On Monday morning, September 17, the Moriah School was infused with joyful music in anticipation of the arrival of a new sefer Torah for their Sephardic beit midrash. David Bousbib, an eighth grader at the Moriah School and son of Polly and
Gabriel Bousbib, is celebrating his becoming a bar mitzvah this Shabbat, Parshat Ha’azinu, and was able to share the joy and song of Torah with the entire student body at Moriah as well as with scores of community members.
The Bousbibs commissioned a sefer Torah in Israel last November and scheduled its completion and dedication to the Sephardic beit midrash of the Moriah School to coincide with David’s bar mitzvah, together with his community of students, teachers and rabbis. After tefillah, the middle schoolers in grades six through eight were treated to a celebratory breakfast at which the beaming Rabbi Mordy Kuessous addressed them. Rabbi Kuessous serves as the rabbi of the Benaroya Sephardic Center at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood as well as the Sephardic cultural rabbi of the Moriah Middle School.
Rabbi Kuessous directed the students to the last mitzvah in the Torah, which appears in Parshat Vayelech 31:19. The pasuk reads “V’ata kitvu lachem et ha’shira hazot,” translated as “And now you shall write for yourselves this song.” Two questions arise from this pasuk. Why is it incumbent upon everyone to write his/her own sefer Torah if there are ample sifrei Torah in the community? Secondly, why is the Torah referred to as a shira, a song?
Rabbi Kuessous proposed, “If we want to be part of the rich Jewish heritage, it is critical that we have a perspective of Torah that is beautiful, like a song, and we need to feel a personal connection to that song and make it our own.” His message to David, “Chazak V’amatz! Have the courage and commitment to be successful in all your endeavors, always bearing the euphoric ‘song’ of Torah in your heart and mind.”
To the background of festive music provided by a band of musicians, the middle schoolers exited the lunchroom and followed the now-completed sefer Torah in its new covering and silver atzei chaim (rollers) through the corridors of the early childhood and lower school divisions, thus including the little ones in the celebration. After parading onto South Woodland Avenue, the new sefer Torah, held aloft by Rabbi Zev Reichman of the East Hill Synagogue, the Bousbib family’s rabbi, was joined by the two other sifrei Torah residing in the school held proudly by Rabbi Menachem Genack of Congregation Shomrei Emunah of Englewood and Rabbi Elchonon Butrimovitz, rosh yeshiva of Englewood’s Yeshiva Ohr Simcha. The boys and girls were joined by other community leaders in their enthusiastic song and dance.
The parade re-entered the school building where it was placed in the aron in the Sephardic beit midrash, which was dedicated last year by the Setton family, some of whose members were in attendance. Rabbi Daniel Alter, head of school, welcomed the new sefer Torah and heartily thanked the Bousbibs for providing the Moriah family with an occasion that is relatively rare in Jewish life-cycle events, as sifrei Torah can last hundreds of years.
Building on the pasuk quoted by Rabbi Kuessous, Rabbi Alter focused upon the opening word “ata” meaning “now.” Quoting from Sefer Binyan Shlomo by Rav Shlomo HaCohen of Vilna, Rabbi Alter posed the question: “If a parent bequeaths a sefer Torah to his child, must the child still write his/her own? Comes the pasuk and says ‘now.’ We can learn the ways of Torah from our grandparents and parents but we must acquire full ownership of Torah through our own efforts, through taking on the mitzvot ourselves.” Rabbi Alter’s bracha to David was “to be able to fulfill as many mitzvot as possible, in holiness and simcha, ad biat haMoshiach, until the days of Moshiach.”
Concluding the program, a joyous Gabriel Bousbib, father of the bar mitzvah boy, pointed out that as we approach the last word of the Torah, Yisrael, which ends in the letter lamed, we immediately turn back to the first letter of the Torah, which begins with a “bet:” Bereishit. Together, the lamed and the bet form the word lev, heart. He explained his thoughts on those letters brought together. “The Moriah School educates children from many backgrounds, but who are all of ‘one heart.’ May they grow up and continue to be ‘one heart’ with all of their Jewish brethren.”
David’s mother, Polly Bousbib, is herself a graduate of Moriah and very active in many aspects of the school. In addition to David, the Bousbibs are proud parents of Batya, 19, currently a second year student at Shaalvim for Women in Israel, and Shira, 17, currently a senior at SAR, both Moriah graduates. Their youngest daughter Naava, 10, is a current fifth grader. Mrs. Bousbib noted that the dedication of the sefer Torah is truly a milestone in the Bousbib family and a sincere gesture of gratitude to the Moriah School for its excellence in educating the next generation.
By Pearl Markovitz