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Children in Jerusalem.

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In response to a question on Imamother: Do mothers of many children have more nachas?

Mothers of many children have more.

More crying, and more giggling. 

More complaining, and more warm sleepy bodies curled up against you for a bedtime story.

More shouting, and more whimsical childhood secrets whispered ticklishly in your ear.

More sibling rivalry, and more siblings performing original plays for Mommy on a Shabbos afternoon.

More nights you stay awake balancing a baby on each hip, dancing them to sleep as music plays, bleary eyed while you damage your feet so permanently that you will have to wear custom insoles for the rest of your life. And more nights in your life that you held close those you love most and danced.

There are more teenagers to gang up in protest against your ridiculous rules. And more teenagers to arrive home on the day of your own mother’s yahrtzeit, and when you protest tearfully that they didn’t have to come, they say we’re with you. Mommy, we’re with you.

So much more mess, but when you stack it all up before your Night of Freedom, it becomes a pile of so many first grade copies of Chumash Bereishis, each child an opportunity to begin anew, so many priceless works of art that reinvent the artist.

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Vegetation along the Nile. You can see the riv...

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In Parshas Shemos, we learned all about baby Moshe being placed by his mother Yocheved in a waterproof  basket that would keep him safe in the Nile River. We viewed images of moses baskets but the ones we saw didn’t look as safe as the one the Torah explains Moshe’s was.

Moshe’s older sister Miriam hid among the tall reeds and waited to see what would happen to her baby brother. She was worried when she saw Princess Batya approaching. Batya was the daughter of mean King Pharoh! She was at the river to take a bath, because in that time people did not have bathtubs in their homes – instead, they washed in the water of the river.

Batya heard a baby crying. She had a kind heart and cared about the baby. She sent her helpers to get the basket but they didn’t want to. So even though the basket was too far away for her to reach, Batya stretched out her arm to get it. Hashem saw how hard Batya was trying to help and do a mitzva, so Hashem made her able to reach the baby.

The baby refused to be fed by all the Egyptian women, because the baby Moshe would grow up to talk to Hashem and be given the Torah and teach it to all the Jews. His neshama was holy.

Miriam was worried and may have felt embarrassed, but she knew that she should be brave to do a mitzva. She stood up and didn’t hide anymore. Miriam asked Princess Batya if Miriam should go find a Jewish woman to feed the crying baby. Batya said yes.

Who do you think Miriam brought to take care of Moshe? His real mother, Yov cheved! yocheved was so happy to take care of her baby, but she didn’t tell anyone that she was his real mother.

Moshe grew up with Princess Batya and her father King Pharoh in the palace. When he grew older, he would go out and help the Jews with their hard work. He cared about their pain and tried to help them as much as he could.

Story Time: In Labels for Laibel, the boys realize that they feel very unhappy not sharing their toys and books or anything at all. then their mother and father label their things, to show the boys how it feels when people don’t share.

A student suggested that Morah Elana hold the pages up to the camera to show the pictures and this worked well! The same student taught Morah Elana what to do to reply to sticky notes. Even students can teach teachers! We can learn from everyone.

At the end the boys took off all the labels they had put on. Then they felt happy because they had made shalom. Hashem wants us to share and care for one another.

Students drew pictures about sharing.

In Aleph Beis Class, we practiced patach and kamatz sounds with one, and then two, letter combinations. Writing of two syllable words with patach and kamatz. We are progressing nicely!

In Parshas Vaeira, we learned all about the first seven makos, and how they were mida keneged mida. They were punishments that made sense because of the things the Egyptians did to the Jews.

When we make promises we should remember what we said and do it, not like Pharoh who always changed his mind and broke his promises.

A Rich Torah Curriculum

Vegetation along the Nile. You can see the riv...

