Messages from Rabbi Russo

September 5, 2015 - 21 Elul 5775

Our schools are getting ready for the new year! Our Preschool began this week, and our Hebrew School teachers met for a staff meeting in preparation for next week's Back-to-School Night. Coincidently, I was fortunate to participate in a retreat at Ramah Nyack as an alumna of the Davidson School of Education on Thursday.    

Rav Shimi bar Ashi used to frequent the classes of Rav Papa and used to ask him many questions. One day Rav Shimi observed that Rav Papa fell on his face (in prayer), and he heard Rav Papa saying, "May God preserve me from being disgraced by Shimi!" Rav Shimi thereupon vowed silence and asked him no more questions (Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 9B).

Rav Shimi was a student of Rav Papa. The educators at the retreat had a strong negative reaction to Rav Papa's response. Rav Papa's approach of not speaking to the student directly was damaging. He silenced Rav Shimi. This text led to a broad and holy conversation about how we engage learners and redirect them with love when necessary.

People get on our nerves sometimes. The Soncino translation of this text adds that Rav Shimi used to annoy Rav Papa. Our theory of education at CSI is to nurture and care for each other and all of our students. We learn from this episode in the Talmud how destructive it can be when we shut someone down. 

With a little more than a week before the Yamim Noraim, let's enter Shabbat with more patience and respect for the people in our lives who may push our buttons. It is a message that speaks to me as a rabbi, an educator and a human being.      

Shabbat Shalom.