Today we had another fun class and the kids did great work! This was our first day of working on the Torah portions, which we'll do just about every other class session.
First a quick LOGISTICAL NOTE. Please check your student's SSJS backpack for a folder and be sure they bring it to class each time! If their name isn't clearly on it, please be sure to add it. It would also be great if they kept a pen in the bag for classwork.
The portions today were Bereshith (In the Beginning), Noach (Noah), and Lech Lecha (Go Forth). We used the theme of "beginnings" for all of the many stories in these first sections of the Torah. We started by hearing some of the students' thoughts about "beginnings" before going over the Torah portion summaries. I also explained how "beginnings" are often marked in Jewish life, especially for holidays, the beginning of the day (prayers), the beginning of each month (Rosh Hodesh), and different beginnings of a new year. Then we learned what happens in these portions and talked about some topics along the way. The students also often could fill in some of the details they already knew about Adam and Eve, Noah, and the Tower of Babel, for example. With a short listing provided, the students also listened for the people, places, events, and significant numbers that come up in these chapters.
Finally, we moved over to the "doing" part of this Torah project. Two groups created games related to what we learned, and others created art - often with the rainbow from the Noah story or other references to new beginnings. One student also created a comic strip with great drawing and words! We hope to eventually collect all of these drawings and representations of their work in a "scroll" that is like their own created Torah.
We ended the class by finishing up these projects and sharing them with the other students. I also finally told them why I brought a green bean along with a dried pod and seeds from the green bean plant in my garden for them. I explained about how the seed was the new beginning of the plant - and that I learned not to throw away the dried pod when I found out that there were seeds in there for the *next* new beginning of a plant. The kids all took home a little handful of seeds, that they can plant in the spring.
In the middle, we also had a brief Hebrew "assessment" for the students and some Hebrew practice. We are starting out in my class with reminders of the Hebrew letters, and today we played Bingo where the students wrote some letters and then identified them in the game.
There are some questions or "ask me about" things I'd love for you to talk about with the students at home this week.
1. What are some significant numbers we hear about in the beginning of the Torah and where are they? (Note: the number 10 is one of them, with 10 generations two times; the number 10 represents "new beginnings" in the Torah.)
2. The Torah tells us that God kind of started over with the world, when he made the Flood - he kept the good things (Noah as the most righteous person in terrible times and his family, and the animals). Was there a time when you were doing a work project or something else and you needed to "start over" and tried to keep only the good ideas or things, getting rid of everything else?
3. What was the (Hebrew) letter that was added to make Abraham's and Sarah's *new* names, and what does it remind us about? (Hint: it was a "H" sound, and it refers to their new relationship to God.)
4. As a bonus question, what are all the ways we might think about "new beginnings" in these three portions (parsha's or parshiot) that we learned about today?
Next week we'll have some special programming for the Sukkot holiday. Happy Sukkot and have a great week!