by Ms. Inbal Levin
I make sure to pray to You before I leave the house in the morning. I guess you can say it’s my “thing”.
Each morning as I stand before You, the desire to concentrate on our conversation burns strongly in my heart. But as the sun rises at dawn, I have nothing to offer You, but the offering of the pauper, a broken spirit.
My tefillah is a poor man’s sacrifice, my soul fine flour mixed with oil, an unadorned libation. A stark contrast to the rich meats I know are offered by everyone else as they pray.
But, here I am.
Low and broken, distracted and scattered.
I offer You the debris of my broken soul.
Although I often do not concentrate on the words I recite, when I do, it is the tefillah of a teacher.
Each morning, I extend to You the remains of my aching heart, a teacher’s tefillah.
As I chant the ancient Modeh Ani, I wonder, dear Hashem: Why do You have faith in such a lowly spirit as me? And please, oh please, instill in me that same amount of faith in myself as I enter the classroom today.
“. . . blessed are You, oh Lord, who guides the footsteps of man” As I say this tefillah, Hashem, I invite You to be my dance partner in this waltz throughout the school day. We sway gracefully from child to child, You in the lead, ensuring that each step I take, each word I utter, is a stroke of Divine Providence. It is a dance of grace.
I croon the age-old tefillah “Ve’ha’arev Na”, “May the words of Your Torah be sweet in the mouths of my children”. I have no children of my own, only the twenty-five souls You lent to me. When I teach them Torah today, Hashem, can You please ensure they savor its sweet taste? That the fragrant scent of Torah lures them into it? That they are unable to resist it?
By the holy Shemoneh Esrei, I begin “Oh Lord, open up my lips”. I pray hard that as I converse with my students throughout the day, the right words leave my mouth.
” . . . blessed are You oh Lord, who revives the dead”, My dear Creator, on the days when my spirit is dead, apathetic towards my role as a teacher, won’t You please revive me? Breathe into me the breath of rejuvenation. Reawaken within me the passion for teaching, for reaching souls.
” . . .blessed are You oh Hashem, who bestows knowledge”. This page in my siddur has mascara smudges and faint hints of foundation. At this point, I often find myself subconsciously covering my face with my siddur, the concentration comes naturally to me now. Please Hashem, bless me with the knowledge and power to reach every one of my students. To reach, not teach. Though similar in spelling, so different in purpose. To teach is to touch the surface, to reach is to touch souls. Hashem, can you please help me touch souls today?
” . . .blessed are You oh Hashem, who blesses Your nation Israel with peace”. “Father in heaven”, I beseech, “please bless our classroom with the ultimate gift, the gift of peace and wholesomeness”.
My tefillah ends with the words “Al Tirah“- do not be afraid”. My wondrous Creator, please help me turn a deaf ear to the self doubt I generate each day I step foot in the classroom. Bless me with the fearlessness and confidence needed to carry out my mission in the classroom today, and every day.
The conversation over, I kiss my worn siddur and make my way to the classroom.
As the school day comes to an end, I lock the classroom door behind me, and as I set foot onto the sidewalk, I utter one last tefillah, my own.
“Please Hashem”, I implore, “I may have made mistakes today, but I pray you will overlook them, and bestow upon me tomorrow once again, the great privilege of being a teacher”.
Inbal Levin is a teacher and artist. Originally from Seattle, WA, Inbal has been teaching at Lamplighters Yeshivah in Crown Heights for the past three years. You can find more of her writing at her blog https://