Plenty of Parties…

With the end of the school year upon us we have been spending a lot of time at the requisite end-of-the-year programs for the kids. On Sunday, it was Yehuda’s Mesibat Siddur (when the kids receive their first Siddur/prayer book) and last night was Matan’s end of the year Siyum (literally ‘completion’, the Jewish ceremony marking the completion of any unit of Torah study). In the case of the 2nd grade of the Orot Etzion school, they had recently completed Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus) and have moved on to Sefer Bamidbar (Numbers).

Yehuda’s program was typical…the kids sang some songs and performed choreographed dances, the teacher spoke, the parent’s presented the teachers with the end of the year gifts and the program came to a close with Yehuda’s Rav giving a short Dvar Torah and calling each kid up individually to receive their Siddur followed by cakes, fruits and other refreshments.

Matan’s Siyum took place in the Old City of Jerusalem. The kids had to be at school by 4:30 and then we all departed by bus from Efrat to Jerusalem. The program opened with the boys classes performing various songs and plays (the girls had a separate program running parallel to the boys’ program) culminating in all 100 boys chanting the last 5 verses from Sefer Vayikra followed immediately by reading the first 5 verses from Sefer Bamidbar. All of the boys and their fathers then went up to the roof of Yeshivat HaKotel to daven Mincha (afternoon prayers) overlooking the Old City and Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). The school had arranged that each class would then go on a short tour of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (each class had its own tour guide). All the tours ended in the Kotel/Western Wall Plaza where the fun really began….

The boys in Matan’s class spontaneously began to sing on the way down the steps to the Kotel and then broke into spirited song and dance when they got through the security check. Their spirit and joy quickly spread to the parents who joined in the dancing and singing with the boys. Matan’s class was soon joined by boys and fathers from the other classes with tourists, Birthright groups and native Israelis congregating around to see what all the excitement was about. Soon this small group of boys and their fathers was surrounded by a large group of curious passers-by who marvelled at the boys while snapping pictures to show their friends and family in America of the ‘little Israeli kids dancing at the Kotel‘. The boys continued singing and dancing, oblivious to the people surrounding them, for a solid fifteen minutes before singing their way down to the Kotel where they joined together to daven Ma’ariv (evening prayers) before finally heading off for home at 9:45…much past the typical bed time for 2nd grade kids, but they were still riding high on their celebratory adrenalin.

The boys were truly a site to behold. Their joy and spirit filled the Kotel plaza with a true sense of life and celebration, pulling perfect strangers into their little orbit.
We thought to ourselves that we would likely be back in this same spot, with many of the same kids present, in 10-12 years when they are sworn into the IDF as defenders of Israel and the Jewish people. Our hearts were filled with pride and our eyes were filled with tears of joy as we watched our boys begin to take the next small step in their development.

Am Yisrael Chai (May the People of Israel Live)!!!

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