May 25, 2024
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May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Shalom School was in the exciting next stages of development. After 12 years in the original building, the school was adding a new wing for the middle school. The centerpiece of the new building was a beautiful new beit midrash, which would also serve as a shul on Shabbat. A beautiful mural was planned along the eastern wall, meant to focus the tzibbur on the beautiful aron kodesh in the center. In addition to beautifying the beit midrash, the mural was to serve as an avenue for student expression. In other words, the committee in charge of designing the beit midrash hoped that a couple of.students would actually design and paint the mural. This was to be done with careful guidance from Morah Amira, the art teacher, and Dr. Shapiro, the head of the Tanach department. The two would help students design a mural that represented the Torah description of Matan Torah.

“I love that idea!” said Head of School Rabbi Shimon Green when first presented with the concept for the mural. “I know the exact students for the job! Have you seen the way Zehava Fried draws? Or what about Caleb Schiff? He showed me some of his paintings recently. Wow!” The committee members looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Did they really care if Rabbi Green picked two specific students? Not really. So one by one, they voiced their agreements. “Sure.” “Sounds good.” “Whoever you think is best.” “We can start with them. Why not?” Only two people didn’t seem satisfied—Dr. Shapiro and Morah Amira.

“Rabbi Green,” began Dr. Shapiro, “isn’t designing the mural kind of a privilege? Are these students we want to reward?” Morah Amira agreed. “I have both of these students, and neither is particularly good at working with others, or at accepting criticism. Both of those skills are important for being part of this project.” Rabbi Green thought for a few seconds and then responded. “You two are definitely right. We need to find students who deserve this privilege. But we also need to get started soon. Take three days to decide which students you want to work on this project, but if you can’t figure it out, we are going with Zehava and Caleb.”

Dr. Shapiro and Morah Amira were cool with that. “Sounds good. We should get back to you by Wednesday night at the latest.” However, despite their confidence, the two teachers had a very difficult time finding the right participants. One student was artistic and collaborated well but was absent too often to rely upon. The next student seemed to have it all, but was going to a Pesach program on Mount Everest and needed to take six weeks off to train for the climb. Another candidate recently broke her arm doing the viral “Break Your Arm” Challenge on TikTok (go figure!). And on it went.

So, Wednesday came and went, as did Thursday. Morah Amira and Dr. Shapiro were 10 hours away from their deadline (candle lighting time for Shabbat) and they had nothing. “Should we just give up?” Dr. Shapiro asked her colleague. “I’m starting to think that’s our only option,” replied Morah Amira. “Let’s give it one more shot, and if nothing comes to us, we will have to go with Zehava and Caleb.”

So, the two women sat down and started the list from the top. “Avraham Appleman?” “Not in school anymore.” “Bella Berkowitz?” “Bad temper.” “Charlotte Carmen?” “Really helpful and thoughtful, but not particularly artistic.” “Dovid Dreilich?” “Same. Really helpful and thoughtful, but not artistic.”

At that, Dr. Shaprio stopped. “Who said they need to be artistic? Can’t they help us with the concept and the connection to the pesukim? We can do the drawing and difficult painting!” Morah Amira raised one eyebrow. “You think Rabbi Green will go for it?” Dr. Shapiro shrugged. “Does it really matter at this point? We might as well try.” And with that, Dr. Shapiro picked her phone up and called Rabbi Green with nothing but a prayer. As the phone rang, something started to stir in Dr. Shapiro’s mind. “Amira, I’ll be right back. If Rabbi Green picks up, stall him.” Morah Amira opened her mouth to protest, but it was too late; Dr. Shapiro had disappeared into the current beit midrash.

“Hello? Hello?” came Rabbi Green’s voice. Morah Amira didn’t know what to say. “Ummmm… hello? This is Morah Amira. Spelled A-M-I-R-A.” Rabbi Zuckerman wasn’t amused. “I know how to spell your name!” “Yes, but I didn’t know if you thought there was an ‘h’ at the end. A lot of people do and I’m trying to make sure that everyone …” “OK, I get it. So, have you picked the students yet?”

Just then, Dr. Shapiro came running back into her office. She took the phone from Morah Amira and began to speak. “Yes. We have decided on two. But before I tell you whom, I need to provide an introduction. Why was Betzalel chosen to craft the Mishkan? What was special about him?” Rabbi Green was thankfully playing along. “In honor of Chur, his grandfather, who died trying to prevent the Golden Calf.” Dr. Shapiro smiled. “Yes, that is what the Gemara says, but the only thing we know about Chur from the pesukim was that he held Moshe’s hands up to help defeat Amalek. Maybe this was the act that earned Chur’s family this honor. Hashem is teaching us the importance of what seem like unsophisticated and inelegant actions. When done for the sake of Hashem, it’s the intention that matters above all. Therefore, we would like to choose Charlotte and Dovid, two students who are always helping out with the ‘unsophisticated’ needs. They can help us with the concepts, and we can draw the outline. Afterwards, Charlotte and Dovid can paint within the frame we give them.”

Rabbi Green was convinced and the mural turned out to be a huge success.


Yair Daar is the middle school dean of students at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected].

By Yair Daar

 

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