Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
I begin every school year with lofty goals of transforming students’ lives and with realistic expectations of not knowing success. I’m confident most frustrations will be immediate and all gratification will be delayed. I teach high school.
We begin the second week of the 2017-2018 school year, my 7th year at The Weber School, with a transformative event. My colleagues in Science have been preparing all summer, planning how to teach about the solar eclipse and ensuring we will be able to view it safely. Although we are slightly south of the optimal area to see the total eclipse, we anticipate a 95% partial view.
Eclipse fever has overtaken many friends who are not teachers, and they are headed up to summer camps and hotels in the north Georgia mountains for a better view. I am content to experience this moment with my students and colleagues. I wouldn’t want to leave my students with a substitute teacher, even if I could find someone to cover my classes.
Having been invited to say a blessing at the assembly before going outside, I’m even more excited to assume the role of teacher, the one who helps my students acquire wisdom, encourages them to deepen their knowledge and understanding. I researched various rabbinic opinions regarding what, if any, blessing is appropriate for the occasion and consulted with my colleague before making a final decision to read selections from Psalm 148.
My hope is some students will find this meaningful, will sing along with me the familiar verses from the Shabbat morning liturgy (148:13-14). I suppose only some of them, many years from now, will recall this moment and describe it to their children. Perhaps a few will reach out to me, if I’m still living, to reminisce about it.
I don’t believe I will experience an emotional or spiritual connection while viewing the eclipse. And I don’t believe I will feel cheated that I’m seeing the eclipse through the lens of facilitator of this once-in-a-lifetime experience for other people’s teenagers. In my 18th year of teaching, I believe this is my mission, my calling.
So it’s a surprise to discover I’m seeing–through tears of joy–a thin crescent of the sun peeking from behind the moon.
Looking through the eclipse glasses at one-minute intervals for five minutes, knowing they will be worn again by someone on another continent in the future when the moon will partially or totally eclipse the sun, realizing I am witnessing the order and movement of the light that fills the heavens…I see everything anew.
And I am grateful for the new school year.