It’s a joyful ceremony, masquerading as a chaotic frenzy. Parents “bookending” the seats of their school age kids in the pews. Klezmer musicians warning up with their musical scales. Ritual committee volunteers work the sanctuary to corral twenty-eight different congregants who will parade with four sacred scrolls.
Welcome to Consecration as presented by Simchas Torah.
And although this festival has come and gone for 5784 (and not without disregard for the events that have unfolded in Israel), there is a crucial underpinning to the holiday’s activities: a welcoming ceremony for the 40+ elementary school students, embarking on their Jewish study.
Awaiting their turn in the service, these children are moving around in their seats like lottery ping-pong balls in the hopper. Ironically, they may not be the winners of the billion dollar prize, but in many ways they will be much richer.
It is my family’s belief that learning, both secular and religious, is to be revered.
That’s why my daughter who entered Hebrew school in second grade now teaches that age group in the same classrooms. That’s why my son went to Sunday school from kindergarten through high school but extended his religious reach with hands-on activity at the local and regional level of youth group. No nursery school or camp for these two, only homegrown study and community within our temple.
My deja’vu is palpable; there’s nostalgia in the air.
The newest scholars make their way to the white chuppah (canopy) held up by beaming PTA moms. A hush descends as the congregation focuses on the blessings being bestowed on these precious souls. “Learning is sweet” and “this is just the beginning of study” acts as today’s first lesson and the children drink it all in: the rabbi’s words; the cantor’s intonations.
And the traditional meets the everyday at the final shehecheyanu prayer (a Jewish prayer that expresses gratitude for a new or special occasion). The promised photo op for parents. Certificates and Hershey bars for kids.
But wait, that’s not all.
Before pouncing on candy apples at the oneg (refreshments at a Shabbat service), there is one more thing to do. Show reverence for the Torah. On this special night, our children act as travelers as the clergy takes them on a tour of the passages in an unfurled Torah. For many it is the first read, the ultimate read as Jews.
On this night, I am a student, parent and teacher. I witness these moments both big and small for what might be the umpteenth time. They never get old. And though I reluctantly confess to being caught crying tears of happiness at graduations, on this night the tears are just behind my eyes as I recognize this instant of unlimited possibilities.
Hadassah stands for Jewish values and traditions. Hadassah also stands up for women’s empowerment and leadership, and therefore strongly supports the role of Jewish woman as keepers of the flame of Jewish values, traditions and beliefs. I am proud to be a life member of a national organization with such a noble purpose.
Lauren B. Lev is a member of the Hadassah Educators Council.