July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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RYNJ Puts the “Me” in Shmita

A Shmita (Biblical Sabbatical) year generally falls out but once in an elementary school student’s tenure. The Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey is currently using this special opportunity to have the shnat hashmita resonate with its students in ways that will reverberate beyond this year alone.

In addition to studying the halachot of shmita, there is a focus on the values and lessons that the mitzvah of shmita represents: kedushat z’man (sanctifying time), emunah (belief) in God the Creator, the centrality of the Land of Israel, vatranut (compromise and altruism), chesed, bitachon (trust) in God the Supervisor, and commitment to shemirat hamitzvot. These values are not limited to this year alone, but this year provides a unique opportunity to reinforce these ideas in the hearts and minds of children, and to synthesize these values and lessons with the regular yearly calendar and Jewish Studies curriculum.

The presentation of the shmita value for the month of Cheshvan, “the centrality of the Land of Israel,” began with an age appropriate survey of the halachot of shmita, reflecting that our hearts and minds are with Israel, though we are physically not there. The EdTech team introduced a Shmita Webquest, an interactive halacha-in-practice scavenger hunt, to give students the opportunity to personalize different situations that could arise when, for example, one is menu planning in Israel.

RYNJ was proud to present “Avichai Shomer Shmita.” Avichai Koch, originally a hi-tech businessman, currently an organic farmer in the Negev, spoke very movingly about his choice to become a farmer, life near the Gaza border, and his complete compliance with the laws of Shmita. With an effective slideshow about his farm in Moshav Tekuma, and his inspiring words, Avichai demonstrated that he truly is taking “advantage of this year to come for Shlichut to the U.S. in order to strengthen the connection between the Jewish community here and in Israel.” With his unbelievable emunah pshuta, simple faith in the biblical promises of sustenance during these years, Avichai inspired students and staff alike.

The Bnai Akiva Israel Special Programs team also helped personalize the Shmita experience with a series of round-robin sessions. The Bnai Akiva team presented a variety of hands-on challenges, such as: “What do I do with the peels and leftovers?” (Kedushat shevi’it in the kitchen contest), “The Price is Right” (Heter Mechira edition), and Groceries and Greenhouses. “I liked that we had to draw our fields to sell them, it was funny,” remembers 3rd grader Zev Wiener. The cheers for the meticulous competitive grape juice squeezers reflected the excitement and involvement of the student audience.

To kick off the values and themes aspect of Shmita, RYNJ has introduced an American Communities Helping Israel project using a klee in classrooms to spotlight Israeli souvenirs and topics (recognizing Israel’s relevance in our day-to-day lives) and to encourage the purchase of Israeli products (thus supporting her economy). This is another modest, but meaningful way to demonstrate how central Israel is in students’ daily lives.

The theme of Kislev, vatranut, complements the collection of toys for the annual Bergen County Chanuka Toy Drive, and Chanuka card making with Standing Together in support of Israeli chayalim.

RYNJ looks forward to weaving more exciting opportunities and valuable co-curricular programing into this academic year, empowering each student to appreciate the “me” in the mitzvah of shmita and encouraging its messages and meaning to resonate for a lifetime.

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