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 -
Shalom Parents! I hope you had a meaningful Yom Kippur! Last week was a wonderful whirlwind of learning! We focused on some basics, such as Judaism having its own calendar; that our common Jewish history and the background for what we do and believe as Jews is found in the Torah; and the Torah is written in Hebrew. We learned that the Hebrew day starts at sunset - that's a little confusing, isn't it? But it will help explain when our holidays and Shabbat start. We also talked about Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. The Jewish year is now 5779. (That is not meant to be taken as the literal age of the world; much of what we learn in the Torah is metaphor and/or requires additional explanation! e.g., "an eye for an eye" is about monetary compensation, NOT revenge.) On Rosh HaShanah, we repent (say we are sorry), pray and give tzedekah, which is a donation, whether that be money, time, clothing, food, etc. This helps remind us it is time to think about how to be a better person in the coming year. On Yom Kippur, tradition teaches us that our "fate" for the coming year is sealed - but if we have truly prayed, repented and vowed to help others in creating a just society (i.e., tzedekah), we will have a year blessed with life.
REMINDER: Please pack a nut-free snack for your child! Also, I did not distribute the bookbags or index cards last week; they will be distributed this week.
My name is Vicky Scolnick, and I am the 3rd grade teacher at SSJS. This is my 10th year with SSJS, and my "umpteenth" year teaching at Sunday schools in Phoenix, NYC, Chicago and the Boston area. I am looking forward to getting to know all of this year's 3rd graders, and teaching them some of the highlights of our beautiful and amazing shared heritage! Speaking of the year - the Jewish year is now 5779, having just celebrated Rosh Ha'Shanah last week. So Shana Tava oo'metukah - a Happy and Sweet New Year! As you may know, we no longer have storage lockers available at Oak Hill. Therefore, I will be sending your child home with an SSJS book bag. I have also purchased a spiral-bound index card pack for each student. Please check the note cards each week, as they will contain a summary of what we have learned in class as well as homework. Would you please do your best to ensure your child brings this bookbag, along with textbooks, a pencil, and the aforementioned index cards? That would be VERY helpful! Also, please pack a nut-free snack for your child. Even if you think your son/daughter won't be hungry, watching the other kids eat a snack can be a lonely and hunger-inducing time. I try to bring something in case someone forgets a snack, or is very hungry, but I don't have a car, and work during the week, so, unfortunately, I cannot always get to a store to buy extra snacks. My final request is to have your daughter or son bring a pack of colored pencils to class each week, if possible.