June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Being the new kid in school is not easy. But sometimes, it can be even harder to be the kid who befriends the new kid in school. Let’s see how:

Alex had just moved into town with his family and little sister, Maya. His parents owned a chain of kosher pizza stores on the West Coast, and decided to open a new branch in Seattle, Washington. So the Bennetts picked up and moved the 750 miles from Sacramento to Seattle. With the grand opening of the latest Pacific Pizza store only weeks away, the start of the school year looked like it would be challenging for Alex. He was starting seventh grade at the Seattle Hebrew Torah Academy for Respectful Kids, and with his parents busy with the pizza store, Alex was concerned. How would he fit in at SHTARK? Could he deal with all the work seventh grade required while getting used to a completely new school? Would he fit in with the other kids?

Fortunately for Alex, he met Ami Borgen on the first day of school. Ami had lived in Seattle his entire life, and seemed like a popular kid who was also really friendly. Ami took Alex under his wing, introducing Alex to other students, filling him in about all the teachers, and serving as Alex’s study partner and chavruta whenever necessary. In Alex’s mind, Ami was his hero—the one who saved him from drowning at SHTARK.

A few weeks into the school year, Pacific Pizza was off and running, and Alex’s parents had more time to spend with him and Maya. There would be time for trips, movie nights and homework help. However, Alex didn’t seem to be particularly interested in spending time at home. Avoiding his family may have been normal for other 12 year-olds, but Alex had always been particularly close with his family. Alex’s father was concerned, but his mother wasn’t so worried. She was happy that Alex had new friends, and based on his teachers’ reports, he was doing well in school. She felt that it was best to give Alex his space. After all, he was growing up.

Five blocks away, Ami’s mother was feeling less relaxed. This new kid Alex had been at their house almost every day for the past three weeks. It was nice that Ami had a new friend—he seemed to actually like Alex. It was also nice to see that Ami reached out to a new student, this made her proud. However, Ami’s mother was afraid that Alex wasn’t giving Ami enough (or any) of his own space. When she asked Ami about it, he had a strange response. In a zombie-like voice Ami responded to his mother, “Don’t worry Mom, Alex will be ready for the spelling test.”

To make the Alex-takeover more clear, Ami’s mother received three separate phone calls that evening. Two were from parents of Ami’s friends. Their sons were concerned that Ami wasn’t interested in being their friends. “Not at all,” reassured Ami’s mother, “he’s just been very busy.”

The second mother wasn’t convinced. “You mean busy with Alex?” Ami’s mother sighed. “It does seem that way. But don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

The final call came from Ami’s math teacher. He was concerned about Ami’s last test.

Apparently,he had done beautifully on three-quarters of the test. However, Ami struggled with the more difficult material. This wasn’t usually like Ami. “I gave the class time to study, but Ami used much of that time to help Alex instead of doing his own studying. Can you speak with Ami and make sure he isn’t sacrificing his own success for Alex?”

In the end, Ami was made to see that he was giving Alex too much attention. The next time Alex asked him for help, Ami said, “Sure, but just 30 minutes, okay?” and Alex was cool with that. The next time Alex invited himself over, Ami said, “Not tonight, Alex,” and Alex was cool with that, too. Eventually, Alex gave Ami back his personal space, which led them to becoming not just better friends, but best friends.

The Torah’s description of building the Mishkan and the Torah’s description of Creation have many similarities. For instance, there are seven speeches used to instruct Moshe about building the Mishkan, and both Creation and the Mishkan have reports of the work ending and of Hashem approving of the work. One connection between these two is the importance of making space in a relationship. In creating the world, Hashem made space for us. Our responsibility then became to make space for Hashem. This was the purpose of the Mishkan.


Yair Daar is the director of Student Life at Bicultural Hebrew Academy High School. He can be reached at [email protected]

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