Last week, we welcomed our teachers back to school and, this week, we welcomed our students back to school. A fresh beginning, new teachers, new classmates, new ideas. The first day back is so exciting!
This year, there was even more excitement than usual as we began using our newly remodeled and transformed Cooper Yeshiva High School Beis Midrash. The sefarim waiting to be opened. The intricate stone-work. The magnificent wooden shelving and furniture. The bright lighting. The warmth conveyed by the new windows. The tile floor and welcoming arch – reminiscent of Yerushalayim. In a word, the beis midrash is stunning. It is the product of a vision to create a showcase for Torah and to project to our students and families the high value that our community places on Torah learning and davening. This project is even more special because it is the result of a cooperative effort between multiple donors and multiple volunteers – each contributing to this holy endeavor.
At the end of this week’s parasha, Parashat Re’eh, the Torah describes the mitzvah of aliyah l’regel – visiting the Temple in Yerushalayim – on the Jewish holidays. The Torah says, “(the one who is visiting the Temple) will not appear before Hashem empty-handed; each person according to his gift, according to the blessing that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.” This passage contains two phrases that seemingly express the same concept – “everyone according to what he can give” and “according to the blessing that Hashem, your G-d, gives you”.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch suggests that each of these phrases refers to a different aspect of how a person is measured. Rav Hirsch explains that a person is not measured by his wealth or fortune. Rather, one way that a person is measured is “according to his gift” – based on where he or she gives his or her gift. Specifically, does the person prioritize tzedakah and other holy endeavors. There is a second measure of an individual – “according to the blessing that Hashem, your G-d, gives you”. Giving to one’s capacity – this is another measure of an individual. According to Rav Hirsch, the Torah in this passage outlines the standard of Jewish giving – prioritizing support for Jewish values to one’s capacity.
On many levels and in many dimensions, this project exemplifies this ideal – of prioritizing support for Jewish values to one’s capacity. For the donors and volunteers who conceived of this project, the remodeling of the beis midrash was first and foremost to be a Kiddush Hashem – a glorification of Hashem’s name. Everyone who has seen the beis midrash understands that this standard has been achieved. Furthermore, these donors and volunteers stretched themselves to give to the maximum – expending money, time, energy, creativity and sleep – to realize the vision. No project of this magnitude just happens – it requires cooperative and sustained effort of individuals at the highest level. These acts of giving themselves are also a Kiddush Hashem.
We welcome you to visit the school to see our new gem!