This week, we welcomed a new member to the 4th and 5th grade class! Bruchim haba'im to Jacob S.--we are happy to have you in our class and look forward to integrating you and your family into our community!
Now, to the other Jacob--our forefather, son of Isaac and Rebecca. This week, our class studied the story of Jacob and Esau's birth and early life, and how Jacob (with the help of his mother) cheated Esau of the birthright that should have been his because he was the eldest son. We focused on the idea of cheating to get what you want, and whether or not there is a cost to pay when we cheat, and whether that cost is worth it. Whenever you cheat, you risk getting caught. What can happen if you get caught being dishonest? Who does it hurt? What if you don't get caught? Is anyone hurt then? It Jacob's case, he got away with his deception and gained the blessings of wealth and security. But at what cost? We learned that by cheating, Jacob destroyed the relationship between himself and the person with the closest relation to him--his twin brother. Was it worth it? What would have happened if Jacob had been found out by his father, Isaac? Or what would have happened if he and Rebecca had not practiced this deception on Isaac, and Esau had received Isaac's inheritance? These are big questions for us as a people, but also for us as individuals. Is it right to play our parents off against one another? Is it right to skirt the rules in sports or other competitions? We have some tough decisions to make, but we also have a history full of ancestors who made mistakes. We should try to learn from their stories and strive not to repeat their bad decisions.
How Do You Pray?
We know that you want your children to be prepared to take their place as adults in our community, and part of that includes learning the skills necessary to lead our congregational worship services. Not everyone needs to know everything; but everyone should know something! That's why we work with the students in all grades to teach them the words and melodies of the prayers and blessings that Jews say on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis; and why we teach them the mechanics of our prayer services, such as when to rise, when to bow, when to face east, etc.
But this is only the mechanical structure of prayer, the outward expression of worship. What is happening inside us when we pray? How do we teach our children about this inner, hidden side of praying?
Inspired by a documentary I learned of recently, I would like to have the students interview their parents, or another adult relative, about this question of how we pray. The plan is to record these interviews at Torat Yisrael during school time, and to edit these interviews into a document that, I hope, will be a powerful statement and a lesson about the wide variety of ways that people in our school community pray and think about praying. Whether you are someone who comes to services once a week or once a year, your perspective is valuable!
Our first interview day will be Sunday, November 17th, from 10:00 - 11:30am. I will set up a schedule and ask you to sign up for a slot. The kids and I will discuss the questions that we plan to ask, and will practice our interviewing techniques with the iPad. I'll also share the questions with you in advance so you can begin to formulate some thoughts. I hope you'll enjoy being a part of this project and participating in your children's learning!