Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


March 19, 2017, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204


Morah Erin’s Hebrew: This week we learned the phrase ma neeshma? (what’s new?), maybe next time we’ll learn some answers! Then we read through the Yotzer Ore, which sounded really good, so we’re moving on! We worked on Ahava Rabah, the first 8 lines. In order to get it smoother we had forced singing, which everyone was a pretty good sport about, and which definitely helped with fluency. Here is the link to the melody, for those who would like to continue learning it with the melody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WTdJdgClr0We finished with a vocabulary review game.
Homework: Work on lines 1-10 on page 15, preferably with the melody! Watch out for repeated lines and words. Work on lines 17-20 on page 16. Study the vocabulary on page 19 and do the translation exercise.

Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We finished B’reshit chapter 2 (the nude Adam and Eve in the garden, not embarrassed in the slightest). in our exploration of the text, in addition to “ezer kenegdo,” which I’m now convinced describes Eve as a “power equal to Adam’s own,” not just a “helpmeet fit for him,” we looked at other things you can see only in the Hebrew original. For instance, God brought all the creatures to Adam and whatever he named them, that was their name—but the Hebrew text says he [God, we think, not Adam] found none who could fill the need (that Eve was then created to meet). In most translations it says “none was found,” but in Hebrew it’s in the active voice, 3d person singular, “lo matza.” We’re going to read at least till the fall from Eden, keep discovering the Bible story in the original, then evaluate how much time we have left and what else we might want to study. (Some prayers need revisiting, for example, given that several of our students will be bar or bat mitzvah soon.)
Homework: Read the first five verses of B’reshit chapter 3. Do it more throughly than you have until now—we’re still doing lots of halting in class, as if you’ve never seen the words before. Here’s the link.

Morah Jen’s Hebrew: This week my students joined Morah Erin’s class. They learned the phrase ma neeshma? (what’s new?) Then they read through the Yotzer Ore and worked on Ahava Rabah, the first 8 lines. They also had a vocabulary review.
Homework: See if you can read Sim Shalom (p. 84) and Shalom Rav (p. 91) smoothly, thinking about the meaning of the words you know (which should be pretty much all of them by now!). Also read/do pages 93-94, including practicing the vocabulary on p. 94.


Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish Studies: We started off with a very silly Purim play with many references to root beer, go fish, and Casa Blanca. It did retell the Purim story though! Then we looked at a more modern day Purim story, through the German Jewish American spy Frederick Mayer, a man who parachuted into the Austrian Alps, lived as a German officer in Nazi Germany to gather intelligence for the US, became a POW and helped facilitate the surrender of Innsbruck.
Homework: Continue to think about who you want to investigate for our end of the year project. I am attaching the assignment again.

Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. We talked about prayer, the thought assignment for this week, and asked what types there were (students identified gratitude and praise, pleas for help with what we can’t do alone, as well as help for others and for the world); and what its messages were (that God is everywhere, one student said, remembering that when you come into a synagogue, you say hi to God as well as the other people there, but when you leave, you don’t tell God goodbye). One thoughtful skeptic wondered why we pray for God’s help when the effort is our own and we can’t rely on God to do it for us, and on the other hand what purpose prayer serves if it can’t change a thing because our futures are predestined. So we talked about how vast nature is, how much we depend on it, how little we can do by ourselves, and how amazing that all is. Students, let no one tell you you’re not capable of deep thought. Parents, let no one tell you your child isn’t! We did two other things in class: read a couple of entries from our treasury of Jewish anecdotes, one about the Baal Shem Tov’s message not to get so obsessed—in his day it was with books, in our day maybe smartphones—that we can’t have actual religious experience, for example looking up and seeing God is everywhere. And then we opened the question box, and out came a question whether the Torah tells us what language we should speak. The students immediately understood about vernacular, making religious thought accessible, and one commented that God wouldn’t speak to people in a language they didn’t know; and then we talked about Hebrew as worth studying just because it’s the language of our ancient founding texts, the language our forbears in the biblical era spoke, and we connect with them every time we use it. The conversation ended with musing about Hebrew as a sacred language, the reason why vernaculars like Yiddish and Ladino arose, and modern Hebrew as spoken in Israel, the Ben Yehuda dictionary, and the idea in Jewish thought that in Israel, unlike in the Diaspora, it’s ok to use Hebrew for everyday things. Whew, we sure covered some time and space.
Homework: Look at Purim again. Remind yourself of the story. What are its lessons? What do you think of the colorful characters in the drama, Vashti, Esther, Mordechai, Haman? Here’s the Purim article from My Jewish Learning. Come to our Purim celebration this Sunday, but if you can’t do this homework before that, do it afterward and before our new class in two weeks.

Morah Jen’s Jewish studies: Shana Harbour taught the class. The class read the story of Esther and discussed the characters and what values or traits they had. Was Esther brave and clever? How would we choose to honor someone who saved our life? They also discussed how we celebrate Purim by reading the Megillah, carnivals, dressing in costumes, eating hamentashen and giving baskets of treats (mishloach manot).
Homework: At the end of Jewish studies class, the students received wooden boxes to be used for noise makers next Sunday at the Purim Festival. They can put stones, marbles, beans, or beads inside, and decorate the outside however they like.  Think about which of the Purim characters embodies truth/emet, tzedek, tzedakah, and tshuvah, and which don’t.

Contact Kol Ami

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

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