Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community


November 20, 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, as Thanksgiving approaches,  our phrase of the week was “I am thankful for ________” (אני אסיר תודה על). I filled in the blank with family, but told them to think about it and fill in the blank with their own word this week. Perhaps a good exercise for all of us during this dark week. Then we spent a little time working on fluency in the v’ahavta. I expected them to be fluent up to line 8 (page 28) and we started to work on decoding through line 11. We followed this with some study of the vocabulary found in lines 1-8 and a game of trasketball to see if we had it. Finally, we played a game using the numbers 1-10 in Hebrew.

Homework: Find a word or words for what you are thankful for. Read lines 1-11 on page 28 many times. It’s ok to memorize this! Study the vocabulary found on pages 24 and 30. Read page 31 repeating the phrases until they roll off your tongue.

Morah Jen’s Hebrew classDue to family illness, Morah Jen and her kids were absent. Morah Erin kindly took the rest of the class, so please see her class highlights for details.

HomeworkRead the lines of the v’shamru (p. 74) again, and review the vocabulary and grammar on that page.  Read and do pages 75-76 in the textbook.

Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We read through verse 10 of Genesis ch. 1 in Hebrew and English, through the second day of creation. We considered the Bible-writers’ choice of sequence of creation events, and wondered what sequence we might have chosen, and how to convey in story, for real people looking for answers, the majesty and mystery of the universe and of our origins. Then we played (again) the Apollo 8 video, beamed to earth from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968, in which the astronauts read these first 10 verses of Genesis to “all of you, all of you on this good Earth.”


Homework: Continuing our reading of the Genesis creation story in the original, read and study verses 11-15 of Genesis ch. 1 in Hebrew and English. Link here. Work on reading the Hebrew aloud, as we will do in class.


Morah Jen’s Jewish Studies classDue to family illness, Morah Jen and her kids were absent. Morah Shana kindly filled in for a discussion of Shemini Atzeret.  The class discussed the holiday’s meaning, origin and traditions, which include a prayer for rain to help crops grow in Israel. They also discussed the concept of aliyah — moving to Israel –, what kinds of plants grow in Israel, and why rain is so important. The class concluded with a story about the first rainfall in Israel and drew pictures of good things rain brings.

HomeworkShemini Atzeret involves a prayer for rain, something we can’t control.  Is there something you can’t control that you would pray for? What is it, and why?


Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish Studies class: This week we paired two related middot: Eino Machazik Tova L’Atzmo (taking no personal credit) and Mitrachayk Min HaKavod (shunning honor or sharing credit). We talked about the midrash “if you pursue honor, it will flee you” and the reverse “if you flee honor, it will pursue you” and what this means. I read the students a story about a rabbi who chose personal humiliation over embarrassing his hosts and we discussed why this was an honorable way to behave. Students thought about various examples in their lives or in our times of sharing honor. Because of the nature of the middot this week, it was difficult to find a Jew of the week, so instead we looked at historical pictures of people participating in Jewish activities as a community or in groups and talked about why these ordinary people were demonstrating the Jewish values of sharing or avoiding honor.


Homework: Think about an example of when you have chosen to share credit for something or think of someone you know or know of who has done this.


Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. First: We discussed Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, and the differing accounts of their story in Genesis (mostly about Isaac) and in the Koran (from Hagar’s and Ishmael’s perspective).

 Second: We passed around our book of Jewish anecdotes and biographical sketches, and read one of them aloud, on Emma Lazarus, which quoted (and described the writing of) her lines on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; Send these, the tempest-tos’t, to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” We read those lines several times and talked about immigrants’ hopes, disappointments and struggles, then and today,  

Third: Our mystery question box gave us one of those wonderful child-questions, what “form” God takes. Students thought first of physical form, musing that it’s only natural for people to imagine God in their own physical form, and then migrated to other, more abstract conceptions. Just the kind of conversation that helps young people graduate from the literal to the figurative without loss of wonder.


Homework: Read the Moses chapter in Dimont, pp. 11-13, and study the historical map of Abraham’s and Moses’ travels, pp. 14-15. Ask yourself what makes a leader, what the Israelites needed in a leader when Moses came along, what made Moses a great leader, and what made him a flawed leader. And: Is the approach to Palestine from the east the quickest route from Egypt? If not, why did the Israelites go that way? Also: Ask your family for details of its first immigration to the United States, starting with when and from where.

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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