Shalom Parents, and Chag Sa'me'ach - Happy Holiday. Did you know Chanukah is actually considered a minor holiday? And the concept of gifts really has nothing to do with the holiday? It's really a celebration of religious freedom. So given that our religion emphasizes action, such as Gemli'ut Chasidim, your children made a Chanukah project with 8 paper-cut candles. Each candle has a gemli'ut chasidim concept on it, which is designed to foment discussion and action with families. I hope you enjoy these candles, and have an opportunity to look at the messages each night with your family. Each student also has a handout describing the story of Chanukah and a sheet with the blessings we say/sing when we light candles, as well as the order in which we place the candles (as though reading Hebrew) and light the candles (as though reading English).
REMINDER: the homemade Chanukiyah contest is this coming Sunday, Dec. 9th. We will be having a class party prior to viewing the chanukiyot and a school-wide assembly.
Shalom Parents. This past Sunday, we read the story of the Tower of Babel. We talked about how pursuit of fame and glory for its own sake is harmful to society as a whole. E.g., who was taking care of the sick people in Babel (Bavel, in Hebrew) while all resources were devoted to the building of this tower? This segued nicely into learning about Gemli'ut Chasidim - Acts of Kindness. Judaism places great emphasis on the importance of performing "random acts of kindness." There is a list that I gave the students with some examples, but it is not comprehensive. Attempts to achieve a just socieyt (tzedakah comes from the root word for justice) cannot be realized until we treat each other with dignity, respect and kindness. Based on these lessons, we took a vote as to whether we should donate some of our tzedakah to help those in Northern California who have lost everything. The vote was a unanimous yes. On behalf of the SSJS 3rd grade class, I made a $36 donation to an organization recommended by both my firm's SF office administrator and the New York Times: the California Community Foundation's Wildfire Relief Fund. http://www.calfund.org/wildfire-relief-fund/ (Why $36? In Hebrew, letters have numerical values. The word for life in Hebrew, chai, has a value of 18 (the yud = 10, the chet = 8), and so it is a long-held Jewish tradition to donate in $18 increments. I will take 10% of what we have collected so far in class, and provide the remainder to round up to $36.)
REMINDER: the SSJS chanukiyah (aka menorah specifically for Chanukah) contest will take place on Dec. 9th! Hopefully you received the handout about the contest; if not, let me know if you would like information. This is totally voluntary - only do this if it will be fun for you and your family.
Wishing you a meaningful Thanksgiving, a peaceful Shabbat, and with gratitude to all of you for sharing your amazing kids with me this year,
(From Renee Abramson, substitute teacher):
I was happy to be in class to share with the children their excitement about learning. I did a Hebrew Jeopardy game the covered topics such as Jewish Foods, Torah, Hebrew and Jewish Holidays. I was even more leased to see that many of my questions were topics the students had covered previously with their teacher and were eager to share their answers. I have not given homework, but as the Ivrit Aleph teacher I encourage all students to read nightly, if only for 5-10 minutes so that they can stay fresh and that Hebrew reading comes easier for them.
Last Sunday we started learning more about Torah, including the fact that Torah text is not meant to be taken literally. We need to read commentaries and stories about the text to understand the real meaning. For example, the saying an "eye for an eye" is NOT meant to be taken literally, nor does it imply that Judaism condones revenge. (The Torah commands us not to take revenge, actually). Rather, by studying the works of great teachers and rabbis we know that an eye for an eye refers to compensation for property damage. We also learned that we can always learn something new when we study the Torah. And the first "taste" of Torah should be sweet - so we made candy Torahs. I gave out a Jewish textbook called The Bible from Aleph to Tav. Homework is to read until page 32. If your child was absent last week, s/he will have time this Sunday to do the reading. The pages are very short. Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!
Shalom Parents. First, a few "housekeeping" items: in reviewing the materials I think will work best for this year's 3rd grade, I have rerurned the spiral-bound index cards in favor of a binder. As the year continues, the binder will include print-outs on prayers; holidays; TaNaCh (Torah, Navi and Ketuvim, which together comprise the Jewish BIble. Navi, or Nevi'im in plural, are the Prophets; Ketuvim are Writings, and include, by way of example, Megillat Esther, which we read on Purim and Kohelet, which we read on Sukkot.)
