Sunday, April 15, 2012


היום שמונה ימים שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד לעומר
Today is eight days, which is one week and one day, of the omer
חסד שבגבורה
A day of loving kindness in a week of strength

Speaking of moving forward (see yesterday's post), as of tonight I will be in my third year of studying Hebrew. Because I started my studies at this time of year, there's documentation of my thoughts as I embarked on my studies, and some stopping points along the way. This is a journey that is important to me on different levels.

In my first post of this series, describe how the Hebrew language reaches out to me. I am affected simply hearing the sounds without full understanding of their meaning. But I still want to be able to listen with comprehension, and that means being able to enter the flow of a language that is routed differently than the language I'm used to hearing. I'm getting better at decoding when I'm reading something; getting the meaning orally is still often elusive.

While I'd like to really "hear" Hebrew, speaking it is a lower priority for me. It's not that I don't want to be able to it--comfortably conversing with others will mean that I have a good command of the language. It's more important to me to read material written in Hebrew without the filter of translation.

I entered into my Hebrew studies for all of those reasons. But there is one side effect of this study that has become equally important not just for me, but for my b'nei mitzvah students. I believe that to be a good teacher you also have to be a student. I fulfill my "student" quota in many ways--I study Torah weekly and attend other classes. lectures, programs, and workshops throughout the year. But for the most part, that learning is within my comfort zone. Studying Hebrew can bring me to a high frustration level, feeling like it's out of reach. But if I breathe through it and break it down, maybe even moving back a few steps before continuing forward, I do move ahead.

And this is what I can share with my students. They need to read the Hebrew while they're decoding the trope. Even if they're memorizing the tune from a recording, they still have to put it with the words. And then, when their haftarah is learned, they need to master a different tune to chant Torah--and this time, there's no vowels or symbols or colors to aid them. It's my job to help them breathe through it and break it down, maybe even moving back a few steps before continuing forward. And then they move ahead.

In order to teach, it is necessary to understand what it means to learn--on an emotional as well as intellectual level. That way, with loving kindness and strength, we guide our students on their way.

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