Parsha Paintings

Watercolors, colored pencils, and glitter! Each week in Parsha Paintings students explore some of the main themes of the parsha (weekly Torah portion) and then have the opportunity to bring the parsha to life! In these images students were delving into parshiyot Bereshit and Noach and responding to questions such as, what might have the creation of the world looked like? Where do we see righteousness in our world today? By bringing these parshiyot to life through art, students are able to connect with our Torah in a new, creative, and meaningful way.

At the end of the elective students will have a collection of fantastic images to share with friends and family, and to return to next year and see how their understanding of the parsha has changed.

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Hanukkah Rap 2018!

Students in Grades 1-3 are invited to participate in creating a song about Hanukkah in the form of a rap. Students will write the lyrics, come to the music room for a recording and have the song featured here on our blog. Lyrics either in Hebrew or English are welcome! See the finished pieces below…

This project allows students to:

  • Develop creativity in a new form
  • Learn about Jewish holidays through music and composition
  • Use technology during recording sessions
  • Build school community as we make one song with many verses, showing  the students’ thoughts about Hanukkah miracles and freedom

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D’var Torah: Jessica Weinfeld ’19 (Chayei Sarah)

Have you ever wondered how we can learn from the Torah? After all, the events in the Torah took place thousands of years ago. One way we can learn from the Torah is by looking at the qualities displayed by the people in these ancient stories. The people in Chayei Sarah illustrate qualities like trust and faith, diligence, hospitality, and bravery. These qualities are essential to have meaningful lives today.

Avraham displays trust in his servant when he sends his servant to find a wife for his son. This mission is immensely important to Avraham, and he would only send a trusted friend to accomplish it. Although people do not send friends with trains of ten camels trekking across the desert to find wives for their sons today, trust in one’s friends is absolutely essential in this day and age. I always take comfort in knowing I can completely trust and confide in my friends.

Avraham and his servant display enormous faith in G-d. When the servant questions whether a woman will come away with him, Avraham show faith in G-d by saying

יִשְׁלַ֤ח מַלְאָכוֹ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ אִשָּׁ֛ה לִבְנִ֖י מִשָּֽׁם׃

“He (G-d) will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son from there.”

Avraham’s servant likewise displays his trust in G-d when he prays to G-d to reveal the woman G-d has chosen for Yitzchak. In this day and age of scientific discovery and discussion, it is easy for some people to lose faith in one’s religion because religion cannot be proven by science. Because I admire their loyalty and faith, Avraham and his servant inspire me to have faith in G-d.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Rebekah illustrates another important personal characteristic highlighted in this parasha, that of extreme diligence.  A thirsty camel can drink 30 gallons of water. Multiply this by 10 camels and you get 300 gallons of water that Rivka drew for the camels. BY HERSELF. Furthermore, as Nehama Leibowitz points out, it says in Bereshit perek כד  passuk

כ: “ וַתְּמַהֵ֗ר וַתְּעַ֤ר כַּדָּהּ֙ אֶל־הַשֹּׁ֔קֶת וַתָּ֥רָץ ע֛וֹד אֶֽל־הַבְּאֵ֖ר לִשְׁאֹ֑ב וַתִּשְׁאַ֖ב לְכָל־גְּמַלָּֽיו׃”

“Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she hurried and ran back to the well to draw the water. . . “

Rivka “ran back” meaning that the well was a distance away from the trough, meaning that Rivka would have had to work very hard to give water to all of the camels.  This description highlights how hard-working she really was.

In addition, Rabbi Shai Held points out in his book Heart of Torah important parallels between Rivka and Abraham.  Just as Rivka “hurried and ran,” Abraham also “hurried and ran” when he welcomed the three strangers who told his about the birth of his son Yitzchak. In our day and age, diligence and hard work are valuable, especially when it comes to school and work. My parents are very diligent and they have shown me by example that diligence is an important quality. I always try to work hard in my life.   

Rebekah’s hospitality is also displayed by her offering Avraham’s servant, a near stranger, shelter and food for the night. This sort of hospitality, bruchim habaim, “welcoming those who come” and hachnasat orchim “bringing in guests,” is very important in Jewish values, and is another parallel between Rebecca and Abraham, who welcomed the three strangers who told him that Yitzchak would be born.  In my family, we often have guests over for Shabbat dinner, and I always try to make guests feel welcome.

Rebekah also displays bravery by her willingness to move away from her family and marry a stranger. Bravery is an important quality to have in life. If I did not possess this bravery, I doubt I would be able to stand here and deliver this dvar Torah! Speaking in front of large groups, such as the one assembled here today, has always been a source of considerable anxiety for me. But today, I have overcome that fear.

From the Torah times until today, trust and faith, diligence, hospitality, and bravery are key qualities we all need to have a meaningful life. These qualities are highlighted in Chayei Sarah, and they are important qualities to me.

Shabbat Shalom!


D’var Torah: Bil Zarch (Vayera)

Parashat Vayera illustrates an amazing scene. God appears to Abraham as he sits at the entrance of his tent. What would you do if you received a visit from God? It clearly would be a seminal moment in your life. (I mean, it would be in mine!) And yet, what does Abraham do? He leaves to greet three travelers, asking them to stop eat something and rest. Abraham’s bold move is the ultimate example of hachnassat orchim (welcoming the guest).

As it is written in the Talmud, “R. Judah said in Rav’s name: ‘Welcoming guests is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shekhinah, for it is written, “My lords, if it please you, do not go past your servant.’” (BT, Shabbat 127a). Our tradition truly holds this value in high esteem.

The Schechter community has welcomed all of us in ways that are too numerous to count. Hopefully our children feel their school is a second home where they can grow and be nourished in ways that we can’t do alone as parents. There are lists of reasons that we choose a school for our families – often amongst them is the sense of community. But here’s the secret –  it takes each of us to build the community. Our communal responsibility must be just that – shared. Today it is too easy to retreat and hunker down in our corners where we can control everything.

To build community, we must sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable. We tell this to our kids all the time – take risks, they will pay off. But we don’t always follow our own advice. Now may be one of those times to jump in and deepen our connection to the Schechter community.

I don’t know if it was bashert for me to write about this particular parsha, but the timing couldn’t be better. As you have been hearing a lot from me (and co-chair, Sydney Gross) lately about the PA sponsored Shabbat Across Schechter on Friday and Saturday, November 2 and 3. We each take a role in building community and doing it in a way that seems a natural part of our community’s fabric.

I hope you will join the many families that have already signed up for Shabbat Across Schechter and continue to strengthen our community.

Bil Zarch, Schechter Parent, Director of Camp Yavneh

Students with a model of a glucose molecule

The Science of Fasting

Submitted by: Alanah Percy, Grade 6 and 7 Science

In preparation for Yom Kippur, 6th graders learned about the science of fasting. With the aid of hands-on demos including colorful pomp-poms that represented glucose, veggie oil in special cups representing fats, an interactive video clip and fill in the blanks notes, the class was able to identify the differences between energy sources used after 8, 24 and 72 hours of fasting. We discussed the health benefits associated with short stints of fasting including the practice of Yom Kippur and the downsides of fasting for 72 hours or more. After the lesson, students correctly noted that glucose was the primary energy source between 1-8 hours of fasting and that fats were broken down after 8 hours of fasting. The demos and fill in the blank notes served as a form of differentiation for students with different learning styles and effectively solidified the cultural and scientific relevance of the subject. Before the end of the block, students completed an exit ticket; a write-up about what they learned during the class period. The effectiveness of this lesson proves that students should engage Jewish culture in science and understand its scientific and cultural pertinence.