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Judaism IS History

February 19, 2021
By Adam Tilove

What a week! Ice storms in Texas and a rover landing on Mars. Ecclesiastes 1:9 states,” What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Some weeks that couldn’t feel more wrong!

But when you look at the news, there are familiar human stories that never change. We humans desire safety, consistency, and security. When our stability is disrupted by fire, or by ice (as it was this week); by flood or by earthquake; we feel pain and we cry out to God for solace and support. Nothing new there!

As long as there are humans, we will explore. We will continue to explore where no person has gone before. There is nothing new in that either. 

This is not to say that nothing matters, and we shouldn’t pay attention to the news. Rather, these are the human dramas that are playing out in our lifetime. However, our human experience is not all that different from those who came before us. Despite the internet, space travel, and global warming, little has changed in the landscape of human emotions. We still feel joy and sadness, excitement and boredom, camaraderie and loneliness, humor and anger. 

In schools all over the world, children have been watching and learning from the news this week. But in few schools are children able to place what's happening today within a historical context. History, after all, is very abstract. When I was a child, my young perspective made any historical moment seem the same - after all, it happened before I was born. I had a hard time wrapping my head around things outside of my personal experience. 

But history is different at a Jewish Day School ... partly because in some sense, Judaism IS history. Some examples:

  • Our holidays represent different eras. Passover tells us the story of a time when Egypt was a global superpower; Purim teaches us about Persia; and Chanukah, Greece. 
  • Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Abarbanel teach us about life in the Middle Ages. Marrano and Converso Jews teach us about the settling of the ‘new world.’ 
  • The advent of Reform and Conservative Judaism teaches us about the European Age of Enlightenment. 
  • Israel teaches us about the collapse of colonization and the birth of the Modern Era. 

Somehow, history is part of our daily lives, in everything we do. 

So while we marvel at the new things and events happening every day in our world, at HBHA we know we are giving our children the background and the context to see things in perspective: as part of a universal drama in which they are a crucial part. For we, as people and as Jews, have a critical part to play in the unfolding of this drama - just as we have in the past. For truly, there is nothing new under the sun!

Shabbat Shalom,

Adam Tilove
HBHA Head of School