Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


February 5, 2017, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204


Morah Erin’s Hebrew: This evening we learned to say “how are you” (mah shlom’cha) and everything is ok (b’kol b’seder). Then we read through the yotzer ohr together and in pairs. The reading is coming along! We reviewed the v’ahavta, chorally in pairs. The first 11 lines are in pretty good shape. We still have some work to do on lines 12-21, but these lines are coming along too. We began ahava raba today, introducing it as the second blessing (yotzer ohr is the first) leading up to the v’ahavta during the morning Torah service. We noticed the root ahava, love, which we already know from the v’ahavta and the suffix noo that we’ve seen in many other contexts. Finally, we had a game of trasketball using vocabulary from the v’ahavta.
Homework: Read the first four lines on page 8 and continue to study the vocabulary on page 11. Do the translation on page 11. Work on reading lines 12-21 fluently on pages 28-29. Here is a link to the melody if you want to learn it using the melody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqV9VwZcuW4 Study the vocabulary on page 32. Read lines 1-4 on page 15 several times.

Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We had more fun with our white-boards, writing English phrases in Hebrew letters to work on our writing skills. We tackled amusing challenges like how to spell Tuesday, or purple, in Hebrew. Then we read through verse 5 of B’reshit chapter 2, God’s (or the writers’) lament that the shrubs and grasses were still seeds in the ground, with no one to raise them.
Homework: Read through verse 10 of B’reshit chapter 2. Again, the link is here.

Morah Jen’s Hebrew class: We started by comparing the tunes Kol Ami uses for Sim Shalom and Shalom Rav, observing that the former sounds serious, and the latter sounds peaceful. We found that the language is similar in the two, but the tone is different. We then continued our word find game with Sim Shalom, looking for and reading specific words and roots (chai/life, baruch/bless, tov/good, tzedakah/charity or justice) to earn a throw at the target. Everyone did a great job again of finding, reading and translating the roots and permutations of these! More of this again in next week’s class.
Homework: Please review all of Sim Shalom on p. 84 of the textbook, looking for words/roots/prefixes/suffixes you know, and review the vocabulary words on pages 87 and 88. Please also read all of Shalom Rav on page 91, looking for words/roots/prefixes/suffixes you know.


Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish Studies: We studied the middah Aymah, or fear, this week. Though initially slightly puzzled as to how fear can be a value, we found that it is the capacity to recognize and be fearful of unjust circumstances and therefore act to make these circumstances better that is the value. We thought about what would happen if teachers at school made dangerous or unfair rules. What would be the right thing to do? Should we speak up? Transfer schools? Raise the issues with a higher authority? Then we thought about how this middah might apply to our country currently and what might be just actions.Our Jew of the week, Leo Cherne, was an exemplar of this middah. He recognized and acted upon the situation in Nazi Germany earlier than most. He’s best known as the longtime chairman of the IRC, where he worked to rescue refugees from all over the world.
Homework: We will be doing a project this year toward the end of the year. Students will choose a Jew and link the Jew to a middah, as we’ve doing in class this year. Attached you will find more information about the project.

Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. We talked about h0nesty as a value, in Jewish and contemporary American secular culture. We looked at examples written by teenagers, of which a typical one was the sports team choosing whether to hide an adverse event that the opposing side doesn’t know about. The honest thing is still to disclose it. We read stories from Jewish rabbis of 19 and 24 centuries ago to surprisingly similar effect: one about Rabbi Safra, who accepted a less favorable offer in negotiations rather than take advantage of a misleading impression that he was holding out for more; and Shimon ben Shetach, who bought a mule, found a valuable diamond in its mane, and returned the diamond immediately. The message: Ethical behavior is what you do when no one’s watching, when any deception you chose could work.Then we talked about honesty in the week’s news headlines. There’s a tornado of falsehood and BS (yes, parents, I used those initials—let’s call it by its name) whirling around out there. Let’s together decdecide to make our own homes BS-free zones. We won’t deceive even if it would work and no one would know. When we mess up, we’ll say so straight out: “Yup, that was me, gosh that was dumb.” It’s much more liberating to shuck that off than to hold onto it inside, hoping we can outwait any reaction. We won’t try to cover up, we won’t under- or overstate it, and we won’t blame others. In other words, we won’t BS others to protect ourselves. Doing this is scary, we all agreed, and we discussed what specific fears it called up: what others will think, what trouble we’ll get into, and underlying all that, what it’ll do to our self-esteem, our fragile image of ourselves as near-perfect.
Homework: Try this BS-free approach anywhere you can, with your peers or with others, see how it feels, and be ready to talk about it. And more abstractly, consider a related moral question: the deathbed confession. Is it a good thing? Is it a cop-out to wait till then? Is it better than carrying one’s secrets to the grave? What can you find in Jewish tradition that speaks to this? See here.

Morah Jen’s Jewish Studies class: We continued last week’s discussion of Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s two sons, considering why these two sons continued to have a close relationship after Jacob switched their blessings and comparing this to Jacob and Esau’s relationship and Joseph’s problems with his brothers. We linked these to the T’s: tzedek and emet/truth. We created a list of reasons that serve as lessons for relationships in general: don’t play favorities/treat others equally; ask why; answer honestly and be respectful. Based on students’ questions, we also briefly discussed the tribes descended from Jacob and Esau, as well as the reason the Torah stories all take place in Canaan and Egypt and how the diaspora has led to Jewish presence around the world. We ended with a game of T’s apples to apples, in which the kids received cards listing Jewish holidays, figures from the Torah, and modern figures from real life and movies/TV. They chose from their hand the card they thought best represented tzetzedakah. Their selections: Miriam (sister of Moses), Anna from “Frozen,” Pocahontas, Passover, Cesar Chavez, Aaron (Moses’ brother), and Judah Maccabee. After each student explained their choice, the class voted on which they thought should be the winning card. They selected Aaron, but the other choices were all close behind.
Homework: Think about which of the T’s your other cards represented…we’ll play again next week, though you might get different cards!


Contact Kol Ami

P.O. Box 1801, Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: 571-336-5544
Rabbi's Study: 202-364-3006

Where We Meet

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington Blvd. (Route 50) & George Mason Dr.
Arlington, VA 22204
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