1) What do you consider valuable in your life?
2) What would you be willing to seek out to make life better?
Now read the introductory midrash (page 3). Which of the items mentioned as hidden, were on your list? How would you change your list?
Do you think these things are hidden? If so, how does one find and access them? If not, when/how do you encounter them?
Midrash – With which Torah stories are you most familiar?
Take a little time to find out if these are text or midrash.
Can you define a be’er?
Which sense(s) do you rely upon for memory?
Look around and see if you notice something you had not seen before.
Close your eyes and describe what you hear and/or smell that you had not previously noticed.
Make a list of the Hebrew words you do not know and their meaning.
Why does mama talk about ‘the song of Torah’? (Deut. 32:44)
What makes the Torah a song? (Keep in mind that the trop/ta’amim/liturgical chanting was added by the Masoretes, 6th-10th century.)
Consider the differences between prose and poetry: which is easier to remember? Which is Torah?
Explore the sections of Torah which are presented as poetry. Why do you think those sections are different? Note: some of those sections are chanted with different trop.
Writing Torah is considered to be the last of the 613 mitzvot. God tells Moses, "Therefore, write for yourselves this song and teach the children of Israel it (her), place it in their mouth, so that this song shall be for Me to witness on (against) the children of Israel" (Deut. 31:19). How does being a song influence the fulfillment of this mitzvah?
Aside from adding music, trop helps with word pronunciation and sentence structure/syntax. Write a sentence that takes on different meaning by changing the emphasis or syntax of the words.
What makes a place a home?
Who is in your home?
How does it feel to come home?
What is a homeland?
What is your homeland(s)?
How do you feel about the place(s) you identify as your homeland(s)?
Among what people(s) are you most comfortable? (i.e.,age group/race/relatives/activity related groups)
What makes a family?
Who do you count as part of your family? Are there non-related people that make up part of your family?
What makes a people?
LET’S TALK ABOUT ANGELS:
When do angels appear in Torah? (Abraham – circ, Sarah – name Yitzhak, Jacob – ladder)
What is the role of angels in Judaism? (they have no free will, only to perform a task)
When do we try to become like angels? (kiddusha – raising up on kadosh x3)
Why would a human want to become angelic like?
Why might an angel want to become more human?
As with many things, mirrors can be a source for good or not.
We hide mirrors during shiva so as not to be distracted by vanity. But while we were slaves in Egypt, according to the
midrash, the Israelites used them to keep our people alive.
“Once they had eaten and drunk, the women took mirrors and showed them to their husbands. She would say “I’m more beautiful than you” and through this they became accustomed to desire once more, and were fruitful and multiplied and God visited them with children...
“Through the merit of these mirrors that the women showed their husbands and re-accustomed them to desire in the midst of the slavery, were established the hosts (tzvaot) of the Israelites, as it says “All the hosts of God left Egypt” and “God brought out the Israelites from the land of Egypt in hosts”.
Later when the Tabernacle was built, the women brought mirrors….
“God said to Moses. ‘Moses, you think these are worthless? These mirrors established all the hosts in Egypt. Take them and make a basin of brass and its base for the priests, for through it the priests will sanctify themselves...’”
Tanchuma, Pekudei 9
Hagar encounters mirrors in the well which reflect for her strength to return to Abraham’s house and continue her pregnancy. Her offspring, Ishmael, would become the father of tzvaot, hosts of nations – the Arab world. How do you feel about this twist in the story? Might the mirrors from the well be connected to the mirror shards the Israelites used hundreds of years later to also produce tzvaot?
1) Have someone close their eyes. Ask them to describe what the person next to them is wearing.
2) Ask another person to close their eyes. Ask them to describe something in the room.
3) Ask a third to describe a well known object without mentioning what or where it is in enough detail that
others can identify it – this might be the Ark in your sanctuary or the Statue of Liberty.
AWARENESS CONTINUED - RUNNING FROM OURSELVES:
There are always things that make us uncomfortable, things we avoid rather than deal with. Sometimes it is people. Often it is activities we have to get done. Sometimes it is a character trait or ritual we have developed that we would like to change.
Identify for yourself one or two of these things. What would you need to make it ok for you to confront these rather than run from them?
Ezra found faith and thought it worth trying. In what do you have faith?
Are you willing to try to see things with more than your eyes?
How will you need to change to see with more than your eyes?
וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת־זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנָתַתִּי לְזַרְעֲךָ אֵת כָּל־הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ:
And I will make your seed multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 26:4).”
Are you ready to open a discussion on Israel/Arab relations?
Who are the seed of Abraham?
Which nations of the earth are blessed as descendants?
How can any people claim that their stories are more authentic than another people’s Divine stories? And, if that claim cannot be made, what right does anyone have to a piece of land except by war?
If war is the answer, why would there need to be rules of war and compensation for damages of war and return of land, property, art from the bounties of war?
What did Abraham take when the War of the Pieces was won? (Nothing – not even a sandal strap (Gen.14:23) )
Explain his action.
THE MUSIC OF CHAPTER 1: SHALOM ALEICHEM
This song is chanted on Friday night. In the 1600s it was sung by the Jews of Prague who were in danger on their journey from synagogue to home and they welcomed the company of angels. However, the song now is often sung at the dinner table or upon entering the home. The story is told, based on Talmud, Shabbat 119b, of two angels, one good and one bad that accompany one home on Shabbat. Picture in cartoon version the little angel and little devil sitting on one’s shoulders. If the house is ready for Shabbat the good angel says, “So may it be for the coming week” and the bad angel must agree. However, if it is a mess and the candles are not lit and no challah is available, then the bad angel gets to say, “So may it be for the coming week” and the good angel must agree.
Malechay hasharayt, angels (messengers) of service: Since angels do not have free will but are rather messengers with a task to fulfill, there can’t really be a bad angel. What might that reference indicate, i.e., what is their service?
L’Shalom vs. B’Shalom: When we bury someone, we say “v’ya(ta)nuach b’shalom” “may (s)he rest in peace”. In Torah, when Yitro departs from Moses he says, וַיֹּאמֶר יִתְרוֹ לְמֹשֶׁה, לֵךְ לְשָׁלוֹם “Go to peace – l’shalom” (Ex. 4:18)
So we bid the angels come to peace, bless us to peace, depart to peace. It indicates continued existence.
Ha-Kadosh barukh Hu ("the Holy One, blessed be He"): Since the formal Hebrew name for God is not used by traditional Jews except in prayer, formulations were developed to reference God. This one was rabbinically established in Mishna and is commonly used in Midrash.
GLEANINGS FROM THE STORY
Torah is read when?
The parasha is begun Saturday afternoon, repeated Monday and Thursday morning and expanded Saturday morning.
It is also read on holidays including Rosh Chodesh.
Why Monday, Thursday and Saturday? What is the reason given in the story?
In addition to the answer in the story, those were market day when people were already gathered together and
could take the time to hear the communal reading.
It was Sarah’s idea for Abraham to have a child with Hagar. How do you feel about her sending Hagar and her son away once she had her own son?
Why do you think God told Abraham to listen to Sarah’s request?
Have you had family members move far away? How does it change the family?
If you stay in touch, how do you do that?
Jews have been thrown out of many countries.
Imagine being told that you have to leave the only home you know. How do you feel?
Can you think of things that you might do to try to stay?
If you left, why might you want to return?
How do you feel about helping others stay in their home?
If you are ready: Let's talk about immigration.
In a traditional congregation, the story of the birth of Isaac and the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael is read on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Genesis 21. On the second days the Akeida, the near sacrifice of Isaac, Genesis 22, is read.
What are the similarities between these stories?
What are the differences?
Why do you think we read them both for Rosh Hashanah?
If Ishmael had not been sent away, would the Akeida have been the same test for Abraham?
Have there been times when you were sure of the outcome for an event and it did not happen? (a performance, a test, a game, a race,) What occurred to make the change?
Are there times when you are confused about your situation and can’t seem to find an answer? It seems like a lose –lose proposition? What helps you to open your eyes? What do you do or to whom to you turn to find guidance?
PARENTS – PARENT SUPPORTED CORNER
If you are a parent, make a list of blessings you want for your child (think what you want his/her life to be like 10/15/20 years in the future).
