Friday, May 27, 2011

Teaching & Learning

היום שמונה ושלשים יום שהם חמשה שבועות ושלשה ימים לעמר
Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days, of the omer
תפארת שביסוד
A day of compassion in a week of foundation

Yesterday I had four different periods of teaching/learning. I could label each one, but each had elements of both.

Our rabbi has his weekly Torah study session on Thursday mornings after minyan, but yesterday he couldn't stay--his young son was getting his siddur in a ceremony at the day school and, of course, he wanted to be there. The assembled group asked me to lead the study. I have to admit feeling some gratification in the confidence they placed in my ability to do this. I went to the library to grab the Nechama Leibowitz Bamidbar volume--always a good aggregate of commentaries, and led a lively discussion.

Then it was off to the East Bay for my weekly Torah study group. My friend Edna and I have been studying Torah with Rabbi Carol Caine using the Nechama Leibowitz studies as our base. Yesterday, after two years of study, we finished Bereshit. It has been truly wonderful to share in these teachings, sometimes arguing among ourselves but more often arguing with the generations of commentators. We now leave these personal spiritual stories behind and start Shemot--a book of revelation where the Israelites start their journey as an integrated society.

Back over the bridge, I prepared the materials for my new bar mitzvah student and drove over to Beth Sholom for my first meeting with him. The introduction went well. He's an engaging kid and seems ready to take this path with me. He's a sports fan, which always works well in my favor. He's a Giants fan, and had a bit of a mischievous glint in his eyes when I told him I root for the A's. When I told him he gets to choose the color of the streaks in my hair for his bar mitzvah, he said, with a wide smile, "Well, orange and black, of course." We'll see if I can convince him to let me add some blue as well for the Mets--my National League team.

After evening minyan, I ended my day of study with Talmud. Since October I've been part of a small group to be guided through these teaching with Rabbi Avi Novis-deutsch. Avi is an Israeli, a Masorti rabbi, and a great teacher. He doesn't want us to just accept the teachings of the Talmud--he wants us to wrestle with them, to find ways to make them meaningful to us in this day and age. I will miss these sessions, and hope I can study with him in some way next year before he returns to Israel.

A very rich day, indeed. I taught my students, and learned from them. I gained insights from my teachers, I shared my thoughts with them. All good foundations in this foundational week.

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