As Jewish educators, there are certain gifts that the Jewish canon has given us that make our jobs, if not easier, definitely more meaningful than they would ever have been otherwise. Things like tikkun olam, catalyst for literally countless social justice initiatives, Shabbat, which can serve as an inspiration touchstone for everything from traditional halachic observances to mindfulness practices, and the concept of b’tzelem elokim, the basis for conversations and activities on everything from self respect to social action. But today I want to talk about my personal favorite - the shehecheyanu.
This classic Jewish prayer is known as the one that we say on the first night of holidays, and to mark momentous occasions, including the birth of a baby, the first time seeing a friend after an extended separation, and upon arrival to Israel, among others. But it’s also an opportunity to take special moments that occur throughout the lives of our learners and to give them a Jewish framework and context.
Personally, I’m constantly on the hunt for ‘shehecheyanu moments,’ times that I can make an extra effort to appreciate a new experience or a blessing that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. So many modern teachings on mindfulness and self care are about appreciation (KonMari method anyone?) and luckily, the Talmud itself gives us a lens through which to see it Jewishly.
So how can we inspire our learners to incorporate shehecheyanu moments into their lives?
Normalize it in your learning environment - we all know about capitalizing on teachable moments, so make shehecheyanu moments part of that. When a learner masters a new skill or the class has a new experience, don’t just praise them - make it a moment for blessing.
Empower families to take on the practice at home - teach this blessing in family learning sessions, and help them brainstorm ways to apply it in their own families and homes. What are the meaningful moments in their lives, and how can they mark them in intentional ways?
Seek out opportunities for new things - traditionally, this blessing is for first time experiences. So how can we and our learners shake up our routines and get out of ruts in order to have enough new experiences to utilize it regularly?
Share in the comments - what have been some ‘shehecheyanu moments’ in your life lately?