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In Siddur Class, we continued learning the blessings for the Torah. Once we say the brachos for the Torah, we study some Torah right away – it’s right there in the siddur. In birkas kohanim we ask hashem to give us good things, and to protect them from anything bad happening to them. A person can give a gift but can;t make sure that the gift will last, but Hashem is the giver and the protecter, so Hashem can do this. We ask Hashem to show us a “shining face” be kind to us, and give us peace – shalom.

We continue to learn Torah by studying about mitzvos that don’t have a limit to how much we may do. We can leave large corners of our field for needy people to take whatever grows there. When we have the beis hamikdash, we can give a lot of fruits to the kohein. We may appear many times at the beis hamikdash on Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos, and every time is a mitzva. We can help many people every day, and each time it’s a mitzva. The more Torah we study, the more mitzvos we are doing, with every word. Thses are all mitzvos without a shiur – they are limitless – unlike the mitzvos of Sukkah or lighting Chanukah lights, which are limited in the number of days we may do them, or Shabbos, which we may observe only while the day lasts.

We drew examples of limitless mitzvos using the tools of the virtual classroom.

Book Club Class: In the story No Questions Asked, we discussed assumptions, and speculated about whether Aliza’s assumptions about how fantastic Gita’s mother is will turn out to be true.

I enjoyed subbing for Rabbi Resnick’s Parsha class. Beginning of Parshas Shemos with selected Rashis.

We studied the psychology of Pharoh’s personality. There are opinions that say that he was the sme man who was “not the same man” anymore, because he changed his attitude and his rules. He was also worried that the Children Of Israel, who were having six babies at once, would become so many and so strong that they would overpower the Egyptians and either leave Mitzrayim slaveless, or else chase out the Egyptians. Pharoh expressed concern that the Jews would leave, when his true concern was that he would be forced to leave.

A student brought up the issue that it might have been difficult for the Jews to take care of so many babies. We suggested that there were also so many older siblings to help out.

How did they come up with names for all the babies? one student wondered. We learned that at the time the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they actually invented many original and creative names that reflected the times they lived in and their trust in Hashem. Some names in the Torah are popular nowadays, and some are not commonly given. Students reflected on their Jewish names and those of their family members.

Kids asked insightful questions!

And I enjoyed subbing for Rabbi Resnick’s Halacha Class! Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – Siman Vav – Seifim Aleph Beis and Gimmel –

A Little Bit About Brachos

We learned that before we say a bracha, we have to know which bracha we are saying. The main part of the bracha is the first part, which mentions Hashem’s name, but when saying that we need to know how we will end off. Some foods can be challenging as far as knowing which bracha to say, because they are made of different ingredients. We should make sure we know which bracha is right! In Israel many foods actually have the correct bracha pinted on the packaging. One student in the US said that the snack Tiny Bits states its blessing on the packaging.

The only things that should be in the mouth when saying a bracha are the words praising G-d.

It is inappropriate to say Hashem’s name for no reason, in any language. It’s bad to curse a person using the name of G-d. One student said that some groups of Jews do it so maybe it’s allowed for them. We learned that although a student may know Jews who speak this way, all Jews need to try to speak in a refined manner.

Then I taught Parsha during Morah Miriam’s class. (Morah Miriam had a baby boy on Shabbos. MAZAL TOV!)

On Simchas Torah we started reading the Torah from the beginning, and last weel we completed all of the Book of Bereishis. This week we begin a new Book called Shemos. The parsha of the week is also called Shemos.

We – the Jews – our great great great great great etc. grandmothers and grandfathers were made slaves and had to work hard for the mean King Pharoh in Mitzrayim (Egypt). At first there were only 70 people from Yaakov’s family, but Hashem blessed the Jews and gave every mother six babies at one time! Pharoh was angry that the Jews were becoming so many, and wanted to kill them. He told the midwives (women who help mothers have babies) Shifra and Puah to kill the baby boys. But they didn’t listen. Hashem was so proud that Hashem made the people that came from them kohanim, leviim and Jewish kings.

