The week started with Martin Luther King Day on Monday. In past years, we had regular yeshiva on MLK day, with a special afternoon program focused on civil rights or a related theme. This year, we decided it would be more appropriate to make this a day devoted to doing service work in the larger community. We teamed up with Uri LiTzedek and - together with 1200 volunteers from across New York - to participate in a service project organized by City-Year. Our project took place at Junior High School 292, in Brooklyn, where we together with a group from CAMP, The Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, painted murals of "Music Through the Ages" in the hallways of the school. It was a truly meaningful way to commemorate the day - joining with peoples of different faiths and ethnicities in a shared goal of giving back to the community, and of bringing art and beauty into the lives of others. It was a true lesson in how much good can come about when we focus not on those things that separate us, but on the things that bring us together.
Merle Feld, who gives a class at YCT in Writing as a Spiritual Exercise, has recently come out with a new book, Finding Words. This book, together with her previous book, A Spiritual Life, contains poetry and prose that touches the soul and inspires the spirit. On Wednesday, we celebrated her new book at the Yeshiva. After Mincha, Merle read a number of poems, selected from her two books, that touched on the topic of faith and doubt from different perspectives and were, in a profound sense, in conversation with one another. I personally found the poems quite moving. Merle spoke at the end about how a rabbi could use such poems to help congregants give voice to and reflect on their inner spiritual life. We are blessed to have her as a teacher in our yeshiva.
And, finally, a hearty Mazal Tov to Simon (Class of 2012) and Sivan Livson, proud new parents of a baby girl, born on Tu BiShvat, this last Wednesday night. We wish them much joy and the nachas that comes with nurturing their little one and watching her flower in the months and years to come. She'tizku li'gadlah li'Torah li'chuppah u'li'ma'asim tovim!