Tipping the scales with mitzvot

Tipping the scales with mitzvot

RIVER EDGE – Students at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey were thrilled
on Monday morning when they headed back to classes after the Rosh HaShanah break. The mitzvah scale in the main concourse, the centerpiece of a "Tip the Scale" program that teaches the children from grades one through eight about good deeds, repentance, and prayer, was weighed down by so many good deeds. For weeks, beginning in Elul, students had been loading the good deeds they’d done unto the scale, and the scale was tipped in their favor. The scale is the symbol of Tishrei, the month where God decides who is inscribed in the book of life, and people are urged to do a "din ve cheshbon" — an examination of their lives during the previous year, a balancing of the accounts, so to speak.

On Monday, just one day after Rosh HaShanah, the scale could have been tilted in the wrong direction! Jealousy, disrespect, arguing, and improper speech had appeared in big bold letters on the opposite side of the scale. Students did more mitzvot — good deeds — to bring things into balance.

Boys in the first grade at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey are proud of the mitzvot they and their schoolmates have done to help "tip the scale."

"The Tip the Scale" project was the brainstorm of school principal for Judaic studies, Rabbi Harvey Horn, who was inspired by a sermon given by Rabbi Dovid
Feinstein of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In that address, Feinstein had offered concrete examples of how to incorporate teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah (repentance, prayer, and charity) into daily life, and Horn realized that among these activities were age-appropriate actions that could benefit all the students at RYNJ.

With character-building a critical issue at this time of year, each child was asked to incorporate one extra good deed into his or her daily routine. Parents were asked to send in signed mitzvah cards attesting to their children’s mitzvot. As the children dropped the cards into the baskets on the scale, the weight of their good deeds was interpreted as bringing the world back into harmony.

The scale was built by Dovid Nulman, a music teacher at the school. The boys in Honny Aron’s first-grade class made the paper flowers that decorated the "Good Deed" basket on the scale.

In addition to good deeds, students were also asked to express how they could improve or change certain character traits and to describe acts of chesed (kindness). The question posed to all the students was, "What are you doing to tip the scale?"

Eli Sadeck’s act of kindness was truly magnanimous. On Monday night, he went to the Mets game and caught one of the balls that popped into the stands. When his sister was upset because she didn’t have one, he presented her with his prize. Ezra Friedman, who recycles, says that since Rosh HaShanah is the Earth’s birthday, he is really helping out. Mordechai Glatter who practices giving charity via Tomchei Shabbat, which feeds the poor on Shabbat, hopes that everyone will have a sweet year with the sweet packages he distributes.

Horn saw Tip the Scale as a meaningful and educational project that was good for all age groups. "I thought the entire school could be concentrating on this project all at once, making it a more serious undertaking, with the older children setting examples for the younger children to see, as the older children also dropped cards in the basket. Even the teachers were dropping cards in the mitzvot basket as they accepted taking mitzvot upon themselves as well."

Horn said, "During the month of Elul we wanted the children to think positive and to start doing acts of chesed to each other. Our goal for them was to enter Rosh HaShanah in a positive mode, feeling that they were on the right path to tipping the scales in honor of a good year. When they entered the building on Monday and saw the scale tipped in such a favorable way, it made them feel very good about themselves and the way they davened on Rosh HaShanah. I want them to feel that the time that they spent in shul was a terrific start and that by sitting and trying to daven and have kavannah [serious intent], they were off and running in the right direction. In fact, many students brought in tons of mitzvah cards on Monday that stated how nicely they davened."

Until Yom Kippur, RYNJ teachers will encourage their students to keep up the good work. They have been emphasizing that each mitzvah a Jew does has a positive effect on the person doing it and sets an example that affects others.

Said the rabbi, "At our ‘kick-off’ assemblies, we emphasized the concept of achdut [unity] and kiddush haShem (sanctifying God’s name); that our positive actions have an effect on the entire people of Israel; that one mitzvah leads to another, and by doing mitzvot, we set an example for all peoples to look up to. I believe the purpose of Jewish education is kiddush HaShem, to create students who will internalize and be role models of true derech eretz [respect]. This has always been a goal of our yeshiva."

read more: