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The Beit Midrash at Beth Chaim

How does the Beit Midrash differ from a Religious School?  The term Beit Midrash means house of learning, but carries with it the connotation of transforming something learned into one’s own experience. The ‘drash’ is interpretation; for instance, our Bnei Mitzvah students give a drash on the day of their celebration to help us understand how their encounter with the text holds meaning for them. The traditional, written, Midrash is a series of explanatory stories, filling in the perceived gaps in the holy text:  Why was Abraham chosen to be the father of the Jewish people?  Why does Moses say he is not a good speaker?  What was the response of the Israelites when faced with an as yet unparted sea and Egyptian soldiers at their backs?  Midrash can be done with words, film (rewatch Prince of Egypt!), music, or art. We believe that the texts hold open spots in which each person can find themselves, through which each individual can bring greater light to others.

To engage in creation of Midrash is like cutting a diamond – each facet adds to the beauty of the original  – any creative action that helps others to see what you see in the Torah leads to hiddur mitzvah – the expansion of beauty. We encourage our students to mine deeply, to examine what they unearth, to slice away, and we admire the gems they share with us. At the Beit Midrash, the act of drashing comes alive with opportunities to learn, to create, to transform, to adopt, and in general to make their tradition their own – a lifelong force that binds them together with community, family and the Divine. Through story, song, games and creative projects, as well as textual study and development of critical thinking skills, children develop themselves as educated, perceptive, thoughtful and joyous Jewish youth, ready to present themselves at their B’nei Mitzvah, and engaged in a journey of discovery and commitment that lasts long after they have left our sanctuary for college.