As you may recall, each student will get an SSJS bookbag; I leave it to your discretion whether or not to use this bookbag. As long as your daughter or son has the binder and any textbooks handed out, and a snack, I am all set.
The 3rd housekeeping item is a request to you. To help your children retain the information we cover each week,I would be grateful if you would take 10 to 15 minutes a week to review the handouts I provide each week. This week's handouts, in the binder, cover the current holiday of Sukkot.
Speaking of Sukkot, that was our primary topic on Sunday. As is the case with all Jewish holidays (and Shabbat), Sukkot started at sundown. This year, the holiday started on Sunday evening. Here are some points we covered about the holiday. You may want to play a game with your daughter or son about these points, such as T/F or fill-in-the-blank. Where I have provided information geared toward you, the parents, I have highlighted the key points we discussed in class.
- Sukkot is celebrated for 8 days outside of Israel, and 7 days in Israel.
- The Jewish people used to have a holy Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple, or Beit HaMikdash, was standing, the Jews were supposed to make a pilgrimage to the Temple on three holidays: Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.
- Although the Temple was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago, there have always been Jewish people living in Jerusalem, and our prayers have included for all these years a plea to G-d (aka, HaShem) to allow us to return to our most sacred city, Jeruslaem. Jews still visit and pray at the one remaining wall of the Holy Temple. This wall is known as the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall and also the Kotel.
- So, what is Sukkot anyway, besides a pilgrimage festival? It is celebrated for two reasons. First, it is a harvest holiday, celebrating the fall harvest (Shavuot celebrates the spring harvest). When harvesting food from the far reaches of his land, the farmer and his helpers would build temporary dwellings in the area they were harvesting. These dwellings are called Sukkot; singular is sukkah. The pilgrimage aspect involved bringing an offering to the Temple. Today, personally, I commemerate this by making a donation to an organization involved in feeding those who are unable to buy food for themselves. (And I taught my daughter to do the same. We would actually go shopping, and then put back items on the shelves as a reminder that we needed to donate that money to those who have less than we do. Not easy as a single mom, but she is now 21 and does seem to understand the difference between wants and needs, which was my goal.) Okay, so Sukkot is a harvest holiday. The second reason it is celebrated is to commemorate the 40 years the Jews wandered in the desert, after leaving Egypt (celebrated at Passover) and before arriving in the land of Israel. During those 40 years, when the Jews encamped in an area, they lived in temporary dwellings called Sukkot.
So fast forward to 5779, the Jewish year, and we still have a tradition of building a sukkah in our yard. It should be big enough to hold a table and chairs for your family; guests should be invited to meals in your sukkah, if you are able to build one; and the ceiling must be made of plant material, and serve as protection from the sun, but the stars must be visible through this ceiling. Growing up in Phoenix, we used palm fronds. My grandparents in CT used a bamboo roof, which had the advantage of being reuseable. And many of my New England cousins use branches from local trees. Sukkot is a festive holiday, and touches on some beautiful, key Jewish values, such as hospitality and being grateful for the food we are blessed to have in our homes. Some people actually sleep in their sukkah, but most families just eat their meals in the Sukkah. And if it is too hot, or too cold, or the weather is otherwise inclement, many families will say the blessings over wine (kiddush) and challah (ha'motzei) in the sukkah, as well as the blessing for sitting in a sukkah, on the first two days; Shabbat; and the last two days. Then they will eat the meal indoors. (I once tried to eat a meal in sukkah while it was snowing, but when my soup became cold, I gave up and went inside. We are not supposed to be uncomfortable in the sukkah.)
- On Sukkot, we use a lulav and etrog, which are made of 4 different species. More on this in the handouts!
This coming Sunday, we will talk about the holiday attached to the end of Sukkot, which is called Simchat Torah. A simcha is a happy occasion, or celebration. So this holiday has to do with a celebration around the Torah - specifically, finishing the last of the 5 Books and then immediately starting over... why do we begin the annual cycle of reading the Torah as soon as we end the cycle of reading?
Thank you to Eliana's grandparents for visiting our class! It is always wonderful to see multiple generations learning together and being a family!
Wishing you a Shabbat shalom - a peaceful Shabbat -