Now mark them in order of importance.
For which of those can you influence the outcome?
Until what age do you think you will have the most influence?
Consider how you will react to those things that do not evolve in the manner you would like?
If you are still being supported by a parent, make a list of the things with which you would like to be blessed (think what you want your life to be like 10/15/20 years in the future).
Mark them in order of importance to you.
Mark them in order of importance to what you imagine they would be for your parent(s).
For what blessings do(es) your parent(s) still influence the outcome? Explain how.
Explain how you influence the outcome of these blessings.
Ezra says that Hagar found truth.
What is truth? How do you know when you have found it?
Can there be more than one side to truth?
Mama says she knows what kind of person Ezra will be. Project yourself ten years into the future,
what kind of person do you imagine you will be? What would you like people to be saying about you?
MUSIC OF CHAPTER 2
IN YOUR TRUTH
In Your Truth is composed from verses of Tehillim, psalms. Psalms are found in the section of Tanakh called Ketuvim, Writings. It is the longest section of Ketuvim. There are 150 psalms. The Hebrew word, Tehillim, comes from the root hey-lamed-lamed, meaning praise. Tehillim are songs of praise. The word psalm comes from the Greek or Latin meaning to play a stringed instrument or the twang of a harp. When the Septuagint was written, Tehillim was called Psalterion, a reference to the instrument that accompanied the songs. Hence in church one might find a psalter or hymnal.
Psalms are not considered to be prayer or petition although they sometimes read as such.Rather, they signify “an exercise for one’s inner self, which is thereby penetrated anew with the perception and acknowledgement of certain truths so that our judgment and evaluation of things may become more correct.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Psalms, Feldheim Publisher, Jerusalem ISRAEL, 1997. pg 107).
That truth is one’s awareness of God’s nearness. That is to say, if we are humble enough to accept that there is a power greater than humankind, the power of the Divine is open to us for its mere acknowledgement.
Psalm 86 specifically addresses the need for spiritual solace at a time of attack and near destruction. It expresses gratitude for patience, for mercy, for loving-kindness and for truth.
TORAH: What did Avimelech mean by I did not know, and you did not tell it to me and I did not hear it except today? Was it his responsibility to know? When is it important that a leader know what is happening by those under their direction? (Sports, Military, Education, Restaurant, Business, Law enforcement, Business).
When you encounter it in the story: Do you agree with Mama’s assessment of what this Torah phrase means?
A BLESSING AND A CURSE: Technology has brought the world into our backyards. In what ways does knowing what is happening in other parts of the world change the concept – v’ahavta l’recha kamocha/love your neighbor as yourself?
Are we responsible for what happens elsewhere in the world? How? Why? Or why not?
To what issues does this apply, i.e., social, justice, environmental? Which of these are most likely to affect you directly? Will any affect you indirectly?
LIFE ISN’T FAIR: Finish the following sentences: Life is_________________
I wish life was ___________________________
Do you think we notice tragedy more when it strikes the poor and needy or when it strikes the rich and famous? Why do we notice each situation? How do we react to each situation? Who gets the most sympathy? Who gets the most assistance? From where does each come?
EXPLORE THE WORLD: Take time to find out where there is slavery in the world. What kinds of slavery still exist in the world? What conditions make someone most vulnerable to become part of the slave culture?
YOUR VALUES: What do you value that you carry with you that no one can take away?
What is your enemy?
PREPARING TO READ THE STORY
A. Have you ever reread a book or story, or seen a movie/video more than once? For what purpose?
Did you notice/learn/remember anything different/more upon multiple readings/viewings?
Does that indicate that the story has changed? What does it indicate about you?
B. Are you familiar with the term revisionist history? In what context? What does this indicate about the event? What does it indicate about the narrator of the event?
Background information: Abraham is sending his servant to find a wife for his son. The camels are carrying gifts for the prospective bride and her family.
What does it mean that “all the goods of his master were in his hands?” (Hint: Consider how parents feel about their children carrying on a family name, traditions, business, etc.)
How would you feel if you were in that servant's position?
Would you feel differently about guarding these goods than your own? Why or why not?
