Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


March 26, 2017, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204


Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We began B’reshit chapter 3 (scene 1, if you will–Eve’s encounter with the serpent), and as usual worked in as much language–vocabulary, verb conjugations, tenses—and literary discussion as possible. The serpent’s cunning, its devious line of questioning, and Eve’s guileless response, all came in for a close look. We spoke about what was coming, and students wondered why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was even present in the Garden if it couldn’t be eaten from or touched. Don’t worry, parents, we came up with no answers!
Homework: Read verses 5 through 10 of B’reshit chapter 3. Same instructions as usual—read aloud, read seriously, try to get into the words, get familiar. Here’s the link.

Morah Jen’s Hebrew Class:To test our fluency with Sim Shalom and Shalom Rav after several weeks of word find games with these prayers/songs, the students took turns reading strings of eight words from them. They earned a target throw if they read all eight words correctly. They did pretty well, but we’ll do this one more time next week to see if we can read a little bit faster and a little bit more smoothly, and we’ll also start a new prayer/song.
Homework: Please read Sim Shalom (p. 84) and Shalom Rav (p. 91) one more time, focusing on reading (or singing) smoothly without stopping, thinking about the meaning of the words you know (which should be pretty much all of them by now!). Also read/do pages 95-96.

Morah Erin’s Hebrew class: Our phrase of the week was z’mon lehehchol, let’s eat! We spent a good part of class going over ahavah rabah, lines 1-7 with the melody and noting where words are repeated when we sing it. Singing it is really helping with fluency and remembering the words. We played a game to review vocabulary from ahavah rabah, v’ahavta, and yotzer ohr.
Homework: Work on lines 1-10 of ahavah rabah (p15) and lines 17-20 (p16). Review vocabulary words on pages 30 and 32. Practice reading lines on page 31. These lines come from the three prayers we’ve concentrated on this year, so they should be familiar. Practice reading the line. If it wasn’t easy and fluid, go back and read it again until it is easy. Here is the link to ahavah rabah:


Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. We spoke about Purim, and asked what it is we celebrate so merrily. For clues, we concentrated not on “him who shall not be named,” but on the end of the story. Naturally, the last event most students remembered was that because of Esther’s courage and devotion to her people the Jews of Persia were freed, placed under royal protection from oppression, and elevated to positions of honor in the kingdom. So we delved a little into the Megillah’s recitation of events after that: the king’s license to his Jewish subjects to take direct action in their own defense. That resulted in thousands of killings by Jews of Persian non-Jews. The reader has a choice of implications: either this was commensurate retribution for the mistreatment of the Jews before Esther spoke up, or this was excessive retaliation. We wondered about everything from what racial and tribal hatred really is, to the central place of fear and desire in human emotion, to the words of Hatikva and why they were so inspiring, to the question whether the current Israeli regime might have something in common with the Jews of Persia in the Purim story after the king licensed them to take lives if they deemed it necessary in the name of self-defense.
Homework: Returning to Max Dimont’s Adventures of the Jewish People, read chapter 12, “The Great Debate,” pp. 59-62, about the old scholar Jochanan ben Zakkai, the Roman general Vespasian, the Jewish general Flavius Josephus, and questions of war, peace, surrender, betrayal, personal and tribal survival.

Morah Jen’s Jewish Studies Class: We began by with a lively debate on the characters from the Purim story, rating their behavior regarding emet (truth), tzedakah (giving ), tzedek (justice), and tshuvah (repentance). We assigned an emoji to Haman, Esther, Mordechai, and King Achasueros for each category. While the other characters received mixed reviews after some back-and-forth between the students, Haman failed all categories, receiving a horned, fanged emoji for tzedek and tshuvah. We then continued our annual tradition of making hamantaschen. While they baked, we discussed a new term: selicha (forgiveness). We learned that this week’s Torah portion discusses God’s ability to forgive for wrongdoing, as reflected in forgiveness of the Jewish people for creation of the golden calf while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. We then discussed whether the king should have forgiven Haman, and why or why not. We talked about when we can forgive and when we find forgiveness too hard to do, offering our own examples. We noted that forgiveness is hardest when someone intentionally harms us or tries to harm us. We concluded with consumption of our baked hamantaschen.
Homework: Think about a time someone did something wrong that hurt or upset you. If they apologized, were you able to forgive them? Why or why not?

Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish studies: Our middah of the week was Ma’amido al HaEmet, setting others on the path of truth. I started things off having the class think about a quick scenario in which a friend has plagiarized for the science fair and has won first prize. What should you do. They wrote down thoughts and then we discussed our middah. The original source of the middah is Genesis 24:48, when Eliezer, Isaac’s servant, thanks God for putting him on a true path. We talked about what true means in this context. Then we talked about the midrash “one who judges those they work with favorably while directing that person to truth.” We considered when and how this could be done and when it can’t be done and we looked at it the other way around, how open are we to being set on a path of truth by others. Interestingly, the class felt that it was easier to be set on a more truthful path than to set another on that path. Finally we thought about the words “all Israel (or humanity) is responsible for one another.” After this, we returned briefly to our science fair scenario to see if thinking had changed at all. Our Jew of the week was Nancy Wexler, a scientist who has spent her career working to understanding Huntington’s disease, as disease which killed her mother, uncles, and others in her family. Her studies took her to a village in Venezuela where Huntington’s is common and could be traced to 18,000 cases. Wexler and her colleagues now know how to test to see if someone is carrying the dominant gene that leads to Huntington’s, though a cure has not yet been found. Wexler and her family also fund a nursing facility for the village in Venezuela.


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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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