May 31, 2018
16 Sivan 5778
Dear AJA Community,
At this time of the school year, I can’t help think about the Circle of Life. (I know you’re singing right now...) If one life is gone, another life is created. Nature takes and gives - it ebbs and flows. We have our own circle at AJA. Our children enter these doors as babies and leave as men and women. Last night, graduates walked out our doors to continue on their incredible Jewish journey, and in August, new children will walk in our doors to begin theirs. Many of our students are already mid-journey. It’s up and down, backward and forward, side to side - like a lulav, of sorts.
From the simple and clean line of a circle, my mind shifts to another visual. One that resembles a line chart which resembles a jagged mountain range, like Nahal Meʿarot. It’s our stock market. Day to day, the lines change. If you look at the daily growth and decline, it surely will bring about one range of emotions; whereas if you take a more long term view, the lines are more fluid and less ragged.
It’s important for us all to remember this concept. Seeing the big picture, so to speak. If we look at the line chart to represent AJA, in just under 2 years we’ve assessed and refined so many areas of our educational program. We’ve closed out Phase 1 of our Capital Campaign (New Upper School), and are 80% away from closing out our Phase 2 (The AJA Athletic Complex). We have gone from a half-capacity ECD to a FULL (with new classes added!) program. Many of our Lower School grades are on a waitpool for next year. And to wrap up this year, last night we graduated a STELLAR Upper School class who will continue on their Jewish Journeys, many heading to gap year programs in Israel and then to exceptional colleges and universities.
Above and beyond those tangible achievements, I am incredibly proud of the mensches we are helping to mold at AJA. These are students with their focus on Jewish values, who exhibit middotand chesed, and, quite frankly, are just solid human beings. We are keeping our eye on that prize - to not only promote academic excellence, but to demand human excellence.
וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה ענו [עָנָ֣יו] מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃
Now Moshe was a very humble man, more so than any other man on Earth, Bamidbar 12:3
The Gemara in Nedarim teaches that Hashem will only rest his Shechinah (divine presence) on
a person who is humble, strong, wealthy, and wise. It is odd that Hashem will only rest his presence on someone who is strong and wealthy. Why would strength and wealth be required for an intimate connection with Hashem?
In fact, Rabbi Baruch Epstein, 19C commentator, says we have it wrong. It is wealth and strength that are the prerequisite for anava - humility. When one is not confident, poor or just feeling like life is beating us up - it's easy to be humble. It is when you have something to boast about and remain humble - that is when our greatness shines.
Our tradition points to many of Moshe’s fine qualities, but it is the Torah that praises him only for his humility. Which leads the Rambam to teach us that the trait of humility is equivalent to all of the others. Even though Moshe was fully aware of his greatness, which surpassed every other human being, he was the most humble of men.
Class of 2018. You have a lot to boast about. Last night at graduation, the full range of emotions were present. We laughed, we cried, we celebrated - we rolled with the ebbs and flows. Class of 2018 - I wish you a beautiful and meaningful continuation of your Jewish Journey. We are honored that you began the journey with us, at GHA/YA/AJA. I can’t wait to see what your line charts will look like, we know they will be brilliant. Mazel tov to you and your proud families!
Seeing what we’ve accomplished, our AJA line chart is looking good. It’s a work in progress (isn’t everything?!) and, at this point, we are a lot closer to what I envision this school ultimately being. Over the next few weeks, I’ll begin to highlight some exciting changes coming to AJA. Stay tuned...
Rabbi Ari Leubitz