Sometimes we get a window into the thinking of a child. One Shabbat afternoon this past summer, my youngest son shared the following insight into his own life. When he turned 7, he explained, he unlocked the ability to light Hannukah candles without help. No one held his hand. He then proceeded to tell me the future privileges he would unlock; at 10 playing outside alone. And at 16 he would unlock the ability…not to drive…but to take soda without having to ask permission.
Our Rabbis of Blessed memory had their own version of ‘unlocking’ key milestones. Ethics of Our Fathers (5:25) states ‘Five years old is the age to begin studying scripture; ten for Mishna, thirteen for the obligation of the commandments; fifteen for the study of Talmud...’
For those who have studied it, Talmud requires a higher level of thinking, the ability to follow complex subject matter and the need to study a new language. But it is the age - 15, right in the high school years, when for thousands of years, students have started to be challenged at a higher level. What I believe the rabbis are saying is that there is a time where one’s potential can be unlocked and it is our sacred duty to help our students to do it. This time is now. As individuals and as a school we are at the point where we must unlock our potential and rise to meet the current challenges. Having brought together the best of two worlds, our students have unlocked the ability to take courses that hadn’t been offered to them before, such as our engineering track to all students of grade 9 and 10, and not have to limit availability. Students now have the opportunity to take Jewish studies and language courses that meet a wider range of interests and abilities. There are also more opportunities to be involved in extra-curricular activities. More sports teams, more clubs, and more fun. All of which make it easier for us to achieve our mission of being a school of excellence, an example for the greater Jewish community, and we are more equipped to prepare our students to live lives of high moral character, intellectual curiosity, Jewish commitment and civic duty.