It's All About the Numbers

Dear Ezra Community,

This is the perfect time of year for counting. We’re nearing the end of the counting of the Omer and looking forward to celebrating Shavuot and Shabbat this weekend. As our year winds down, some of our students may be counting the days until summer, but we’re also looking carefully at our enrollment numbers for next year and putting in some end-of-year fundraising efforts. It takes enormous effort on the part of our various committees and lay leaders to raise these funds and recruit new students and families and I’m incredibly grateful for all of the dedication to our school.

Parashat Bemidbar kicks off the second to last book of the Torah and begins with Moses taking a census of the Israelite people. While there are multiple reasons for why this was done at that particular time, the educator in me focused on a particular framing. The text mentions that the counting is done tribe by tribe and that the counting is of men who are the age of 20 - the age for bearing arms. This would lead us to believe that this counting is for military purposes and that Moses is preparing the people for their eventual conquest of the Land of Israel.

However, there is another place that mentions the importance of the age of 20. In the 5th chapter of Pirkei Avot, there is a discussion of different ages and stages of Jewish development. The text progresses from the age of five all the way to the age of 90 and covers different areas of study and other important rites of passage. We are told that the age of 20 is for “pursuit” or in Hebrew, lirdof. Commentaries on Pirkei Avot give us two possible explanations. The first is that pursuit means pursuit of livelihood. There is also an idea that the age of 20 is when a person ceases to study Torah full time and instead focuses on finding a career. 

The commentaries also tell us that pursuit can mean the pursuit of enemies, which therefore takes us back to the Torah’s original understanding that the age of 20 is the age for conscription. However, I like to read the text that Moses is assembling the people to count the ones among them who are a little more settled and are starting to figure their lives out. As we prepare to say goodbye to a special group of eighth graders, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different stages of an Ezra student. While our graduates by no means are expected to have it all figured out, I’m confident that we have prepared them academically and Jewishly for the world beyond Ezra’s doors. 

I also want to take this opportunity to wish a fond and grateful farewell to Laura Gabor, our long-time business manager who is moving into her next adventure. I know that many of you have known Laura for a long time and will join me in wishing her lots of success in her retirement. I also want to welcome our new teammate, Alex Torre, who officially started in her new role in our business office this week and who is already a valued member of our team.  

As we move into Shabbat and Shavuot, our last holiday observance of the school year, I wish everyone a restful and celebratory weekend. Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah and it is a practice to stay up late into the night studying in community. While this is a practice that we generally celebrate in our own homes and synagogues, I am grateful that I have continued opportunities to receive Torah and learn with our talented students, staff and greater community on a daily basis and am looking forward to many more learning experiences to come. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,