A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 3/11/16

In case you are confused by the above Hebrew date, let me clarify: today’s date of 1 Adar 2 5776 is not a mistake. During the Jewish year 5776, there are two Jewish months of Adar. It’s pretty convenient to call the first month Adar 1 and now that it has concluded, today is the first day of the second month of Adar. As to why there are two months of Adar; and why it occurs seven out of every nineteen years; that would require a complicated explanation of the lunisolar Jewish calendar and who wants to read about that on a Friday morning?

But I do want to talk about a different aspect of time which has to do with one of my favorite moments of the week: 4:15pm on Tuesdays. Ma Nishtana HaTzohoraim HaEleh? Why is this afternoon different from all other afternoons? Because it is right about that time that I offer a teaching to our Hebrew school students.

Hebrew School for our 3rd-7th graders is held on Tuesday afternoons. We begin with T’filah, a service that is organized by Rabbi Eve and led by all of our students. It’s really sweet. Rabbi Eve calls it “Tag Team T’filah” because the students never know in advance what prayers they will be leading until their names are called. Of course, Rabbi Eve makes sure that the specific prayer matches the ability of each student’s grade level.

After everyone has led a portion of the service, I am called upon to share something with the students. The best part about this moment is that I never plan in advance what I am going to teach. Invariably, during the service, something strikes me that I think is worth sharing. Last Tuesday, I spoke to the kids about the inclusion of the matriarchs – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah – in the first prayer of the Amidah. Though the students are of an age in which the matriarchs have always been included, I told them that this wasn’t always so, not even in the Reform movement. More importantly, when I asked them why it was important to include the matriarchs, one student said it was because each woman spoke with God. Beautiful!

One Tuesday afternoon, I talked to them about different ways to pronounce Hebrew. The Hebrew letter Reysh can be vocalized many different ways depending on where you were born and raised. When I made a connection with the kids about how English, also, has a lot of different forms of pronunciation, this led to students and teachers offering a hilarious variety of accents: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Orleans were all in the mix. My favorite was when one young lady offered a dead-on Valley girl riff.

Teaching Judaism is a joy. Our learning is informative, interactive, and fun. Thanks to the dedication of all of our staff at Temple Beth Torah, Hebrew and Religious School is a time of delight and learning for our students.

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