Tomorrow is Grade 6 Day, an Akiva tradition where the Grade 6 students become the teachers and administrators of the school for one day. Like so many Akiva traditions, Grade 6 Day speaks directly to the mission of the Akiva school, encouraging student independence and empowering our children to become the leaders of tomorrow. Our grade 6 teachers instruct our students how to prepare lesson plans and how to organize and manage a classroom. (Of course, our professional teachers are still in the classrooms to supervise and lend a hand.) Students learn about the hard work and preparation that are behind every great class session, and learn important values about hard work and preparation.
This year—for the first time, I believe—we have a Grade 6 Acting Head of School, Mr. Eli Levin. As part of his duties as Head of School, Eli has prepared this week’s Head of School message. Since I will not be writing the message this week, I would like to wish the entire Akiva community a restful and refreshing vacation. I look forward to seeing everyone back in January.
Akiva Weekly Message, December 20, 2018
In this week’s parasha of Vayechi, the Torah teaches us that Jacob is old and will soon pass away. He summons his sons in order to give each one of them a special blessing.
Based on the words of Jacob and the teachings of our rabbis in the Midrash, I will identify similarities between the blessings Jacob’s sons received and the students at Akiva School.
Ruben, who was the oldest child, did not receive double portion of his father’s belongings because he sinned. Instead he was blessed with the mandrake flower, which represents having many children.
Yehudah was blessed with the symbol of the lion because he showed true leadership skills like the mighty lion that fears nothing and no one. Yehudah would be the first to fight against the Canaanites, and King David would come from his tribe.
I think that Grade 6 has many things in common with Yehudah and Ruben in the sense that they are the oldest students and should be recognized as such; they are leaders and examples for the rest of the school like Yehudah was for his brothers. Like the lion, they are not afraid of challenges and tackle them head on but they also always remember to be responsible and represent the school the way Ruben represented the family as the oldest son.
Zevulun was blessed with the seashore portion of the land of Israel. The tribe of Zevulun made an agreement with Yissachar. The men of Zevulun would travel to do business, while the members of Yissachar would study Torah all day . The merchants would split their earnings with the Torah students, and in return, God would give a part of the reward of the Torah learners to Zevulun.
Yissachar was given the blessing of being Torah scholars. Many would become part of the Sanhedrin and would not have to work the land, but instead study Torah.
I would like to believe that Grade 5 has many similarities with Zevulun and Yissachar in the sense that they are capable of balancing learning Torah with building their sense of community and leadership. They take the time to learn like Yissachar but make sure to share their knowledge and merit with the rest of the grades.
Dan was given the blessing of protecting the brothers in times of war. He was compared to a snake that patiently waits and then suddenly comes out and attacks the enemies. They also got the merit to have the mighty Shimshon as one of their descendants.
Gad was blessed with having mighty and strong heroes in its tribe. They would fight and protect the other tribes and then retreat into their tents.
Our grade 4 students can be compared to Dan and Gad because even though they are not the oldest of the school, they still want to take on the responsibility of protecting and cherishing their Jewish education as well as the culture and knowledge they have acquired, the same way Dan and Gad protected their brothers.