Jewish Life


Middle School Bnai Mitzvah - Middle School Bnai Mitzvah While most of our students and families have their primary celebrations of Bar and Bat Mitzvah in their home synagogues, our middle school provides each student the opportunity to celebrate their Bar or Bat Mitzvah with the entire middle school. As the date for their celebration approaches, the student meets with the school rabbi, and two of them discuss themes about growing up, the student's evolving Jewish identity, and how the student's interests parallels some of the overarching themes in their Torah portion. A few days prior to the student's synagogue, the entire middle school gathers with the student's family for a special service, where the student is given the opportunity to read from the Torah and lead the community in prayer. The school rabbi speaks to student and offers blessings in front of the entire community, and the Head of School sends greetings and gives the student a gift from the Parents Association in celebration of this milestone. Following the service, we have a celebratory breakfast sponsored by the student's family.  Click here to read about SSLI students B'nai Mitzvah Projects.

8th Grade Shabbaton - Students in the eighth grade join together to celebrate Shabbat over the course of a weekend retreat. In addition to communal meals and tefillah (prayer), students engage in a variety of bonding and learning activities that further explore their connection to Judaism and to each other. Students from with the other area schools in the Schechter Network (Solomon Schechter Day School of Queens, East Midwood Hebrew Day School, and the Brandeis School) are invited to participate in the event as well.

8th Grade Candy Sukkah Sculpture Competition - Eighth grade students began their study of Gemara in the first Perek of Masechet Sukkah.  We studied 3 short discussions and learned how the editor harmonized different opinions to make it make sense.  In the Mishna, we learn that a sukkah taller than 20 amah (30 feet) is not kosher.  However, Rabbi Yehuda (135 CE) allows it.  In fact, there is a Braita (teaching from Rabbi Yehuda's time left out of the Mishna and recorded in the Gemara around 500 CE) in which Rabbi Yehuda tells a story of how Queen Heleni, an observant convert from Lod, had a 20 amah sukkah and the elders never criticized the validity of her sukkah.

In the 3rd generation of Amoraim (300 CE), Rabbah, Rabbi Zeira and Rava explain using proofs from TaNaKh why this very tall sukkah is not Kosher.  A sukkah is supposed to remind us of how God protected the Israelites in sukkot after leaving Egypt.  Therefore, a person has to know they are under a sukkah roof and feel that it is close to their heads, a sukkah roof must provide shade and a sukkah must be a temporary structure.  A sukkah that is the height of a 3-story building will provide shade from its walls and be too permanent.

The editors try to harmonize these 3 Amoraim with Rabbi Yehuda by recounting teachings of Rav (250 CE) that a tall sukkah could be kosher if:

a) its walls reach all the way to the sukkah room pointing your eye in the direction of the roof and therefore reminding you to know you are under a protective roof.

b) the sukkah is wider than 4 x 4 amot (6 x 6 feet) thereby providing more shade from the roof.

These limitations or Okimtas suggest that ONLY sukkot that do not meet these requirements would be Unkosher or Psulah.

After studying all of these texts and challenges to the concepts of KNOWLEDGE, SHADE and TEMPORARINESS, the students were charged with building sukkot out of food or household objects that illustrated these texts.  Some chose to build kosher sukkot while others sukkot that were too tall or did not meet the requirements.  Still others chose to build sukkot that challenged the requirements, such as a sukkah whose shade seemingly comes from mountains, but were in the end Kosher.

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