Passover is just 2 weeks away. As we edge closer to redemption, experiencing our celebration of freedom from slavery (with still so much work still to do), we are deep in the heart of our 6th core Jewish value, Koach HaDibbur, the power of words.
Words matter in Judaism.
When you hear a truth or a wisdom that resonates, deep inside your soul, it can carry you to be and do your best. Gathering a greater understanding of our destiny and purpose as a people is not easy to do in a few minutes. This week, I heard a wonderful teaching from Rabbi Irwin Kula in an email from our friends at CAJE in Miami. In this J-Insider video from 2009, Rabbi Kula summarizes the current context of Jewish education so very well,
“Jewish wisdom helps us become more evolved human beings.”
For thousands of years we have strove- and continue to strive- for ideal relationships with our fellow human and to be more compassionate. Paramount in this relationship is the clear instruction not to gossip (lashon hara). Yet, when it comes to ideas, there is a sense of obligation to share wisdom when one comes across it. Indeed the opposite of gossip, would be to share words that are filled with light.
As you will see in this month’s newsletter, we have scheduled our Summer Training Conferences where our educators will share experiences to help each other improve. The power of their words contain some of the most valuable lessons. With our growth, we are now holding two separate conferences to maximize participation.
Words can move and inspire. Below are my two favorite quotes from “non-Jewish” sources taught in our Koach Hadibbur unit. I could go on forever on how much these words mean to me, but they are so powerful, lets let the words speak for themselves. May you all have a Passover full of joy and wonder and powerful words at your seders!
Chag Pesach Sameach!
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
“We strive to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
– John F. Kennedy
The holiday of Purim begins this Saturday, March 11, at sundown. If observance of this holiday is new to you, or if you are just looking for some new ways to celebrate, here are some suggestions:
An overview of the holiday from MyJewishlearning.
A Hametashen recipe from Bon Appetit.
If you can’t get to synagogue to hear the Whole Megillah, you can listen here.
Or, perhaps you would prefer an English translation.
It is customary to have a festive meal or seudah on Purim, here are some ideas from Joy of Kosher. (The Hamentashen Challah sounds particularly mouthwatering!)
And if you didn’t get a chance to read it, here is what our own Rabbi in Residence Dani Eskow had to say about how Purim fits in to our ShalomLearning curriculum.
Chag Purim Sameach from the ShalomLearning team!
As the Jewish calendar month of Adar begins today, we have arrived at our fifth value from our Jewish Values curriculum: Hakarat Hatov. This is one of my personal favorites, when our students begin to realize the profound importance and even holiness in a Jew’s obligation of “seeking joy and being grateful.”
Hakarat Hatov literally translates to “recognizing the good,” but as we do with all of the values at ShalomLearning, we ask our students to take the meaning a step further.
When you look at the etymology of being Jewish, “Judaism” comes from the name “Judah,” (Yehuda in Hebrew) the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. At his birth Leah said, “This time I will thank God” (Genesis 29:35). Yes, the root of our tribe’s name is “Hodah” which means “to give thanks,” thus at the very essence of being Jewish is to be thankful.
According to Harvard Medical School, giving thanks makes you happier. Positive Psychology research has proven that the benefits of being grateful are enormous (such as improved health, quality of life in relishing good experiences, dealing with adversity, and building stronger relationships). There are several things that you can do to boost your graciousness like keeping a gratitude journal, writing and hand delivering letters of gratitude, praying, etc.
In my family, every Shabbat, just before or after the Friday night Kiddush, we go around the table and everyone contributes some “good news of the week.” This is a tradition my wife and I picked up from one of my first Jewish education mentors, Rabbi Fred Benjamin. At Rabbi Benjamin’s house, we passed the kiddush cup around while everyone had a turn holding the good news and reflected on one thing for which they were thankful. The cup that was filled with with wine and blessings of joy literally overflowed even more with the gratitude. Plus, all food and drink always tastes better with a blessing before hand. I encourage you all to try this tradition!
Countless of our non-Jewish friends after joining us for Shabbat have shared with us that they have brought the “good news of the week” into their homes. I have long known that whatever one focuses on is real to that person. The key to a successful life is not in material things, but rather it is in gratitude and appreciation of life itself and those we love.
