youth and inexperience. I am persistently dogged by the awareness that these experiences may or may not become an integral part of their lives. So, with the relief that comes at the end of a school year is the question of how much was accomplished, how much will endure and not dissolve into oblivion.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have had a congregation of children who at times were annoyingly silly and noisy, and at other times the source of remarkable insight and perception. I have admonished them for their misbehavior and have congratulated them on their successes in conducting and reciting the prayers with clarity and enthusiasm.
I have giggled with them at moments that were somewhat awkward, laughed aloud when something truly funny popped out of their mouths and experienced a primitive sadness when something went wrong in their lives or the life of the school community.
I am most grateful for the gift of being allowed to love them.
I will miss them but hope to visit and in this way rejuvenate my gratefulness for simply being with them.

Friday, June 19, 2009


My mind is on the weather; I haven't seen the sun for almost a week. The sky has been shrouded in an enclosure of gray, and besides the wetness in the air, I have been feeling the loss of spacious possibility. The sky has encroached on my imagination, shrinking its grasp and range.
Today, the sun played hide and seek, appearing for a moment and then retreating behind
threatening dark clouds, echoing an invitation to continue seeking and not give up hope of rediscovering its outstretched warmth and light. I was blessed with a momentary reminder of life's paradoxical contrasts. As the sun shone, and as streaks of blue strained through the ominous blackness,its brevity filled me with a penetrating pleasure reserved for moments of transient treasures. How precious the sun, how precious each moment of warmth and light.
So I am grateful for the weather. It is obvious that without weather we cannot exist.
The blue and the gray are the colors of human survival. Be grateful for both.
Moreover, imagine the world without weather-what would we talk about with strangers in elevators or grocery stores? How would the media fill its advertising slots? And these fellows selling umbrellas on the street, how would they feed their families?
Thank You for the weather, for the cold rain that refreshes and the warm sun that replenishes our souls with the miracle of light, and for endless vistas of blue that
hold out out visions of infinity.
Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I teach a summer class in a school of social work; invariably, I forget to bring chalk with me to the classroom and find my self hoping to discover the treasured item when I arrive. I am usually disappointed and then scurry about in a desperate search for the white stuff-or yellow stuff- I am not particular, darting from one classroom to the next on the hunt for the precious prize.
This morning I was chalk-less. I tried the next door classroom and lo and behold one tiny piece of yellow chalk –an inch long-was perched on the chalkboard ledge . Several students were seated awaiting the arrival of their professor.I snatched up the chalk and grateful for my good fortune was about to rush back to my classroom when a young lady called out, smiling: “What is our teacher going to use? Why don’t you break the chalk in half and leave a piece behind?”
I was caught short and realized that my feeling of gratitude was an incomplete experience. For gratefulness to fulfill its course it was necessary to be translated into an act of sharing.I broke off a piece, thanked the young woman for her suggestion and left the classroom.
Not only can we discover a reason for being grateful in everyday, little things, but we can perform simple acts of giving as we respond to the ordinary, little things of life, as well.
Opportunities abound as the blessings of grateful giving.

Monday, June 1, 2009


The school year is winding down. Students are putting finishing touches on projects in progress, including the Gratefulness Journals that the children in my classes were filling with their expressions of gratitude. We collected all the individual sheets and put them into a decorative binder for the students to glance at while at home and share with their families. It was my hope that this exercise would heighten their sense of gratefulness beyond the school environment.
The range of things for which these kids expressed their gratitude was typically one that reflected the needs and desires of children. Perhaps the most popular item was the video game, with money and sports coming closely behind. Yet, family and friends emerged as immediate reasons for gratefulness too. Beyond the object of gratefulness, I tried to cultivate in these young hearts the very notion of gratefulness as a way of seeing the world. It was not the object but the emotional process of thankful awareness that was important.
As I returned the journals, one boy, barely 8 years old, walked over to me and as he handed his journal for me to enjoy said: "Rabbi, thank you for teaching me Torah."
I was overwhelmed by both his sweetness and his sincerity. What a gift! I could think of no greater reward for a teacher than these words of gratitude for teaching the subject I love most.