Our Beis Medrash is ready for us to pour our hearts out to Hashem and to accept His rule over us. Wherever you may daven this Rosh HaShana, we you a happy and healthy new year filled with nachas and success.
לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם
I made a special edition of my EJ’s Cafe Podcast, which is part of my personal blog EJsCafe.com, for this week’s “From The Desk Of” post. This is a Rosh HaShana message for all my students and their families. Shana Tova and I am looking forward to a continued amazing year with all of you!
Please watch Rabbi Stulberger’s Rosh Hashana message – “Connecting with Hashem.”
On Thursday, September 18th, Valley Torah Girls Division students dazzled us with their student-inspired Rosh Hashana exposition. The girls produced a wonderful event infused with meaning, creativity, inspiration, and fun! From the smallest detail of decorated shiny apples, the creative event favors, and all the meaningful commentaries about Rosh Hashana, the girls propelled us into the Rosh Hashana spirit. We heard about the Tefilos, Simanim, and Minhagim of Rosh Hashana and watched a skit about the deeper meaning of the Shofar.
The Roshei Yeshiva of RSA/Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim – Rabbi Dovid Harris and Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt – joined us for selichos and shacharis today. Valley Torah is an affiliate of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim and we were very honored to have the Roshei Yeshiva visit our community for this special weekend.
If Simon and Garfunkel were hanging around VTHS this week they may have changed their despondent 60’s anthem to the “sounds of learning” from….well if you don’t know what song I am talking about this reference was clearly a mistake. Unfortunately, Simon and Garfunkel were not with us and so the students only had the sweet jams that Rabbi Samuels and I (ok, really just Rabbi Samuels) were making from my office during breaks.
However, it was these sounds of learning that have started to resonate throughout the school.
This was the third week of school and things were moving and shaking. Students were getting into their groove, the add/drop period ended and it seemed like there was a certain electricity and excitement for this wonderful year. For me though, this seemed like the noisiest week. I don’t mean that the students were running through the halls yelling and I am not referring to the howling that was coming from the new VTHS improv troupe as they warmed up for class. I am talking about the noise you have to take a step back to truly notice because it is a purposeful noise. It is the noise of learning and something I have been paying attention to this week. Here were some examples.
The sound of VTHS
Each day we start our VTHS day with Tefilla. It is a sound to savor. It is silent when respectful quiet is warranted and filled with the boom of unified Amens, Shema and words of psalms when needed. I can’t think of a better way to start my day than Davening at VTHS.
My office wall
Ok. This is not really the sounds of learning, but I can assure you when I finally got this quote up on my wall I heard the sound of a choir of angels go “Hawwwwwwwwwww.” This was no easy task. It involved masking tape, razors and a hair dryer. If you are not sure why that quote is on my wall you can read my post from a previous week by clicking here. As I was putting it up, I overheard a couple of students talking about it. One asked the other, “what is that?” Then the other one said, “Come on! Dr. Jones has said that like ten times!” Glad someone is listening.
The sound of CIJE-Tech
I had walked into Mr. Joseph’s science lab to ask him a question which was at the end of our CIJE-Tech elective. While I intended to go straight to Mr. Joseph I was immediately struck by what I saw on the lab table. It was a cardboard robotic arm! If you know anything about me, you should know that when I see something made out of cardboard I go nuts! Mr. Zisblatt was kind enough to show me how it works and the video above is exactly that. I did take some liberties with the sound effects. However, while the sound effects were loud, the creativity here was deafening. It may seem like a simple cardboard construction, but if you look at it closely you can see some real detail to the design. Bravo!
The sound of history
I began doing classroom observations this week and my first one was of a history class taught by the wonderful Mr. Safi. I chose him because I wanted to know what all the hype was about as students seem to rave about him. Well, I was not disappointed. It was not that the classroom was silent by any means. In fact, there was a lot going on. The students happened to be working on preparing for an exam, but they were asking questions, helping each other out and Mr. Safi was managing multiple discussions and questions from different students with ease. There was a buzz in the class, which at first glance may have sounded disruptive. However, if you paid attention, as I did, the noise were discussions and work related to the class at the various levels the students were at. It was music to my ears.
The sounds of silence
I had walked into Mr. Hoffman’s AP English Language class to give him a message when I suddenly realized I walked into something special. There was no classroom buzz per se. In fact, it was pretty quiet except for one student speaking. However, the words that were coming out of his mouth were anything but quiet. They had feeling, depth and meaning. The class was engaged in a discussion about the scarlet letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The student was telling Mr. Hoffman what he felt Hester Prynne was conflicted about in the story and the critical thinking displayed by this student was like listening to a symphony. Then another student jumped in giving over his thoughts and there was an intellectual exchange in the room between Mr. Hoffman and the students that was palpable. The room was far from noisy and the students who were not speaking were quiet. Yet, the silence in the room was loud as was the learning.
I am looking forward for the school to get louder and louder with the noise of learning!
The first step in any relationship is communication. There is no one that will tell you that you can create, maintain or advance a relationship without communication. This is true for spouses, parents with their children and teachers and Rebbeim with their students. I would like to spend the next few weeks elaborating on these three different types of relationships and to highlight how vital communication is for each of them in the development of your children.