Pharoh made a law that all Jewish baby boys had to be thrown into the Nile river. but Hashem made the water carry the babies to caves, and made milk and honey flow out of rocks for the babies to eat. Later the boys were able to go back to their families. Another way Hashem may have protected the babies was b making their mouths like the mouths of fish, so they were able to breathe under water.

Pharoh was told by people who read messages from the stars that a Jewish baby boy would be born, and when he grew up he would take the Jews out of Mitzrayim. A mother named Yocheved had a baby and hid him for three months. Then she placed him in a wooden box that she made waterproof, into the Nile river. She told his older sister Miriam to hide among the tall plants called reeds and watch to see what would happen to the baby. (We know that it was Moshe, and he would be fine, and really take the Jews out of Egypt when he grew up.)

Next  time we will see what happened to the baby.

Students drew a baby in a box in the river, and he was crying WAA!

In Book Club Class, we finished reading No Questions Asked. When Aliza finally realizes the truth about Gita’s amazing mother, she begins to appreciate her own. (Gita’s mother died.)

In the story we visit Gita’s pretty bedroom. The students drew their own rooms as we discussed the story.

A fast paced and very productive reading of the letters with vowels kamatz and patach occurred in Aleph Beis Class. Students did some drawing of letters on the board.

Fire Safety on Chanukah

Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanukiah.

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We had a beis hamikdahs where we felt that Hashem was right here with us. But it went away. One reason is that the Jews forgot to keep in mind how special the Torah is and always say a bracha in the morning thanking Hashem for the Torah.

Hashem makes us special with mitzvos. One mitzvah is to study the Torah. We ask Hashem to make us all enjoy doing this. And we and our children and grandchildren should all study the Torah just because it’s the right thing to do and good to do.

Hashem chose us from all the nations (groups of people who live in different countries) and gave the Jews the Torah.

Hashem is called hamelamed – this means that Hashem is the greatest teacher in thw world! Hashem is also called nosein haTorah, the giver of the Torah.

Students used the tools of the virtual classroom to draw colorful open and closed Torah scrolls. Students also drew children lighting the menorah. The original menorah had seven brances and stood in the beis hamikdash. In Israel we call the one we light on Chanukah a chanukiah.

We began a story by Libby Lazewnik called No Questions Asked.

In the story, Aliza has complaints against her mother’s way of doing things in a disorganized fashion, but she also appreciates her mother’s warm and loving personality.

Often we are called in many directions and we have to prioritize to decide which direction we will choose. Students decided that taking care of burning food was the most important thing to be done in the story. We have to be very careful around fire. When we light Chanukah menorahs we should roll up our sleeves, not get too close, and not behave wildly near the flames. We should keep an eye on babies and young children, because our parents may be called in many directions. it’s a mitzva to help keep everyone safe.

Vocabulary words we discussed were stoic, oblige, recoiled and sympathetically.

Spelling words were organized, laundry and directions.

Students were very considerate about sharing space on the board.

We had an advanced student today, so we did a quick review of the letters with kamatz and then moved on to some unusual vowel combinations such as the chataf patach and chataf segol.

Very good question from a student: Why is there sometimes a chataf patach (etc.) in the Torah (instead of just a patach)? What is its meaning? Morah Elana said that she would research this.

When Morah Elana said a bracha before she drank a cup of water, two students typed “amen” into the chat box! We wondered if that works as far as being considered as having answered amen to a bracha.

We read the word Chanukah. Students drew Chanukah related drawings on the board. We spoke about fire safety around the Chanukah lights. It’s a mitzva to protect our safety – venishmarten meod lenafshoseichem.

We talked about Parshas Mikeitz. Pharoh had two strange dreams. His wise men and magicians explained them, but Pharoh did not like their explanations. Yosef, who was known to be good at explaining dreams, was called to Pharoh – but was first given a haircut and clean clothes to stand before the king. When we daven we are standing or sitting before Hashem so we make sure to dress neatly and appropriately.

Yosef didn’t know that he would be taken out of jail suddenly. Sometimes we have difficulties but Hashem can make things better in an instant.