What do the various characters in and hidden in the story value (Abraham, his servant, Rebecca, Isaac)?
How do their values align with yours, i.e., what do you value?
Where else do we encounter women and water in the Torah?
Why did the rabbis interpret the water rising to Rebeccca as an omen of blessing?
In the four verses of the psalm presented in the story, what is actually happening? Is it a contract? A blessing? A personal story? What makes you come to that conclusion?
Can you relate to this psalm/song?
Read the entire psalm below. Describe the similarities/differences you experience between the abbreviated and full versions of the psalm?
26 [A Psalm] of David. / Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in mine integrity, / And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. /  Examine me, O Lord, and try me, / Test my reins and my heart. /  For Thy mercy is before mine eyes; / And I have walked in Thy truth. /  I have not sat with men of falsehood; / Neither will I go in with dissemblers. /  I hate the gathering of evil-doers, / And will not sit with the wicked /  I will wash my hands in innocency; / So will I compass Thine altar, O Lord, /  That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard, / And tell of all Thy wondrous works. /  Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house, / And the place where Thy glory dwelleth. /  Gather not my soul with sinners, / Nor my life with men of blood; /  In whose hands is craftiness, / And their right hand is full of bribes. /  But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity; / Redeem me, and be gracious unto me. /  My foot standeth in an even place, / In the congregations will I bless the Lord.
Teaching Birkat HaKohane – Always There
The three-fold blessing known as Birkat HaKohane is found in Numbers: 6:24-26. The text is written in poetic form on three separate lines, unlike most of Torah which is written in paragraph form. The blessing was given to Aaron and his descendants to offer to the people. It was offered at the end of the Mishkan (the tabernacle that traveled with the Israelites in their wanderings through the desert) service and eventually in the Temple service each day.
Y'varech'cha Adonai v'yish'recha
Yaeir Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v'yasem l'cha shalom.
May Adonai bless you and keep you.
May Adonai make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May Adonai turn His countenance unto you and grant you peace.
The Birkat HaKohane is offered at holidays, weddings and b’nai mitzvah ceremonies and in many congregations on Shabbat. When offering the blessing, the Kohane’s hands are lifted, the thumb is separated from the first finger and the second and third are separated so that the hand forms a shin. The shin is for Shaddai, the name of God meaning Almighty One. The shin is also found on tefillin and mezuzot.
The two thumbs touch. Often the two first fingers also touch forming a triangle. What might the triangle stand for?
1) Ahl Shlosha Devarim: Torah, Avodah, Gemilut Chasadim
2) For a wedding: Eesh/Eesha/Adonai: The yud from eesh and the hay from eesha spells ‘Yah’ – one of God’s names. For single parent family: hay with an apostrophe is used as an abbreviation for Adonai. For double sex parent families: double yuds are used as a way to write Adonai.
We say, “God bless you,” whenever someone sneezes. Think about that now. What does it mean to say, “God bless you” or “Bless you”?
How would you know if grace (as in graciousness) was in your life?
If you believed you could have access to a Divine blessing, for what would it be?
Why do you think the Birkat HaKohane mentioned peace?
Try to craft a blessing for someone you know.
It is interesting to note that this blessing was recognized on a tiny silver scroll dating back to the 7th century BCE. The artifact was found during a 1973 archeological excavation in Jerusalem. Also of interest, DNA sequencing has been able to identify descendants of Aaron, the Kohanim.
COVETING – JEALOUSY
In the Decalogue, the word covet (chet-mem-dalet) and crave (aleph-vav-heh) are used in the tenth commandment for humans desiring that which another person possesses. The bible generally uses jealous (kuf-nun-aleph) when referencing God, as in the second commandment which declares to have no other Gods for Adonai is a jealous God.
Are there distinctions between coveting, craving and jealousy?
If God is jealous and we are to strive to be Divine, is there any positive attribute to jealousy?
The Rambam (Hilkhot Gezeila Va-aveida 1:11) writes:
"Desire leads to coveting, and coveting leads to stealing. For if the owner (of the coveted object) does not wish to sell, even though he is offered a good price and is entreated to accept, the person (who covets the object) will come to steal it, as it is written (Mikha 2:2), 'They covet fields and (then) steal them.' And if the owner approaches him with a view to reclaiming his money or preventing the theft, then he will come to murder. Go and learn from the example of Achav and Navot."
