As I prepare the first lesson plan for my new class (last week was more of a “Hi, welcome to class, I know your parents are downstairs and you want to see them, here’s what we’re going to learn and let me get you excited about it”) I find that I am jealous of Rabbi Hillel, and any teacher that has had the ability to teach outside of the confines of class bells and ridiculous, arbitrary structures that define the notion of modern learning/teaching/instruction in the United States (if anything will be our downfall, it’s this - to be sure).
I’m going to connect the students Hebrew names with our past, and their future by showing the relation to liturgical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew (and in between I know at least one of my students will ask about cheese/Batman/ponies…because: students)…and I will have to make them care about Hebrew as much as they care about cheese/Batman/ponies, which is an incredibly tall order to fill.
I’m going to play for them music of what prayers sound like from many different groups, and then we’re going to think about a reason to be thankful for, and we’re going to clap out a prayer to God (because: Psalm 47:1).
We’re then going to talk about Roi Klein who’s last words were either “Shema Yisrael…” (Hear O Israel) or “Long live Israel” depending on the account, when he flung himself on a hand-grenade to save his troops during the Second Lebanon War - or we’ll talk about God counting the tears of women, to bring it back to this modern life (and to settle them down after clapping and screaming); and then we’re going to discuss where Jews pray, from appropriate dress and behavior in a Synagogue, before we launch into the structure of a prayer service (and make cards that we’ll get to use in the future to order our studies and prayers) - but where is the time to develop a love of learning, a love of Hebrew, a love of our sacred works? Why do we race toward the date of Bnai Mitzvot as if that is all Hebrew School is? Where is the time to show them that this is more than a language, more than a religion, more than a ceremony: that we are a people, and that this is our language, our history, our past, our present, our future - and it is also a philosophy on life, and that at every turn it both agrees and contradicts itself and that perhaps our greatest heritage is our own works that have arisen from this.
Perhaps at the end of the year I will have to bring sand in a chest and hope that Elijah has a bit of time to intercede on my behalf.