Thursday, 2 August 2012

This is what it is all about! Vaetchanan

Every parasha is important, but I feel extremely passionate about parasha Vaetchanan. The parasha begins with Moshe pleading with Hashem for the opportunity to enter the land of Israel. Hashem allows him to see the land, but refuses him entry. Although it is important to see that actions have consequences, this always makes me heartsick. Everytime I disembark from an El-Al plane I feel a bit guilty at the ease we have of getting to Israel and that Moshe, the greatest person, never was able to set foot there.

The parasha continues by reviewing many mitzvot, including the Aseret Hadibrot, the "Ten Commandments".
Finally comes what I consider the pinnacle, Shema!

Everyone knows the Shema is of great importance. But which part? The Oneness of the Almighty? Loving Him with all of you? Teffilin? Mezuzah? Yes, all very important, but the part that somehow gets lost is: Veshinantam Levanecha! And you shall teach it to your children!

Teaching it to the children is the inspiration for my blog and most of my daily activities. Rashi says 'your children' refers to your students but it doesn't matter. Your own children, your grandchildren, your neighbor's children, your students, any child you are connected to. Teach them! Teach them Torah, inspire them with ideas, encourage them to ask questions.

But what if you don't know the answer to their questions?!?  How embarrassing would that be? Maybe better not to talk about it at all. Just leave it to the Jewish Studies teachers.
 Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks shared an anecdote of the response his father gave him to his many questions. "I never had a Jewish education, so I cannot answer your questions. But one day you will have the education I didn't have and you will teach me the answer to those questions," his father explained. Rabbi Sacks certainly fulfilled his father's expectations!

My passion for parashat Vaetchanan caused me to add it to the curriculum for the entire Early Learning Centre where I work. In this way I am assured that I am not only teaching my biological children, but the also the 100 children who come through the school each year.

The children learn about the meaning of shema, mezuzot, teffilin, and the job of a sofer. And they make their own mezuzot.

Rav Eli Gutnick, the community sofer, came to school to describe his work. He is extremely talented (not just in his ktav) and does an amazing job explained his work in a way which is exciting and relevant to children.

 In my class, the children make their mezuzah cases out of wood. They paint the wood silver and decorate it with glitter and sparkles. A mezuzah case can be made countless ways.
 The klaf is the important part of the mezuzah. Using parchment looking paper (either from a shop or by staining regular paper with tea), a feather, and fountain pen ink the children have the opportunity to try their hands' at sefirut.
 I make a clear pocket on the side of the case to hold their scroll. And I explain to them about only a real sofer writing a real scroll and how theirs is a toy.

Cohava is intrigued by teffilin and wearing a shin on one's forehead. Therefore I made one for the back of her head. She has insisted on wearing her hair like this all week, in honor of what she calls, "Parashat Chanan Ha'Ganan."

Shabbat Shalom!

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