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Ilan Ramon is a private Jewish day school in Agoura Hills, serving students in Early Childhood through Grade 5.

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Shana Tova 5779

Friday, September 7, 2018

Shana Tova IRDS Families,

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is not only our annual celebration of the birth of the world, it is also the holiday on which we renew our commitment to see and nurture the goodness in ourselves and in the rest of Creation. It is the sacred time our tradition gives us to acknowledge our achievements and regret our mistakes, to express gratitude for the good in our lives and extend our apologies to those we have hurt. Most importantly, it is the time to forgive ourselves for our own imperfections and accept our limitations.

I would like to invite you to take a few moments to immerse in a spiritual journey with me through a D’var Torah that caught my attention a few days ago. If you’re in the middle of driving your kids around, making dinner, helping your children with something, starting bath times or all of the above, I suggest you put the phone down and continue reading later on. Treat yourself to some spiritual “you time.”

The Shofar is such an essential symbol during the High Holy Days. It’s sound awakens us from the busy routine of life and calls us to begin a time period of deep introspection and self-improvement. The Shofar’s first Biblical reference comes from the story of עקדת יצחק”The Binding of Isaac” in Genesis 22. Abraham hears the call from G-d to take Isaac, and at the very last minute Abraham is stopped by an angel, and a ram is offered instead. In Genesis verse 13 it says that Abraham raised his eyes and saw, behold, a ram, caught in the bushes by its thorns

“וישא אברהם את עיניו וירא והנה איל אחר נאחז בסבך בקרניו”.

The story of the binding of Isaac is complex and troubling; with one possible reading being that the Torah seems to support is G-d was testing Abraham’s faith.

Pirkei Avot, a section of the Mishnah devoted to advice for ethical and reverent living, quotes a list of special, miraculous things that were created on the last day of Creation, i.e., things that can’t be explained in any normal or rational or scientific manner, except that somehow G-d created these things as exceptions to the rules of nature and history. (Pirkei Avot 5:6). On this list of specially created things was “the ram for Abraham, our father.”

But what if the miracle was not the actual ram? What if the miracle was in Abraham? The verse says Abraham “lifted up his eyes,” and saw something that he hadn’t noticed before – a ram caught in the briars and thickets. Perhaps he was so focused that he couldn’t see what was there, nearby, and in plain sight.

Abraham had to redirect not only his hand but also his perception away from the idea of what G-d had demanded. In this reading of the verse, and of the midrash on it, the miracle is that Abraham is able to undergo a change of spiritual understanding just in time to see the alternative, just at the moment he is most “caught by the horns”.

In this reading, the midrash from Pirkei Avot isn’t so much about the miracles we’re always hoping for, as it is about our own potential to redirect our thoughts, to grow an understanding and insight, finding miracles to be grateful for even under the direst of circumstances. When the Mishna suggests that the ram was always there, the thought is completed by that part of the verse that says that Abraham “lifted up his eyes”. The ram was always there in the sense that G-d gave Abraham the ability to see the ram, to perceive a different choice, which can be understood as the deeper and yet more everyday kind of miracle.(Taken from: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/seeing-the-ram/)

On this note, what can be the miracles we create for ourselves this coming year? What new alternative choices can we make? How are we planning on redirecting some of our thoughts in order to lift our eyes from our current mindset?

May this year be a meaningful and joyful one for you, your family and our community.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova,

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