Graduation 2015 !

Thoughts @ SHA Graduation 2015

First, let us drink in this moment. So much has been invested in bringing us to this day – learning, hours of planning, teaching, meetings, days and days of car pools! Homework! Conferences! Tests! Fundraising! Studying. Devotion and dedication.

Thank you friends and thank you parents – our collective efforts have been heroic. Everyone in this room has sacrificed to provide our graduates with a Jewish Day School education.

Years before the giving of the Torah and even years after – other nations depicted their gods in human forms, statues, idols; Zeus was sculpted into shape of a man, as was Apollo, Ares. The Egyptian goddess of war was depicted as a woman, as was Athena – Aphrodite, and so on.

In contrast the Torah describes the creation of human beings…

וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ:

And God created adam in His own image, in the image of God He created him;

Now here is a novel twist – in place of humans fashioning gods in their image –Torah teaches that God Almighty created humans in the image of God.

What does this idea mean to us? What is to be the impact of this noble notion, that we are created in the very image of God?

To me this means, much is expected of us. In fact the imperative of וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו

“And you shall go in His ways…” imitatio Dei , to be like God  suggests that just as God

is merciful, so must we be merciful; just as He bestows kindness, so must we bestow

kindness. This is not easy. We are commanded to embody the characteristics of

God and to see ourselves as creators, thinkers, and innovators.

Many people run away from this lofty ideal,  as fast as they can – the flail they flounder – they will do anything but succeed – it is too scary – failure is way more comfortable.  It is success that we fear.

One thinker puts it this way…

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

Your playing small does not serve the world.

The Alter of Slabodka, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, lived over a hundred years ago. His motto was summed up simply as Gadlus HaAdam

“The Greatness of a Human”.

Human beings are so remarkable, so astounding – created in the very image of God – how could anyone ever, ever come to do something inappropriate? – That was his holy approach – Gadlus HaAdam

The Alter of Slabodka urged his students to polish their character traits so that they would aspire to become gedolim – “great ones” — in all areas of both scholarship, and personal ethics.

SHA aspires to the same ideal – we want our students to be Gedolim – young people who will grow to be leaders, innovators and peacemakers – GREATS!

Class of 2015 – we’ve been together since back in K and even EC – you have grown into fine young Jewish adults. SHA is very proud of you.

Students, we expect a lot from you. Go forth and conquer.