Photo Credit Bader Hillel High
There’s a famous joke about a synagogue with a mouse infestation problem. After trying various unsuccessful methods for removing the rodents, the congregation decides to give the mice bar mitzvahs, after which they were never seen again!
This joke is one that can often resonate painfully with many Rabbis and educators and is perhaps why they insist on sharing it so often. The frustration that after many years of preparations and training and learning culminating with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, too frequently the newly minted Bar/Bat Mitzvah is no longer seen.
Let's examine for a minute why indeed we find this phenomenon so frustrating. Why can't we focus on the cup as half full? This child has spent many years in Hebrew school, learned and experienced so much from the Rabbi and all the Hebrew school’s incredible teachers. The performance at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah left everyone Kvelling. Nu, now the young adult is on a multi-year hiatus, perhaps we can argue the extended vacation is well deserved for all the hard work?
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory, once had a private audience with a newly minted Bar Mitzvah boy.
After initial greetings, the Rebbe turned to the boy and asked an unexpected question: “Which is your favorite sport?”
“Baseball,” he replied.
“How do you most enjoy the game,” asked the Rebbe, “when one team plays or when two teams play against each other?”
“Rabbi,” he said, “you can’t play baseball with only one team.”
“Why?” asked the Rebbe.
“Rabbi,” he patiently explained, “the entire point of the game is which side is going to score more runs than the other. You must have two teams.” He was relieved to see that the Rebbe understood.
“So who usually wins?” the Rebbe pressed on.
“Whoever plays best,” He said, proud of his inspired reply.
“Tell me,” the Rebbe continued, “do you and your friends play much baseball?”
“Sure. We play a lot.”
“Do you also go to watch the baseball games at the stadium?”
“But why do you have to go watch others play if you know how to play the game yourselves?”
Again the young boy felt the frustration of needing to explain the obvious. “Rabbi,” he said, politely suppressing his smile, “when we play, it’s just a bunch of kids playing. With the Major League teams, it's the real thing.”
The Rebbe, with a warm smile illuminating his face, turned to the boy, “your heart is a baseball field. There are two teams competing there: the ‘good inclination,’ and the ‘evil inclination,.' Up until now, it was a kids’ game. Now, with your bar-mitzvah, the real game begins. G-d is giving you a special gift—the major league skills and talents to beat the "evil inclination' and guide you through a righteous and constructive life. Remember, just like in baseball: whoever plays best, wins…”
Post Bar/Bat Mitzvah is indeed the Major Leagues, the young adult is now beginning to enter the real world, their identity, values, and critical decisions begin to start having such significant consequences on their life’s choices, direction, and moral compass. How tragic would years and years of baseball training be, when upon finally entering the Major Leagues one quits after the first game?
As a Jewish community, we understand how critical Jewish education is, for every child and family personally, as well as on a communal level cultivating the next generation of Jewish leaders and active members of the Jewish community. The community's investment in Jewish education needs to cover all the bases, all forms and styles, Preschools, Camps, Hebrew Schools, and Day Schools.
Yet, as a young boy or girl is transitioning into a young adult, beginning to mature and develop their unique personality, mind, and perspectives, they are now joining the Major Leagues. These newly minted players deserve our most critical attention. As a community, we need to strive that at this most pivotal and impressionable point of their lives, these young men and women don’t have a steep drop and abrupt end to the level and intensity of their Jewish education. It's at that very moment that they need the entire community supporting them and believing in their ability to step up.
Over the past six years, I have had the joy and privilege of answering the need of our community by providing a high-quality Jewish High School education, Bader Hillel High. At Bader Hillel High we prepare our students for success in College, career, and most importantly life, as we help cultivate the future leaders of our Jewish community today.
Photo Credit Bader Hillel High
Rabbi Yossi Bassman is the Director of Bader Hillel High. Yossi and his wife Ilana have been part of the Bader Hillel High team since its inception in 2013. Yossi and Ilana line with their three children in Glendale.
There are so many educational opportunities in Milwaukee. If you would like some help finding the right program for your child, contact Tzipi Altman-Shafer to talk about how you can “Go Jewish” with your family (414-963-2718 or TziporahA@MilwaukeeJewish.org).