Rav Mintz, a respected mashgiach in a prominent yeshiva, stands before a room full of children with a stash of stuffed bears at his side. The audience is silent, straining to hear the rov’s soft voice. He asks a question from the parsha of the week. Instantly, the room is full of raised hands as the children frantically vie to be called on. Even the adults among them eagerly join the action.
It’s an interesting phenomenon. Boys who a moment earlier had no interest in a fake-furry companion suddenly find themselves not just wanting one, but absolutely needing a teddy bear. And these are quite average teddy bears as teddy bears go. But you wouldn’t think so judging by the excitement on the children’s faces when they’ve answered a question correctly and one is thrown their way.
A TorahMates coordinator was recently speaking with a TorahMate who is also the mother of a Zone camper who Oorah is paying yeshiva tuition for. She was telling her coordinator how thankful she is for everything the Oorah family has done for them and how much their lives have changed through Oorah. “Oorah is our family and very close to our hearts,” she said, so much so that “my daughter who never slept with stuffed animals insists on sleeping with her teddy bear from Rabbi Mintz every night!”
As someone at Oorah explained so beautifully, “Some people like the snugly feeling of a teddy bear and some have them for sentimental reasons. I think for this girl, her teddy bear is a symbol that represents something so great. Nothing in life is perfect; everyone and everything has ups and downs. Things that are spiritual tend to be seen as boring, while stuff that is fun is usually meaningless. Some days are good and others are bad.
“But there is one place during one month where everything is fun and spiritual and meaningful. Where every day is a great day. That place is TheZone. And that is what this teddy bear represents for this little girl.”