Rabbi Matthew Bellas addressed the Class of 2029 at their Aba Marcus and Sara Marcus 5th Grade Siddur Ceremony and Siyyum on June 15, 2022. Read his speech below:
Boker tov to the Class of 2029, your loved ones celebrating with you today and members of the CESJDS faculty and staff.
One morning several years ago, when my family was still living in Vancouver before we moved to the DMV, my wife and I were surprised by a sign that one of our children had posted on their bedroom door late the night before. It had four words on it, printed in all caps on a card no larger than a regular piece of paper. It read “MAKING THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE.”
Upon seeing the sign that morning, my wife and I looked at each other, nodded, laughed a little, and then continued with our morning routines in order to get ourselves ready for work and our kids ready for school. What we knowingly shared outside our child’s room in that glance without words was that the sign was perfect. Behind that bedroom door lived our child who loved their independence, had a free spirit, had their own ideas about how to do things, and was not going to be deterred from doing things their way. That sign, “making the impossible possible,” really captured their personality, spirit, AND their sense of humor…and we just loved it.
I share that little anecdote with you this morning because it is connected to the quotation from Nelson Mandela, of blessed memory, that your class selected as its theme or slogan,
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
In his time, Nelson Mandela was fighting against racism in his country of South Africa that was deeply embedded in every aspect of society. White citizens of the country had rights and freedoms, while black citizens did not. Mr. Mandela was an activist and leader for human rights for black South Africans and was persecuted by the white government and leadership in order to suppress his and his colleagues’ efforts. He was put in prison for 27 years and was only freed after leaders from around the world pressed for his release for many years. In South Africa in Mandela’s time, the goal of achieving equal rights for its black citizens felt like an impossible task to many in the black community. However, Nelson Mandela and those who worked and struggled with him pushed on and, in the end, made the impossible possible. In 1994, after several years of negotiations, South Africa awarded rights to its black citizens and held its first fully democratic election. Nelson Mandela was elected the first black President of South Africa.
What made what seemed like an impossible dream to so many black citizens of South Africa come true was the unshakable faith and committed work of Nelson Mandela and his partners who refused to accept that it was, in fact, impossible. When Mandela uttered those words…“It always seems impossible until it’s done,” he wasn’t describing his own thoughts and feelings. He was talking about what all of the doubters and skeptics were thinking while he continued to forge on and fight for what he believed was right and achievable.
And that brings us to the message that I want to share with you, my dear students and members of the Class of 2029. No matter what goal or dream you have chosen for yourself, do not ever give in to the forces that make you feel like it is impossible to achieve. Do not ever internalize the negative messages you may hear from others telling you that you can’t or won’t succeed. Through your years at the Lower School, we have talked about Open Mindset. We have worked on positive self-talk. We have encouraged you to be bucket fillers. We have assigned you challenging work while supporting you to be successful. It is OUR dream that you will embrace all of the knowledge, skills, and strategies that we have taught you so that you will never think that anything is impossible and work as hard and as long as necessary to “make the impossible possible.”
Every innovation has needed just one person willing to believe that it could be invented.
Every change for good in the world has been able to occur because one person was willing to believe in it and fight to make it happen.
Every goal or dream was achieved by someone who persevered through hard times and didn’t give up.
Class of 2029 - you have known hard times these last two plus years. And…while the path to getting to your Siyyum today in many ways was not the one your parents, teachers, and school leaders expected…HERE YOU ARE.
You found ways to push through the hard times, stick together, and make the best of the situation.
You kept your goals in focus and pushed forward toward them.
You did not accept the idea that getting here was going to be impossible, even in the face of extremely difficult forces pushing against you.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Let these words of Nelson Mandela be a calling to you always. Don’t ever accept others telling you that something cannot be achieved. Use your power of positive thinking and your own hard work to make EVERYTHING possible. It’s like what Theodor Herzl said in the late 1890’s, 50 years before the State of Israel was born, “Im tirtzu, ein zo aggadah/If you will it, it is not a dream.” Put the words of that sign I saw on my child’s door that morning on your hearts and minds and “make the impossible possible.”
Mazal tov members of the Class of 2029 and b’hatzlahah in Middle School!