April 14, 2024 |

Grade 7-Gesher is Amazing!

Posted on November 20, 2016

Gesher is amazing!
Gesher students are leading the TIRS Thanksgiving campaign.  Last week, our Gesher students began their first mitzvah project of the year the TIRS Thanksgiving Dinner Campaign to benefit eight Natick families through the Natick Service Council.  They presented the campaign to each of the other classes and are tracking donations while collecting both cash donations and non-perishables in our class too.  With great poise, three students made a presentation on the TI bima last Shabbat (Nov. 12). They are learning the challenges of leadership including clear communication, motivation, and modeling the behavior you wish to see.  They are also learning some of the nuances of providing for others: protecting people’s dignity (thus the recipients are not named), sensitivity to members of our own community who may not be in a position to give (and so, we do not make judgments and some of us will give more). 
Birkot haShachar Arts Program: Gesheris part of the TIRS Birkot haShachar(morning blessings) Arts Program in which each class has been assigned several brachot (blessings) to explore and then to illustrate on large fabric panels.  Appropriately, Gesher received the blessings for putting on tallitand tefillin.  Unlike many of the other blessings in Birkot haShachar, the blessings for tallit and tefillin include the words “asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu,who has made us holy with His commandments and commanded us to…” Thus, in Gesher, our study of the brachot began with an exploration of what it means and feels like to be commanded and we looked at other blessings that include these words for comparison to the blessings for tallit and tefillin.  Next, in a lesson called “Dressing the Part”, we discussed the influence of one’s clothing on one’s personal experience and how others see them. Students provided suggestions for the purpose of uniforms for athletes, firefighters, physicians, police officers, and the military.  They agreed that uniforms identify the wearer and often protect him or her too.  We thought about how wearing a tallit and tefillin influenced our experience of prayer and debriefed that experience after several prayer experiences. Our third lesson in this series focused on texts and meaning of tallitand tefillin.  Students heard the story, “The Tallit” in which a boy writes blessings to be placed in his tallit.  Students wrote their own blessings.  Then they discussed a midrash,
 A person is thrown from a boat into the water.  The captain stretches out a rope and tells the person to take firm hold of it, for the person’s life depends on it.  The rope is like the tzitzit, the drowning person is like Israel, and the captain is like God.  The tzitzit, which provides a lifeline for adherence to the commandments, is life itself. (Numbers Rabbah 17: 6)
Next we explored the two brachot (blessings) for tefillin, one of which is said when one wraps the tefillin around one’s arm and the other, when one places the tefillinon one’s head.  We noted that the word tefillin is based on the word, tefillah (prayer.) And we looked at another midrash,
How do you know that the Holy One puts on tefillin? For it is said: The Lord hath sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of his strength… “And by the arm of His strength”: this is tefillin… What is written in the tefillin of the Lord of the Universe?  And who is like the people Israel, a nation one in the earth… The Holy One said to Israel:  You have made me a unique entity in the world… as it is said: Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. ‘And I shall make you a unique entity in the world,’ as it is said: And who is like Thy people Israel, a nation one in the earth” (Berakhot 6a).
We examined the framed open tefillin in our chapel which shows the four scrolls in the tefillin worn on the head and one scroll in the arm-tefillin. 
Students were divided into three teams, one for each assigned blessing, and each team began designing a panel to illustrate their blessing.
Havdalah is a very short and beautiful service that ends the Shabbat.  It includes some verses from the Psalms, blessings over wine, spices and fire and a blessing expressing our gratitude to G-d for making distinctions.  In class, we re-purposed etrogs used for Sukkot worship by inserting cloves in them to make b’samim(spice sachets for use during Havdalah.) Our etrog-b’samim are currently drying at my home and will be sent home with students when they’re ready for use.  In the meantime, here are some beautiful resources for learning the Havdalahliturgy.
Parashat HaShavua:  Our study of the weekly Torah portion has grappled with Noah, a tzaddik in his generation and Lech-Lecha, the beginning of the story of Avraham and Sarah. This week, we will learn more about Avraham and Sarah and meet their son, Isaac too.

Life Cycle: We are honored to have a special guest in class this Tuesday, November 22. Dr. Jennifer Novick, a trained and experienced mohelet, will teach our students about Brit Milah.