This past Sunday we discussed Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which begins this Friday evening at sundown, Sept. 29th, and ends at nightfall Saturday, Sept. 30th.
The goal of Yom Kippur is to spend the day reflecting on how to be a better person in the coming year. We are performing teshuvah, which means returning. We are, in essence, trying to return to God, i.e., to a path of righteousness. I started class by reading a story about a mythical bird called the Ziz. After accidentally destroying a vegetable garden grown by the children of a large town, God tasks the Ziz with finding the hardest word in the world. Most of the kids figured out the hardest word before I even read the story - but they listened attentively anyway!
We also had volunteers perform a skit about finding a dollar in a classroom and deciding how to best return it to its owner. I mentioned that when I was in 3rd grade, if I had found a dollar, I'm not sure I would have done the right thing and returned it. I would have wanted to keep it for sure. I brought this up b/c all the students knew the right thing to do and say - - but knowing and doing are not the same thing. I believe it very important to discuss the realities of how we feel about doing the right thing, because that can be such a difficult thing to do. And that includes apologizing and meaning it. We talked about that, too, and how we are lucky that each year we have an opportunity to think about how to improve ourselves, and thus help with a key Jewish value of tikkun olam - making the world a better place.
ELECTIVE HOMEWORK: I sent home a "bullseye" chart that you and your child can work on, if you would like. The idea is to fill in the innermost circle with middot, or Jewish values, that you can do now; and the outer circle with values that you are still working on. I told the students that my inner circle is taking care of animals before I take care of myself (b/c pets and livestock are dependent on their owners for sustenance, it is a Jewish law to ensure they have food and water before we eat); my outer circle includes being more patient at work.
HOMEWORK: Please read some, or all, of the Yom Kippur chapter in the Jewish holiday book.
A traditional Jewish greeting between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is G'mar chatimah tovah, which means may you have a good final sealing - i.e., may you be sealed in the Book of Life. Wishing you all a g'mar chatimah tovah and a fulfilling and easy fast,