We are a people that moves, never settling in one place. The word teshuva means return, indicating a sedentary lifestyle is not preferred within Judaism. This week, I had attended the Sinai Akiba Academy Moving Up ceremony. The 5th graders were moving up to middle school. Yes, they will be in the same building come September with the same group of friends and even the same teachers, but these were not the same children I taught on Zoom for the last 15 months. And these were not the same children I sang Bib-Bam and Shalom Aleichem with sitting on a pre-school carpet six years ago.
Yet, at the same time, they were exactly the same children.
They were not moving on…they were moving up.
When Moses gives directions to the spies in the land, he tells them to scout the Negev region first. Rashi explains that area has small hills with little scenery. The message is–start small. They would see a land they could manage and inhabit, and only then would they be able to accept the greater landscape of grand mountains and cities full of giants.
On this same verse, the Chassidic Rebbe of Zhytomyr taught, “Start small. Gradually develop an appreciation for the good stuff.”
These 5th graders started small. It took years to get to the point in which they stood before their parents this week, explaining the blessings of elementary school and their hopes and dreams of middle school. At that moment, I could only think of the words we recite at a baby naming or brit milah ceremony, zeh hakaton gadol yi-h-ye. This little child should grow large in stature.
Every day is a time to move up…for each of us.