1st grade JS-October in Review

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It has been another great month in our super JS class! Our amazing 1st graders have been hard at work exploring many interesting topics in Judaism.

Since earlier this month we celebrated the holiday of Sukkot. We explored the topic of the Clouds of Glory that Hashem provided the Jews with when they were traveling in the dessert. The clouds provided the Jews with divine protection from all side in a less than friendly dessert climate. We discussed the similarities between the clouds and a sukkah and how the sukkah reminds us that just like Hashem was always with us in the dessert, Hashem is always with us each day, wherever we are. In a similar vein, the second mitzvah of Sukkot, the waiving of the 4 species (lulav, hadasim, aravot and etrog) in all 6 directions. We also took a close look at the properties of each specie and discussed their significance.

The third mitzvah of the Sukkot is to be happy and rejoice. We used the opportunity to discuss whether emotions were a choice and whether we can control and choose how we feel. By commanding us to feel an emotion, the Torah asserts that to a large extent our emotions can indeed be manipulated and controlled by us. The class brainstormed some great ideas on how we can control our emotions. They came to agreement that we can cause ourselves to feel happy by focusing on happy thoughts or by doing actions that lead us to feel happy. We can cause ourselves to be miserable by focusing on the negative or acting in an upset manner and so on.  Our class dare was to smile really wide and think of something joyful the next time we felt sad or upset and to take note of what happened…

What do you think happened?

Next, we discussed Simchat Torah and the joy of the new Torah reading cycle the Jewish people were about to embark on, as well as the accomplishment of the cycle we just completed. We discussed the richness of the Torah and how one could learn it year after year and still find renewed knowledge and inspiration from it. Did you know? Torah discusses all areas of life! The Gemara, a rabinical Torah Text, discusses how to deduce the circumference of a circle way before the formula (pie r squared) was derived!

The kids made their own Torah puppets to dance with on Simchat Torah.

Since we started a new cycle of Learning Parasha, we began our renewed, deeper learning of the weekly Torah portion. Rather than focus on the story line, we are focusing on select part of the parsha and their lessons.

In Bereshit, when G-d creates the world and man, we discussed what the Torah states to be G-ds purpose in creating the world and man. This has everything to do with our Unit of Bechirah, power to choose! We also discussed the concept of “bishvili nivrah haolam” how each person is so special and so dear that we actually must believe that “G-d created the world for me.”  This is learned form the fact that while G-d created the whole world and only THEN man, it actually teaches that the world was created for the purpose of man to live in. (Just as parents may set up a room to be ready for an unborn baby.) It was so cute to go around and share why we think the world was created for each beloved member of our class.

We learned the story of Noah and his strength and courage to remain upstanding while the people around him were not and we learned about.

And we learned about the importance of SHALOM, peace from parashat Lech lecha, which includes the story of the disagreement between the shepherds of Avraham and Lot which results in their parting ways.

Shalom is so important in Judaism that one of G-d’s names is actually “Shalom!” It is said that when their is fighting between people G-d is truly pained, just as parents are pained to see their kids not getting along or hurting each other. We also discussed that when their is fighting, no one is happy. One way that we agreed we can keep shalom is by not picking fights over small things. We decided that it would be wise to use our power to choose when small sticky situation arise (in contrast to truly problematic behaviors) to “Just let it go, Let it go…” We have been reading  stories, giving examples, and practicing “letting it go to choose shalom” in our “Act Of Shalom” theater.  I am impressed at the creativity of our 1st graders!

We stressed that since Torah is “Torat Chaim,” Torah of Life and not just Torat JS class,  acting in class alone is not enough, rather we must bring that resolve and learning to the playground and with us all though out life. The kids are determined, though, we admitted “it ain’t always easy,” to choose Shalom and apply any of our other JS learning.

I am proud to see the kids enjoying our class, thinking deeply and already applying our learning and terminology in their day to day life!

Shabbat Shalom!

All the best,

Morah Yonit