Communication between spouses is critical but what has that got to do with the development of our children? Well, the first place children look to for guidance is their parents. Significant theories of human development such as the socialization theory (Oetting & Donnermeyer, 1998), biopsychosocial theory (Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) and Vygotsky’s (1978) social development theory that base their entire premise on the idea that our children acquire their values and even religious beliefs by observing, learning from and being influenced by their parent’s behaviors, whether explicitly or implicitly.
This translates to us as parents, making sure we are on the same page as our spouse. It also means that we spend the time discussing with our spouse how to handle different situations that may arise. Being aware that what we say and what we do can have a long term impact on our children and it is not only a component of our children’s development but it is also part of our own personal development.
This is achieved through effective communication, which is more than just exchanging information; it’s also about understanding the emotion behind the information. Moshe Rabbeinu berated Yehosua for not being able to detect the sound that Bnei Yisroel was making while serving the golden calf. The Possuk says שומע אני ענות קול – I hear the sound of those who sing. Why did Yehosua need to discern the difference in sounds coming from the “camp”? My Rebbi explained that a leader needs to be able discern the difference in the voices of every individual – In order to lead, one needs to have the level of sensitivity that allows you to hear the emotion behind the voice. That is the hallmark of a true leader and if we want to be leaders in our lives, we need to acquire this trait.
Do you know what time your son is going to sleep? Yes, sure bedtime is 10:00 or 10:30 with lights out definitely by 11:00. But wait, is that when your son is actually going to sleep? With a smartphone that connects him to his friends, and to the world at large, how accurate is the bedtime we agree upon? A good idea is to have a charging station in the kitchen or a room away from the bedrooms and everyone including us leave our phones there to charge for the night maybe then we can be assured that our sons are charged for the next day at school..
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “Blinded by Our Agenda.”
The Valley Torah Girls Division chesed program is off to a great start! This past Sunday, September 14, the Valley Torah girls had their first opportunity to volunteer at a Los Angeles community-wide chesed event. Bracing for the heat, the girls ran booths, and walked, to raise money for The Friendship Circle. Thank you to all those who participated!
Valley Torah Boys Division student council for 2014-2015.
Last week I wrote about the trilogy consisting of school, parents and students and what each contribute towards the development of our children. We also spoke about the need for synergy between these three components. There is, another aspect that overarches above all three and that is Tefillah – Prayer.
Chazal have taught us that even if one is in the direst of straits and the outlook appears bleak- Prayer can always turn things around. If prayer can have an impact when things are at their worst, it can certainly have an impact when things are going well (a time that needs less divine intervention).
During a Haskafah class this past Sunday a student turned to the class and sincerely expressed that he isn’t motivated to Daven as B”H things are doing well in his life – sure there are things he would like but he doesn’t have any serious problems. Another student shared that he finds it difficult to Daven because “why am I only communicating with HKB”H when I need something”. I used this opportunity to share with the boys a fundamental concept one of my Rebbeim taught me when I was still single. He said the best time to Daven is when you don’t need what you are praying for. He explained, that what you are doing, is building up credit in your bank account with HKB”H. He then told me, Daven for the right spouse, the greatest kids and a good living to support them now! while you are young and single. Baruch Hashem he was correct and when the time was right my Tefillas were answered with a wonderful spouse, amazing children and the best job I could imagine.
So let us take this time of prayer, the month of Elul as the Possuk tells us. דרשו ד’ בהמצאו קראהו בהיותו קרוב to “Seek out Hashem when He is nearby, call out to Him when He is near” (YeShaya 55:6). Hashem is closer to us during the month of Elul than any other time of the year [It is no coincidence that the school year begins in the month of Elul] and Daven for ourselves and more importantly for our children. We want them to be successful in all their endeavors and develop into frum healthy members of Klal Yisroel. This is a special time to be Davening. We get an especially high return now on banking some of our Tefillos for a future withdrawal like Davening for a successful life for our children. We can always find something to Daven for and find meaning with. In fact, if we do find ourselves struggling to connect our Tefillas to something in our lives, think of others. There is no end to what and who we can Daven for.
At Valley Torah we took all of this and went one step further. We wanted to get our students more involved with Davening. As we saw from our students, teenagers have difficulty with Davening; so we wanted to help them find something meaningful to Daven for. We all want to be connected to Eretz Yisroel and we are all sometimes guilty of getting caught up in the daily routine of our lives and unless things are really serious we tend to neglect what is happening to our brethren in Eretz Yisroel.
So here at Valley Torah we initiated a program whereby each student was assigned a different soldier who was wounded in operation Protective Edge. B”H, the list is diminishing however there are still numerous soldiers that need our prayers. It is our hope, that not only will the boys find meaning in their davening but they will also merit in the Chazal that assures us – that he who Davens for his friend will be answered first. May we all be Zoceh to have the power of tefillah help us achieve “אני לדודי ודודי לי” I am to my Beloved [Hashem] and my beloved [Hashem] is to me (Shir Hashirim 6:3).
Learn your son’s schedule. Find out when he has breaks. Find out when breakfast and lunch are. If you want to reach him those will be the best time too. He doesn’t want to get a text or a call during class time. He definitely doesn’t want his phone to ring or vibrate while it is in the call phone box on the teachers desk.