Honorable Mensch-ion

Alma Matters

Do you recall the words to your high school alma mater? While I cannot recite all of the lyrics of mine, I do remember the concluding verse, “As we go on through the years, friendships hold whether far or near, as we sing, “Manner makyth man.”

Manlius Pebble Hill School in Syracuse, NY was formerly a military academy that evolved into a college preparatory school in the later part of the 20th century. I think of these words each year as we prepare for graduation season. Our schools are a place to create friendship, a laboratory where we learn manners to take out into the world.

While we each take pride in our individual alma maters, we must ask, “What is the Jewish alma mater?” Do we have a theme song? We must only look to this week’s parsha, for while we may not have a song, we do have a blessing, birkat kohanim, the priestly blessing that our parents gift to us each Shabbat and our community blesses us with at each lifecycle event.

This three fold blessing is recited publicly each and every day in the Amidah, and its location within the siddur is significant. The blessing occurs in between the hodaah, prayer for thanksgiving, and birkat shalom, prayer for peace. Rashi explains that the blessing is connected to the setting up of the Tabernacle, the sacred sanctuary that accompanies the Jewish people along their journey. How appropriate to read these words from the Torah as our children graduate and transition to the next stages of their lives, in the sanctuary where they have been give the tools of Jewish learning and living.

This morning, the Sinai Temple clergy held a large tallitot over the heads of our Douglas Family ECC pre-school graduates as the Cantor chanted these ancient words. May they be protected along their journey of Jewish education in the years ahead. Last month, our Sinai Temple Religious School students were gifted this blessing as they completed their years of study. We look forward to their continued journeys into our Sinai Temple Teen Center, as they gain important leadership skills in what it means to be Jewish outside of our synagogue walls. This week, our 5th graders will move up to middle school, and we will recite these words again. May God bless their journey with graciousness. And at last, our 8th graders will hold a diploma in their hand as they head to high schools around greater Los Angeles.

They will receive gifts from family and friends, but the intangible priceless present that will be bestowed upon them is this priestly blessing. May God bless their families with simcha, joy, and shalom of peace.

The Rabbis place the blessing between these prayers of thanksgiving and peace to indicate its extension in different directions; both of gratitude and ultimately of peace.

We are so fortunate that our alma mater was not written yesterday, but its ancient wisdom is renewed each year with another group of graduates taking another step towards leading the next generation of our people.

Mazal tov graduates of 2023!

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