It’s hard to believe that we’ve finished our first year of the BMitzvah program at Makom Community! There’s plenty more learning to come next year, including our first few BMitzvah ceremonies, but for now we’re reflecting on the past year. In our last week, the cohort members wrote each other yearbook quotes that showed the depth of collaboration and respect that has grown this year. During our last tefilah together, we chose Bircot haShachar (morning blessings) that represented either their response to this year of BMitzvah, what they were feeling in that moment, or their hopes for next year. I wanted to share these beautiful blessings as a way to wrap up our time this year and look forward to the future!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לַשּכְוִי בִינָה לְהַבְחִין בֵּין יום וּבֵין לָיְלָה
“You have given me understanding, to see differences clearly, as between day and night.”
Leo has been joining us for distance learning from a house in the mountains, and chose this blessing because it connected to his day-to-day experience. He noticed that it rains during the day and is clear at night where he is, and described his joy in noticing the differences. This connected for me to Leo’s teaching of the difference between a leader and a boss. I know that his gift for l’havdil, finding distinctions between things, will continue to teach us all next year!
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הּ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם שֶׁעָשַׂנִי יִשְׂרָאֵל
“You have made me a Jew, with an enriching heritage.”
Zahdi chose this blessing, getting right to the heart of all that we learn at Makom: the rich heritage of Judaism! This reminded me of the beautiful painting Zahdi created for our God Project. Every time she picked up her pencil or paintbrush, she allowed her ideas about God to change and develop. Zahdi has shown this year that she is committed to the deep questioning that is essential to Jewish learning.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם פּוקֵחַ עִוְרִים
“You open the eyes of the blind, providing sight and insight.”
This was my blessing for the year. Each time a student led a text discussion, I was provided with a new perspective on the text. Every Rosh Pinah project provided new insights into Jewish heritage, history, and culture, while also giving me new understanding of the incredible humans who created them! The cohort will take on even more leadership roles next year, leading Torah services for Makom Community, advocating for social justice, and creating totally individual Rosh Pinah projects. I know that we will continue to learn a lot from them.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים
“You liberate the bound, releasing us from our shackles.”
Zoey and Ronia both chose this blessing! For Zoey, it was a chance to get excited about being free for the summer! I’m reminded how Zoey’s sense of play mixed with hard work was evident throughout the year, especially whenever we got to do some Torah role-playing. I hope all of the cohort get some time to feel free and play this summer, coming back refreshed in the fall. Ronia took this blessing into next year, hoping to be liberated from the shackles of learning perfectly. Ronia was confronted with this during our cooking Rosh Pinah project, where some cookie dough did not act the way she expected it to. By accepting help and breathing through the frustration, she made it through (and got some tasty cookies to boot!)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם. שֶׁעָשה לִּי כָּל צָרְכִּי
“You provide me with skills and tools, enabling me to meet all my needs.”
Remi’s reason for choosing this blessing was simple: Makom Community meets her needs. She talked to us about how traditional religious school didn’t work for her, but Makom Community helped her learn about Judaism in a way that worked for her. Throughout the year, I’ve seen Remi making sure that it’s not just her who gets what she needs, but the whole cohort and beyond. Her commitment to equity was especially on display while we learned about American Jewish history. I look forward to seeing how her advocacy grows in the next year.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הּ שֶׁטוֹבוֹתֶךָ רַבִּים מְאֹד
“I thankfully acknowledge you, Adonai, for all the many gifts you provide.”
Nathan chose this blessing because “all the time I’ve spent in BMitzvah has been a gift.” I was floored by this blessing. Nathan joined the cohort just over a month ago and his presence has been a gift to us: his thoughtfulness in discussions, his enthusiasm for Rosh Pinah projects, and his drive to master tefillot gave the cohort a new boost of energy!
I look forward to having more new energy next year as we add new members to the cohort, while our existing members continue to grow their learning, deepen their bonds of friendship, and gain mastery over different parts of Jewish life. Over the summer, we’ll have plenty of fond memories and blessings to reflect on while we wait to come back to class!