I am so very thankful to be part of the ShalomLearning community and my prayer for you during this point of our curriculum is for all of you to bring in more “good news of the week” into your lives and into your homes. Share your joy with your family and friends. It is The Jewish Way (a great book by Rabbi Irving Greenberg). Your kids will thank you some day for this gift of gifts (being grateful for gratitude itself). So… If you haven’t done it yet, I recommend you start with some good news of the week.
And may you have a chag purim samaeach!
It has been a few months since the light of Hannukah filled our homes, and the joy of celebrating the holiday of light with our families is almost a distant memory. As Jews, it is strange to be “holiday-less” as we are always celebrating or commemorating something. It has felt like a few months of “holiday vacation” (with the exception of Tu B’Shvat) where we took a break from the often unhealthy (but delicious) Jewish food and got back to our daily lives.
It is also an “empty” few months in the sense that we are not filled with the joy that comes with celebrating with family. However, do not fret as a very exciting holiday is approaching – Purim! Like Hannukah, Purim is a holiday where we commemorate that our people almost met a tragic fate, but thanks to the heroism of several characters (Mordechai and Queen Esther) our people stood up for our beliefs and ultimately won!
Many of us know the Purim story: King Achashverosh doesn’t like his queen, so he holds a contest for a new queen. Esther, a nice Jewish girl, enters the contest after being nudged by her uncle Mordechai. The king’s evil sidekick Haman has a different plan for the Jewish people and convinces the king to rid all of the Jews in Shushan (Persia) on a certain day. Long story made short, the king does not know his new wife Esther is Jewish. When she risks her life by revealing her identity, she saves her people! Talk about gevurah (courage)! A very happy ending to a risky situation.
How is this month’s value, hakarat hatov, connected to the Purim story? The Jewish people have been through many ups and downs, and like the Purim story, have often avoided a tragic fate; however, we always recognize or identify the good in any situation. The Purim story could have been tragic but due to Esther’s gevurah (strength), courage, and pride in being Jewish, she was able to create a positive outcome for the Jewish people.
We, too, can recognize or identify the good; the tov in any situation. In our daily lives we face ups and downs. In addition, with social media and the internet, we are aware of global acts of anti-semitism or other types of adversity and hate. We can dwell in the sadness of the world, the prejudice and the pain, or we can find the good, the tov, and do our part as Esther did to fix the world and to do tikkun olam. May we all find the strength to pursue the tov even in the darkest situations or experiences. Wishing you all a Chag Purim Sameach, a very happy and joyous Purim.
Dear ShalomLearning Friends,
Now up to our fourth enduring understanding, it is no accident that our Jewish Studies program starts the secular new year off with the Jewish value of “Achrayut.” While Achrayut translates to “responsibility,” we strive to bring this literal meaning into heartfelt actions by asking our students “What can YOU do to make the world a better place?”
This concept ties in so well to the recent American holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the approaching Jewish holiday, Tu Bishvat. In our curriculum, Achrayut means both standing up for injustices in the world as well as taking care of the earth. As parents of two children, my wife and I have brought this idea home by asking, “ how we can make our home a better place?”
For us, there is no time more challenging than getting the kids off to school in the morning and getting through the dinner/ bed-time rituals, so we started a morning and an evening checklist. The kids really got into it, and it adds a profound level of responsibility to share the things that need to get done together.
This journey through life is not a solo act, but indeed a chorus of harmony when we are at our best.
Here at ShalomLearning, our achrayut encourages us to constantly improve. We’re listening to your feedback and using it to set our goals for this calendar year: we’re updating our curriculum, expanding to second grade, and adding another Hebrew option.
Most importantly, we’re setting a goal to connect with more of our supporters including the parents, teachers and students. Looking forward to, “ sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord, All the earth” (Psalms 96:1)
I fully believe that each of us has the power to make the world a better place. Whether it is in your home or fighting for social justice. We are powerful as a community. And of course, to be a true agent of change, it begins with you. I look forward to hearing your stories of Achrayut in your lives.
Please send them in and share.