Reflections from Rabbi Moshe

As I reflect on recent events, I am reminded of a seemingly obscure story from this week’s Torah portion of Shoftim that describes what to do when a corpse is found in the countryside and the identity of the slayer is unknown. The Torah commands the elders and judges to measure the distance to the surrounding towns, perform a ritual and declare, “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done.” By forcing the elders of the town to take specific actions, the Torah is teaching us that someone, some person or persons has to be responsible. The Israelites, particularly their leaders, are not allowed to just “do nothing.” They cannot say there was fault “on all sides” and absolve themselves of the matter. Quite the opposite. They have to name the sin that occurred and attempt to determine responsibility; if they are unable to do so, they must perform a ritual to demonstrate that they did all that they could to bring justice to this situation.

As Jews, we cannot wait for law enforcement, a welfare department or any other agency or institution to solve problems in our community. We may not have literally killed with our own hands, but the Torah is teaching us that if we do not seek justice for a victim in our midst, then it is AS IF our hands had spilled the blood and we have to atone for our sin.

As Krieger Schechter Day School embarks on its “Double Chai” (36th) anniversary, there are many examples of how our school embodies the message of engagement; to prevent such things from happening again and to make a difference in our world. Here are a few: 

  • 7th grade English, Social Studies and Judaics classes focus on a shared theme. Through students’ study of texts and literature in all of these classes, they explore what it means to be an “upstander” and on the principle from this Torah portion – “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof” – “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Students learn about individuals who transformed American, Jewish and World history and society through a variety of means in different eras, they learn what our tradition teaches about our responsibilities as Jews, and they work on building the personal tools and skills to act with justice in our world today. How fitting as they reach the age of mitzvot and become responsible for their own choices and actions as adults in the Jewish community. 

  • Daily Bo N’daber classes in Lower School and Middle School delve into ten different Jewish values and character traits that teach us ways to grow in our personal character values and in the ways we can act with derekh eretz towards others in our community. The structure of this K-8 program ensures that the values taught are reviewed, reinforced and brought into action throughout the students’ studies at KSDS.

  • Students partner with other community organizations to make a difference in the lives of others. Reading Buddies with John Eager Howard Elementary School (6th grade), Better Together with the Meyerberg Center (7th grade) and a new partnership for 5th graders with students from the Goldsmith Early Childhood Education Center, are just three active opportunities for our students to learn and practice making meaningful difference in the lives of others.

My teacher, Dr. Ray Levi, head of the Day School Leadership Training Institute at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a former Head of School summed it up best in stating. “What we model will be the strongest counter-balance to the negative images we are seeing on our screens and in our cities.”

This morning we sounded the shofar to begin the new month of Elul

Tekiya –may we all experience a wonderful and enriching academic year.

Shevarim –may this be a year where each of us is inspired to act in meaningful and significant ways to help shape and repair the brokenness in our world and this community.

Truah –may this year be filled with celebration and joy for our beloved school’s 36th anniversary.

Tekiya Gedola -Our work with children in school is more critical than ever. May we heed the call and reaffirm our commitment to pointing them toward a better future. 

Shanah Tovah – a happy, healthy and sweet 36th anniversary year at Krieger Schechter and upcoming calendar year 5778.