Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


April 2, 2017, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204


Morah Erin’s Hebrew class: We started off with our conversational Hebrew. Since last week we learned the phrase “let’s eat!” this week we learned some foods (halav-milk, lehem-bread, peirot-fruit, dag-fish, gelidah-ice cream, and thanks to Brita, g’vihah-cheese. We worked on ahava rabah, lines 1-10 with the melody and lines 17-20, where there is a melody change. It’s coming along nicely.Keep working on it so we can move on to something new! Finally, we spent a little time on the 4 questions, since passover is coming up. Below I have scanned in the words in Hebrew and English and if you follow the link you can hear the melody for the 4 questions.
Homework: Work on lines 11-16, p. 15, and lines 17-20, p. 16. Review the endings on page 18 and the vocabulary on page 19. Link to 4 questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsWh4YaD3HE Link to Ahava Rabbah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsWh4YaD3HE

Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We read a few more verses from the encounter with the serpent: the serpent’s enticement of Eve with visions of attaining some of God’s knowledge, Eve and Adam’s eating of the fruit, the opening of their eyes, realizing they were “eyrumin” (naked), and the sewing together of fig leaves to cover themselves. We talked about the verb “poteach” (to open) and “pokeach” (also to open, but only of the eyes), plus various noun and verb forms of “ochel” (to eat), “ro-eh” (to see), and other vocabulary from the passage. We and special fun with “per” (fruit) and the possibility that “p-r” and “f-r” make “p-r,” p[ea]r, and f-r[uit] Indo-European cognates. Then we did some writing drill, like “vayomer hanachash el-ha-isha” (and said the serpent to the woman), including details like “shin” vs. “sin” from where the upper dots are, and so on. (“‘Sin’ is not ‘right,’” goes the mnemonic.)
Homework: Read through B’reshit chapter 2, verse 15. Study the Hebrew till you can read it without stumbling, and study the English and Hebrew together till you know the meaning of each Hebrew word. Once again here is the link.

Morah Jen’s Hebrew: To earn target throws, the class demonstrated their reading and translating abilities with the exercise on page 92 of the textbook, which includes phrases from Sim Shalom, Shalom Rav, and Oseh Shalom. Words translated included vachesed (and kindness), avinu (our father), b’aynecha (in your eyes), ootzedakah (and justice/charity), and amecha (your people/nation).
Homework: Read Sim Shalom (p. 84) and Shalom Rav (p. 91) one more time, focusing on reading fluently without stopping. Also read/do pages 97-98 on Oseh Shalom. Review the meanings of ha/the, shel/of, -nu/our, l’/to, -cha/your, v’ or oo-/and, b’/in or with, and ki/because, and look for these in the three songs.


Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish studies: The middah of the week was Eino Samayach BeHora’ah: not delighting in rendering decisions. We considered the qualities a good leader should have and then thought about what Pirkei Avot tells us: “One who is too self-confident in handing down legal decisions is a fool, wicked, and arrogant of spirit.” There was some lively discussion about what this means. I think the class in general found the sages words easier to swallow: “He who is wise, humble, clear headed, fearful of sin and fellow humans take delight in him, may be a leader.”The subject of Moses as a leader was brought up, and we found that he was sometimes humble and fearful of taking a leadership role (Genesis 3:11 and 4:10), but later, in the desert made rash decisions. Then we turned to Saul Raskin, a Russian born Jewish American artist, who lived from 1878-1966. Moreh Zach showed a Haggadah and an edition of Pirkei Avot that were illustrated by Raskin. The images were sometimes disturbing and sometimes quite outdated, but very interesting to look at. Students took some pictures with them, so ask to see the pictures and ask what is depicted.

Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies.We began class with our question box, instead of leaving it for the end. Out came the question whether the Jewish people have a mission, whether there is some goal they are serving, or great task they are completing. That opened to a discussion of the Jews’ three major exiles: in Egypt, in Babylonia, and after the destruction of the Second Temple. We even went back to Ishmael and Esau, and even read the Biblical account (from our chumash in English) of Jacob’s deception of his old blind father Isaac. We talked about the hearing for a homeland, the Jews’ gradually increasing return to Palestine before and after the turn of the 20th century, the Holocaust and the founding of the state of Israel. We asked what exactly it means to have a “Jewish” state, the extent to which Judaism is a nationality, a religion, and an ethnicity, and especially whether Israel’s survival, which could be considered a goal or mission now that Israel exists, depends on continually keeping hostile neighbors at bay or making peace with them. Next week we will try to finish that discussion with another take on the Jewish “mission,” this one inspired by Rabbi Gilah: whether the Jewish people’s identity as the people of the book, and a “light unto the nations,” gave us something to hold onto, helped us survive millennia of adversity, and give us a sense of mission to this day, as well as what that mission might be into the future.
Homework: Let’s prepare for Pesach. Three assignments:

  1. Bring a family Haggadah and we will compare as many versions and traditions as we can.
  2. Remind yourselves of what’s on the Seder plate and what each item symbolizes, as well as what we eat before the meal and what all that symbolizes. And—
  3. Choose one of the following essential bits of the Seder to get familiar with and recite (in Hebrew!) in class: The Four Questions; one or more of the four sons (“chacham,” the wise one; “rashah,” the contrary one, “tam,” the simple one, and “she-ayno yodeah li-sh’ol,” the one who doesn’t yet know how to ask); the ten plagues in Hebrew; and two personal favorites of mine, “Echad mi yodeah” and “Chad gadya”).

Please note—Moreh Steve will be in New York this Sunday for his family Pesach, and if he can’t get back to Washington in time we will have a substitute to be announced.

Morah Jen’s Jewish Studies: We discussed the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, focusing on the roles of truthfulness and responsibility. We used emojis to rate Adam, Eve, the snake, and God. We also debated a series of questions, including who was at fault for Adam and Eve’s disobedience, who should be punished or forgiven, whether the punishments made sense, why the punishment wasn’t what God said it would be (death), and why the snake would trick Eve. The class offered some great insights, points and counterpoints. They also asked and offered answers to some terrific questions of their own, including why God only talked to Adam, and not to Eve (heated feminism debate arose here), why God didn’t want them to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, why God told Adam he would die if he ate the fruit, and why Adam and Eve didn’t try to eat the fruit from the Tree of Life in the first place.
Homework: Think about a situation in your life when someone did something wrong. Were they completely responsible, or did others play a role? Who should be punished?


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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