Thus, the prohibition of "You shall not covet" is a fence or boundary keeping us at a safe distance from the very serious sins that may result from it and that may cause very serious harm to others: theft, adultery, and – most serious of all – even murder.
How difficult is it to control your desire for something?
What do you gain when you can be satisfied without that which you thought you needed?
How do you obtain the ability to gain that control?
Throughout our lives we encounter people that are healthy for us to be in a relationship with and other that are not healthy. Sometimes these people are casual acquaintances and pass quickly in and out of our lives. At other times, people are in our lives for extended periods of time. How do we deal with people who are not healthy in our lives?
Consider Ezra in the suit with pins. He “was afraid to move quickly since the pins were now sticking in every direction indicating seams to let out and others to take in.” Have you ever felt that you were in a situation that whatever choice you made, you would be hurt or would hurt someone? Journal about what you did and how it felt. If you found yourself in a similar situation, what would you do the same? What would you do differently? If anyone is comfortable sharing, do so.
BULLYING - need to fill in material from file
(forgive and move on)
REFERENCE MATERIAL IN CHAPTER 1
If you have not worked through the material in chapter 1 on HOME and FAMILY, you can do so here.
FROM THE TORAH
And they buried him, Isaac and Ishmael, his sons, in the cave of Machpelah...
Discuss what happens at reunions. Are there different events and different reactions to different types of reunions, i.e., family vs. school vs. camp, a few friends vs. a large group?
If you have ever attended a reunion, reflect on what effect it had on your memories of places, events, people.
Imagine Isaac and Ishmael meeting again as adults. Write a narrative for the first ten minutes of their encounter.
 Maimonides, Hilkhot Gezeila Va-aveida 1:11, http://www.vbmtorah.org/parsha.63/17yitro.htm , 6.10.2013
Teaching Mi Chamocha
Mi Chamocha is a small section of a larger piece of Torah found in Exodus 15 that is known as Shirat Ha-yam or the Song of the Sea. In addition to being found in the Torah, Shirat Ha-yam is found in Pesukei de-Zimra, or the Verses of Song section, in the Shacharit (morning) service. Additionally, the few verses comprising the piece we’ve come to know as Mi Chamocha are found again in both the morning and evening service prior to the recitation of the Amida.
This section is known as Geula or redemption. The Israelites have fled slavery in Egypt and safely traversed the Sea of Reeds while the Egyptians have been drowned therein. The verses ring with praise for the redemption God has afforded the Israelites.
Consider a time when you have experienced a difficult situation.
Were you successful in overcoming it?
How did you feel about the outcome?
Who did you consider to be responsible for that outcome?
Did you also have a physical reaction to the event?
In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 39b, God admonishes the angels for singing.
באותה שעה בקשו מלאכי השרת לומר שירה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא, אמר להן הקדוש ברוך הוא: מעשה
ידי טובעין בים ואתם אומרים שירה לפני
In that hour the ministering angels wished to utter the song [of praise] before God, but God rebuked them, saying: My handiwork [the Egyptians] is drowning in the sea; would you utter song before me! [Translation by Uri L’Tzedek. Edited for gender neutrality]
The Song of the Sea is not admonished. What can we learn from this distinction?
Ezra says that God wants us to bless God even when we are sad and feel loss. How realistic is this to do? If even God
expresses anger at loss, what does Mi Chamocha tell us we might expect of ourselves? How does that affect your ability to relate to God in the presence of loss?
Redemption from the past implies hope for the future. How does your experience with loss help you shape your future?
Mi Chamocha is sung after passing through a narrow straight and emerging into a new life on the other side. This is a
re-birth, an earthly birth canal.
Chapter 8 talks about mayim chayim. Discuss how Mi Chamocha links that Israelites to Ezra and Tova.
What are they (the Israelites / Ezra and Tova) blessing?
What are they (the Israelites / Ezra and Tova) carrying forward?
What responsibility do they (the Israelites / Ezra and Tova) have to the past? To the future?
 RuthBalinsky American
Jewish World Service,