By: Morah Esther Markel
When I was six years old I received a memorable gift from my parents—my first bicycle. The excitement that I had when I got that bike was palpable. It changed my life by giving me the freedom that only mobility gives a person. That bicycle literally gave me wings. It allowed me to ride around the corner (supported by my training wheels, of course) to visit my grandparents.
But as much as I treasured those moments of freedom, they pale in comparison with the day I learned to ride my bike on my own without any training wheels at all.
That day stands out in my mind for more than one reason and I remember that day with clarity. It was a monumental day. It’s the day that I finally had a brother and the day that I learned how to ride a bike. Indeed, two great moments in my life.
I was almost seven years old. My mother was in the hospital having just given birth to my younger brother. My father removed the training wheels and then coached me on the basics of real bike riding. “You have to keep your balance. This becomes easier to do the more you pick up speed,” he told me. “Lean to the left or to the right, as you strive to stay upright.” I vividly remember my father running behind me and offering support. He believed in me. He knew I would succeed. Yes, I fell. I fell many times. Those were my “battle wounds” and I wore them with pride. And you know what? With the scraped knees and bruised elbows, I did it. I learned to ride a bike on my own.
This week’s Parsha begins by Hashem instructing Moshe to tell Aharon, “Behaaloscha es haneiros,” meaning, when you “raise up” (i.e. kindle) the lights. Why does the Torah use this unusual choice of words rather than the simpler phrase, “kindle”? Had the Torah used the word “kindle” or “ignite”, Aharon’s entire responsibility would have been just to bring fire to wick. Were it to be kindled and then immediately extinguished, Aharon’s job would have still been complete. Rashi explains that by using the word “raise up,” Aharon was instructed to ignite the lights until they would burn steadily on their own.
As parents and educators, isn’t that our role? What, after all, do we want for our children? Our greatest desire is to see them develop the passion for learning and growth to burn on their own—fueled solely by their own inspiration. Yes, we coach them along the way. Ultimately though, we want them to do this themselves. We trust them to keep pedaling forward, learning to balance the roads of life; leaning to the right or to the left as necessary, falling at times, and picking up and starting again. It’s kind of like learning to ride a bike, isn’t it?
Morah Esther Markel is an educator par excellence. Over the past 35 years of her teaching career she has taught the full educational gamut. She has served as an educator on all levels—beginning as a nursery school teacher and director, after which she continued on to teach every single grade of elementary school, from pre-K to eighth grade. She currently serves as the Judaic principal of the Conejo Jewish Day School (CJDS).Greatly loved by all who know her, she is affectionately referred to as “Morah Esther” by her thousands of students. She is passionate about instilling strong Jewish values and a love for Torah in all her “children.”