Challah bakes begin with kneading the dough, letting it rise, making the blessing and taking the challah piece, a prayer, and then last, but not least, learning the fancy braiding techniques. Until about a year ago I could do all of the above…except teaching the classic six braid. I stealthily replaced the six braid with a less sophisticated four braid and, with a little sleight of hand, distracted everyone by introducing them to the oval push up challah pan. I couldn’t teach it because I didn’t know and not for lack of trying. Enter Stacy Pinck, who created a whole narrative around the six braids including the Jewish community and people being alone and hugging, and the flood gates of six braid opened up for me. Yesterday, as I was explaining the narrative to help my students learn to braid, I admitted that since I don’t have a math brain, we wouldn’t be numbering the strands and we’d be sticking to the narrative to learn the braiding.
I was politely interrupted by a 9-year old student who began explaining the intricacies of a growth mindset to me. He pointed out how, if I stated I wasn’t good at math, I wouldn’t grow in math and that I would be short changing myself for life. He shared about mistakes and brainwaves and suggested googling the concept for more information. Talk about smart people learning from everyone, I had a lot to learn from this child
This really got me thinking. So often we accept something as truth and don’t challenge the status quo. I can’t even count the number of times since I’ve been involved in community building and Jewish education in the last nine years that people have said:
- I’m a bad Jew.
- I’m a lazy Jew.
- I don’t practice.
- I’m bad at Hebrew.
What about a growth mindset in Judaism? What about challenging our pediatric beliefs we haven’t explored since Hebrew school? What about saying, I haven’t connected to the formalized prayers but I’m willing to experiment with informal prayer? What about looking at Jewish values and learning what’s really Jewish about them?
A month ago I participated in a charity ride. It was a deeply moving and impactful experience. I’d be happy to share the whole shpiel with anyone willing to listen to my new talk Rebbetzin on a Ride. My biggest takeaway was that I must push myself out of my comfort zone more often. I must try new things because it’s integral to learning more about myself and unearthing hidden strengths I may have never have discovered.
We are in the Jewish month of Elul. The month of teshuvah commonly known as repentance but the Hebrew root word is actually shuv to return. This Elul I’m personally going to try to return to the beautiful attitude of my 9-year-old teacher of yesterday. I’m going to try to return to a version of myself that’s inner voice says:
- You can grow in math.
- You can grow in time management.
- You can grow in coordination
- You can grow in your relationship with G-d.
Because while there’s life, there’s hope and each day is a glorious opportunity.
Rabbi Judah the Prince said: I’ve learnt a lot of Torah from my teachers, and even more from my colleagues, but from my students I have learnt the most.
Wishing us all a year of growth mindset for all the teachers, colleagues and students of all ages!