Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


November 6, 2016, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204

Morah Erin’s Hebrew class: This week, in honor of Halloween, our phrase of the week was:
אני אוהב את התלבושת שלך (I like your costume). We were able to find some roots and words we already knew from prayer Hebrew in there, which was fun. Then we reviewed how to read the sh’ma and the vocabulary words we’ve learned from it. The girls knew the vocabulary pretty well! We started some new vocabulary that is found in the first 4 lines of the v’ahavta and started working on decoding it as well. We ended class with a round of trasketball, using the vocabulary we’ve been studying for a couple of weeks and the new words
Homework: Read lines 1-8 (especially 5-8) until able to read it smoothly. Study the vocabulary on page 24. Do page 30 and study the vocabulary on page 30.

Morah Jen’s Hebrew class: Our competition involved reading lines from the Avot v’Imahot and answering vocabulary questions from it. In honor of Halloween, we shot baskets with a pumpkin into a jack o’lantern container. Then, in honor of Simchat Torah, we each took a section of the first verses from the Torah, B’reisheit, scanning them to identify words we could read and translate. We noticed that the script was a bit harder to read than the print in our textbook…
Homework: We’re learning a new prayer, but keep practicing the ones we’ve already learned! Please read page 71, 73 and 74 in the texbook (S’fatai Tiftah vol 2), then go back and read the first five lines of the Hebrew for the v’shamru on page 72. Read it twice, and look for vocabulary and grammar that you know.

Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We read the first five verses of Genesis ch. 1 (the first day of creation), translated and discussed each word, and considered the power of our tribe’s creation myth: what would you imagine would have come first? Matter, in complete disorder, and then light. And then—distinctions, between light and darkness for starters. “And the evening and the morning”: the ancient reason Jewish days all begin in the evening.
Homework: Read the next five verses in Hebrew and be ready to recite them, and know what each word means. Link to the Hebrew here.

Morah Jen’s Jewish studies class: We recapped the meaning of Simchat Torah (“Celebration of the Torah”) and talked about why we would celebrate it. Reasons the students came up with included: 1) The Torah helps us to be better people; 2) the Torah tells us stories and lessons from long ago; and 3) we couldn’t have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah without the Torah. To experience the challenge of rolling a Torah, we each made a mini-Torah from breadsticks and a fruit roll up. We then read Keeping the Promise: A Torah’s Journey by Tammi Lehman-Wilzig, a true story of a tiny Torah that was used for a secret Bar Mitzvah in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, then taken into space on the space shuttle Columbia and shown to the world in 2003. We made a list of T words we thought were related to the story, which included tzedakah, thank you/todah, Tikkun Olam and tzedek. We ended by drawing a picture of something we would show the world to convey one of the T words or another value important to us.
Homework: Think about other reasons we might celebrate the Torah,including any related to the T words we’ve been examining.

Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish studies class: We talked about the middah of generosity. Sam brought up Bill Gates and we thought about how he chooses to give money away. By helping to cure diseases such as malaria, he helps people feel well enough to earn a living, and as we talked about previously, this is a preferred way to give according to Jewish thought. We also talked about giving to education and how this can also lead to people being able to earn their own living. We spent a little time talking about how difficult it is to know what types of giving can really help people the most, and about how this has difficulty has been thought about by Jewish thinkers for centuries. We looked at Maimonides 8 degrees of tzedakah and tried to imagine what giving would look like in the different steps. Then we turned to the middah of sharpening the teacher’s wit. We read the story of Abraham arguing with God to save the people of Sodom and the story of Moses arguing with God about killing the Israelites for making the golden calf. In the first case, Abraham is not able to save the people, but does feel free to question God’s judgement and in the second case Moses presents an argument to God that it would be in God’s best interest not to kill the Israelites and succeeds in changing God’s mind. Both stories carry a message that it is always ok to question when the questions are thoughtful and serve a purpose. Our famous American Jew of the week was Annie Nathan Meyer, founder of Barnard college, opposer of women’s suffrage, and questioner of teachers! She was a fascinating woman. Check her out at:

Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. We pulled a wonderful question at random from the question box: exactly what is God? People first tried to answer literally, what form God might have, and then began shifting perspective: to a cat, if it had a concept of divinity, would God look like a cat? and from there to more metaphorical conceptions of positive forces and universal presence. Then we discussed the Abraham-to-Moses chapter of Max Dimont’s Amazing Adventures of the Jewish People. We noticed that Dimont didn’t mention Ishmael, or his mother Hagar, but only Isaac and his mother Sarah. We talked all about that issue, from the ancient concept of concubines to Dimont’s omission even of the modestly ambiguous account of Abraham’s and Sarah’s emotions in Genesis. I read the actual Hebrew text to them—the childless Sarah’s permission to Abraham and Hagar to try and conceive, Abraham’s distress at Sarah’s demand years later that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away–and we talked about it, both the human feelings and the sexist overtones of both the Biblical account and that of Dimont. Bravo students for your deep thoughts.
Homework: Take our conversation about Ishmael further by reading this brief article by Arab and Muslim historian Mona Siddiqui on Islam’s view of Abraham (Ibrahim). We’ll pick up the Dimont book next week.

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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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