Sunday, May 6, 2007

Middle School Back-to-School-Night Remarks

(These are the remarks I made for our Middle School's Back-to-School Night in September 2006.)

Today was primary election day in Massachusetts. While waiting to cast my ballot, it occurred to me that it is fitting that I’d get a chance to speak on behalf of the PTA tonight, as this is a day in the midst of a season of choices, legacy and leadership.

Last weeks’ parshiot, Nitzavim and Vayelech, and the one we read in two weeks, Haazinu, have in common the themes of choices, the responsibility we have to the educational legacy we leave our children, and the concerns with the continuation and transfer of leadership.

We are winding up the Torah (sorry for the pun!) with concerns of how to guide those not yet present in making the choices necessary to continue the Tradition. These themes are all of obvious concern as we stand today, at the end of Elul, on the threshold of yom hadin.

(l’havdil) These are similar to the concerns that lead us to the ballot box and thankfully, to Back to School Night as well. We want to make the best choices, we leadership, and want to make our children effective choosers and leaders.
The key to all of these is involvement.

When Moshe called the k’hal together, he called everyone – the leaders, the elders, the officers, every man, the small children, the ladies, the coverts, even those yet to be born to hear the reiteration of the exhortation to choose well. The Torah makes the point by listing specific professions to show that everyone’s involvement was necessary.

Unlike our secular election day, the turnout at the assembly was not weather-dependent or based on what polls predicted the outcome would be.

I don’t know what the results of the election will be, but I get inspiration from Hashem’s candidate of choice for the continuation of the leadership of bnei yisroel. We first meet Yehoshua when he goes off as one of the miraglim, the spies, to scope out eretz yisroel. He is one of the two that came back with a favorable, optimistic report. We also see him taking action with the plishitim.

I learn from this that being optimistic and involved are the keys to being an effective transmitter of our tradition.

We convey our commitment to our children’s education through our optimism and through our involvement. Curiously, it seems that the two are linked, in that the more involved one gets in the school, the more appreciation we feel for the wonderful opportunity that a Maimonides School education provides.

Our kids are watching us. They may know we write checks to the school (and of course, we must continue to write them), but they experience our involvement in a very tangible way, when they see us involved and participating in the activities of the school and the PTA. This is the example we have to set for them, if we want our values to endure. Our PTA has been working very hard to maximize the efficient use of all of our parent resources. Please know that the time, ideas, energy and funds you bring to the PTA will be gratefully used and not wasted. We need your boxtops, we need your leadership, we need your receipts, we need your time as chaperones, we need your ideas, we need YOU.

It may take a long time for all of those boxtops to add up to a visit from the Shofar Factory or a field trip or the End of Year Bash, but the results of your participation will be felt immediately by your children.

Our kids are watching us. They keenly observe when we give over our wallets, our calendars, our answering machines, our conversations and our hearts to matters concerning their educational experience. May our examples be ones that lead them to be the best choosers and the best leaders possible.

On behalf of the PTA, we wish you health, happiness, peace and prosperity in the coming year, for us and for all of k’lal yisroel.

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