Rabbi Tsipi Gabai with some of her students at Tehiyah Day School
Rabbi Tsipi Gabai with some of her students at Tehiyah Day School

A prayer for Tehiyah Day School

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I am writing this today because many Tehiyah families have asked for one thing, just one. The request was not an organized group request: it was not thought about, voted on, decided. It came individually, independently: one more Modeh Ani! One final Modeh Ani, the prayer we say each morning upon waking.

The very fact that, of all the things you could have asked for, it was one more Modeh Ani, is the greatest tribute to Tehiyah and the best illustration of its undeniable success.

And so I would like to use the Modeh Ani to express my parting words to you today:

“I thank you, living and eternal King, for having mercifully restored my soul. Your faith is great.”

Modah ani — for 40 years of a school like Tehiyah in this community.

Modah ani — for the fine and dedicated educators who have shared their wisdom and talents at Tehiyah over these many years.

Modah ani — for the exceptional support staff, whose commitment to Tehiyah has helped make us a family.

Modah ani — for the children we have been privileged to educate.

Modah ani — for the wonderful parents who have shared their children with us, and have entrusted them to us to educate.

Modah ani — for having been blessed with 30 years of my own as Tehiyah’s educator and rabbi.

Modah ani — for the children whose minds and hearts I have been privileged to touch, and who have touched mine in return.

Modah ani — for having been able to see these children grow and become the exceptional adults we knew they would be.

Modah ani — for seeing our graduates become up-and-coming leaders in our society, contributing, building, achieving and advancing all of our lives.

Modah ani — for having been able to awaken and strengthen and nourish our children’s Jewish identity and knowledge.

Modah ani — for having seen the immense sense of proud, Jewish identities that were part and parcel of each graduate of Tehiyah.

And Modah ani — for having seen how our graduates have taken their proud, Jewish identities and have become proud and knowledgeable Jewish members and leaders of their communities, wherever they have settled.

This, more than anything, is Tehiyah’s legacy. Our children have taken Tehiyah with them as an integral part of their lives. They are the new generation and we at Tehiyah have helped shape them and, through them, the future.

One of the blessings in Psalm 128 says: “When you eat the labor of your hands, happy shall you be, and it will be well with you … And you shall see your children’s children.”

That is indeed an amazing blessing, and we at Tehiyah have been privileged to receive it.

Modah ani — that we have been blessed with the opportunity to have taught the children of our students.

And according to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 19b), one who teaches his friend’s child Torah, is considered as if he or she is that child’s parent.

We have been teachers and parents to our students. We have been — and always will be — the Tehiyah family.

When we talk of the Mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer we say over our loved ones when they are gone, one tends to think that this is a sad prayer of mourning. But it is not so at all. The Kaddish is actually a prayer of sanctification and glorifying of God. Among other things, it also comes to remind us to sanctify and glorify the life and achievements, the contributions and the memories of our loved one, rather than only wallow in our grief.

Let us today not wallow in our grief over the loss of Tehiyah. The content of Tehiyah, the education it has provided to so many children and families, in a community where proud Jewish education cannot be taken for granted — all this will go on in our children and their children. Let us, instead, complete and conclude Tehiyah with our heads held high, in the same pride we have taught these many years. Pride in our Jewishness, pride in our heritage, pride in our immense contribution to the community and pride in all we have achieved.

Rabbi Tsipi Gabai

Rabbi Tsipi Gabai was the head of Judaic Studies and rabbi-in-residence at Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito, where she taught for 30 years.