June 19, 2024 |


Posted on March 4, 2018

Why did the rabbis determine that Jews should be responsible for the mitzvot at age 13?  Gesherstudents grappled with this question today and then learned that the rabbis believed that only at age 13 could one be held responsible for his/her yetzer ha-ra (inclination toward evil.)  Students also thought about which middot (values or character traits) were most important and as a group they identified ‘doing the right thing’ (derech eretz) and being a friend (hevruta).  Then they thought about three Jewish things (from the list below) that they could commit themselves to at this moment in their lives:
I believe in God
I support Israel
I will live an ethical life
I will study Torah
I will celebrate Shabbat and other Jewish holidays
I will have a Jewish home
I will help make the world better
I will say the Shema at bedtime
I will remember that I was created in God’s image
I will feel connected to all Jews
Numbers are great pneumonic devices and seem to be important in Judaism: in the Shema,we identify God as one, the 10 Commandments, and seven days of Creation.  Consider the number 4: there are four matriarchs, the Shabbat is the fourth commandment and there are several sets of four in the Haggadah. In Exodus 6: 6-7 God promises to “bring you (the Israelites) out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments; and I will takeyou to Me for a people, and I will be your God.”  These four verbs, ‘bring’, ‘deliver’, ‘redeem’ and ‘take’, are the basis of the four cups of wine at the seder and may be why we ask four questions, include four children and perhaps why this holiday has four names:
Hag haAviv (the spring holiday)
Hag haMatzot (the holiday of matzah)
Hag haPesach (Pesach).
HaZ’man Heruteinu (the time of our freedom)
In Pirkei Avot (4:1), Ben Zoma asks, Who is wise? Who is strong (or mighty)? Who is rich (or wealthy)? And who is worthy of honor?  Our students wondered about these profound questions.  According to Gesher students:
Who is wise?
One who learns from all people
Who is strong/mighty?
One who conquers his/her impulses
Who is wealthy?
One who is satisfied with his/her portion
Who is worthy of honor?
One who honors all human beings
One who is aware and capable. 
One who is mature, responsible, lived and learned, and who believes in doing the right thing. 
One who has book smarts and street smarts.
One who distinguishes wrong from right.  One who is knowledgeable.  One who knows what they’re doing.
One who is brave and will risk their life for others. 
One who is strong-minded. 
One who possesses physical strength.  A person of determination and tenacity. 
One who is mentally strong and has will power.  One who handles power judiciously.  A person of physical and spiritual strength.
A person who possesses lots of knowledge. 
A person with lots of money and knowledge. 
A responsible person. 
One who possesses family, friends and a good life.
One with proven strengths and weaknesses. 
A person who is wise, strong, wealthy and also humble. 
A humble person. Someone who is wise, strong and wealthy.
A deserving person who also gives back to society. One who is selfless, kind and care, wise and strong.  Someone who made a positive difference in the world.
In the weeks to come, we will continue to learn about various sets of four qualities or temperaments in Pirkei Avot, we’ll continue to learn about Passover including discussions about miracles and Elijah the Prophet and we look forward to welcoming guest speakers who will discuss Bar/Bat Mitzvah, USY and Jewish life on campus, and Jewish weddings/marriage.