26 April 2013
16 Iyar 5773
Hitlamdut and My Blog
As many of you know, Gann has been developing a school-wide approach to character and Jewish identity development based on the principles and practices of Mussar, the Jewish ethical and spiritual tradition dedicated to personal learning, growth, and improvement through Torah and Jewish wisdom. Rooted in the Jewish mystical tradition, Mussar gives individuals the knowledge, tools, and inspiration to become our best selves. It begins with the recognition that within each of us is a soul, a spark of the divine.
Because we are human, as we make our way through the challenges of day-to-day life (let alone high school), our souls sometimes seem like diamonds in the rough. Judaism encourages us to engage in the holy work of polishing those diamonds each and every day. It also teaches us that this work cannot be done alone. We need trusting relationships with teachers, chevrutot (learning partnerships), and community to support, nurture, and challenge us on this Jewish and human journey.
I have the sacred privilege as Head of School to watch the journeys, both the joys and struggles, of teachers and students who are so passionate about and committed to learning and personal growth. The lights of their souls illuminate our school and our community.
One of the core principles of Mussar is the idea of Hitlamdut, which is the reflexive form of the Hebrew root lamed-mem-daled – ל.מ.ד, or lamad, which means learn. Hitlamdut can be translated as “reflective practice” and refers to a stance of constant, voracious learning about ourselves, our lives, and our world. It requires us to be non-judgmental observers of our own character traits, our inner lives, our behaviors, our beliefs, and our assumptions. Approaching our day-to-day lives and work with a stance of Hitlamdut turns each moment, each challenge, each situation into a learning opportunity and helps each of us uncover our personal life curriculum.
As part of my commitment to modeling this approach and to integrating this and other principles into my leading, learning, and living, I am starting a blog. My hope and intention are that this will be a vehicle for me to pay closer attention to all of the small and large moments in my life and work that can serve as meaningful learning opportunities for me and, perhaps, for others. I have learned that writing is a meaningful way for me to reflect on Judaism, education, leadership, and Gann. While my weekly emails are a forum to share these reflections with all of you, I hope that my blog will invite more people into conversation with me and with each other and will be an opportunity for others to share their thoughts and reflections, as well.
Many of my earlier posts connected to past weekly emails that I have written, but, most recently, I posted a video of a talk I gave called “Jewish Educational Leadership with Soul,” in which I described how Gann is building the principles and practices of Mussar into our culture of teacher and leader development. I also reflected on the spirit of Boston, posting a link to the emotional and inspiring singing of the National Anthem at the Bruins’ first home game after the Marathon bombing.
As I continue to write more, I welcome your comments, feedback, thoughts, and ideas. I am truly blessed to learn so much every day through my relationships and conversations with all of you and this extraordinary community. Thank you for being my chevrutot and my teachers.
Rabbi Marc Baker