Friday, October 26, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Vayera

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This week's parsha is Vayera. Abraham and Sarah graciously and without hesitation welcome three wandering strangers into their tent and offer them a meal. It is the perfect illustration of Middle Eastern hospitality and the Jewish value of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests). These are important values at any time of year, but so  much more so in the coming weeks as we plan on hosting a sheva brachot next Friday for Moreh Simon and Jess to celebrate their marriage, and as we begin preparing for the Thanksgiving Community Feast on November 20.

At home, you can take advantage of family meal times to teach your children how to be good hosts -- and good guests. Besides reminders about saying please and thank you, what about teaching them how to offer someone else some bread before taking some for themselves? Or offering to pass the chicken, or spoon some peas onto someone else's plate? What about volunteering to help clear the table after the meal is over? More importantly, what about how to be a good conversationalist, how to ask someone questions, and really listen to their answers?

We hope you can join us in the coming weeks so that we can welcome you to our table!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Lech Lecha

So much happens in Lech Lecha, this week's parsha: God tells Abram to take his family to the land of Canaan; when famine strikes, the family departs Canaan for Egypt; Pharoah takes an interest in Sarai, and Abram has to pretend they're brother and sister to protect them both; Sarai's handmaid Hagar bears Abram a son, Ishmael; God makes a covenant with Abram and all of Abram's descendants, and instructs Abram to circumcise himself and all other males in his family. Finally, God changes Abram's name to Abraham (father of multitudes) and Sarai's name to Sarah (princess). He also promises both that they will have a son in their old age, who will be named Isacc, which means laughter, because, really, they're so old at this point. The whole idea is kind of funny.

In many ways, this parsha is the story of how the world's first two Jews got their names. If this were a Marvel movie, this would be Abraham and Sarah's origin story.

Our names say a lot about who we are, our families, and where we're from, yet our names are not chosen by us. They were chosen for us by our parents. Parents choose their children's names for all sorts of reasons. They might prefer traditional or biblical names, or names that honor a relative. We named our son Ari, which means lion in Hebrew, to honor my husband's grandfather, whose name was Leo. Parents might just like the way a name sounds, or what it means in another language. Morah Ilanith, who is from Morocco, gave her daughter a Russian name (Anouchka) for that very reason. Parents might eventually settle on a name because of its originality. That's what drew my parents to the name Jennifer. Little did they know that the rest of America discovered Jennifer at the same time they did. It went on to become the most popular girl's name throughout the 70s and early 80s. I hated my name, because it was so common, until I learned as an adult that Jennifer is derived from Guinevere. As in Queen Guinevere. From the Arthurian legends. It means "fair one." That I can live with.

Do your children know why you chose their name for them? If not, tonight might be a good time to tell them the story.
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Noach

Most everyone is familiar with this week's parsha, Noach. In it,

The Lord said, to Noah
There's gonna be a floody, floody . . .
Well Noah, he built him
He built him an arky, arky . . .

Aside from fun songs and lots (and lots) of illustrated children's books, such as my favorite (the details are extraordinary), what else does this story have to offer young children? What are the big ideas that they can relate to and understand?

We can use the story to teach them about caring for animals, patience (40 days and 40 nights!), and the beauty of God's natural world (the rainbow).

But what about the awesome power of God's natural world? About heeding a warning, accepting that the climate is about to change dramatically, and adapting accordingly? About then helping to rebuild a world that's been destroyed?

Children aren't too young to learn that they have responsibilities to help keep our natural world clean and healthy. There's one very easy, age-appropriate, and tangible way to begin teaching them these lessons: Trash Free Fridays. Rather than send in lunch foods packaged in plastic, send sandwiches, fruits, and drinks in reusable containers. The children take great pride in showing off their lunches that contain NO trash at all. Thanks to Morah Susan in Kitah Turkiz for this splendid idea.

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