When Pharoh complimented Yosef for being able to explain dreams, Yosef did not brag or act like a big shot and say that he was the greatest. He said that Hashem is the One who understands everything, and maybe Hashem will make him thik of the right explanation.

Yosef’s explanations made sense to Pharoh. Pharoh chose Yosef as the wise person to collect and save food during the seven years when there would be extra, and give it out when there would not be enough food.

Yosef’s own brothers went to Mitzrayim to get food but Yosef pretended not to know them. They did not recognize Yosef after all the years they had been separated.

Students drew Yosef storing a lot of food for the future. Yosef explained that the reason that Hashem showed Pharoh the dreams was so that he could prepare for the future – he could do something about it and not just let things happen.

In Peanut Butter and Jelly for Shabbos, Laibel and Yossi managed to prepare an entire Shabbos meal. They met the challenge and saw that Hashem made them able to succeed. Studnts and Morah Elana discussed challenges we faced, and how we tried to do our best. Hashem helped us succeed!

 We began reading Laibels for Laibel. Sharing can be something we don’t want to do, but it’s not nice to live ina family when we keep everything for ourselves. We talked about things we share and drew pictures that represented sharing.

 

 

Good Morning, Good Choices

Sofer writing the last letters of the Torah bo...

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We learned about the prayer Elokai Neshama. Hashem does an amazing thing – returns our soul all the way back into our body each morning. our neshama is tehora – good and pure. Even if we did something not so good yesterday, today Hashem trusts us to make better choices.

Students used the virtual classroom tools to draw children who were happy to greet a brand new day with a neshama tehora. They were ready to make good choices on the brand new day that Hashem gave them.

Every morning we say a special bracha for the Torah because we are so happy to have the Torah and learn Torah. A long time ago we had the beis hamikdash, Hashem’s special house. Hashem lived there and we felt that Hashem was right here with us. But it went away because the Jews did some wrong things. One thing the Jews did is forget to say the bracha for the Torah and remember how special the Torah is.

Students drew open Torah scrolls with writing, and closed Torah scrolls with special coverings like in shul.

We reviewed all the letters out of order.

We wrote all the letters aleph through zayin.

We learned about the kamatz, and how we combine its sound with the sound of each letter, and we practiced with letters aleph through hay.

Students used the board to practice writing letters with and without the kamatz.

We finished reading Responsibility. We learned abbout the Gulf War in 1991, where in Israel, Uri chose to overcome his fears and care for his whole family because his parents were deaf and mute. Uri also translated to his father into sign language what his teacher said about Uri. We talked about whether these things are too much responsibility for a child, Students said yes, but that in these cases there was no choice. We cannot always choose the situations we are in, but we can choose a proper response.

Spelling words included shoulder, strength and accept.

Assembly was a vocabulary word. It derives from the word assemble.

We learned what a simile is.

Uri honored his parents every day in unique ways.

Uri asks us not to laugh at a person like his father, who may appear strange.

One student drew Uri’s father without a ears or a mouth, representing his challenges of being deaf and mute.

Newest Tech, Oldest Text

The First Paragraph of the Shema as written in...

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“Evyatar” showed up as we were ending Siddur class. I’m not sure what time he expected class to start! Slowly we are adjusting to the new winter schedule. It’s pretty straightforward: All of Morah Elana’s classes start at 3:45 EST. Too bad I had to go and confuse things because I live in Israel, and we switch the clock at a different time. I’m among those who would like to abolish Daylight Savings. But I hear the benefits – my husband says it’s done because of the time by which we need to say the morning Shema prayer. 😉

In Siddur class, we reviewed the idea that the organs in our bodies are very complex. We are so thankful to Hashem that our bodies work the way they are supposed to, so we can live and do everything we need to do in the world, lots of mitzvos. The more science we know, the more we understand the amazing ways Hashem makes the world and how much we have to thank Hashem for.

Elokai Neshama, the next prayer, tells us that our neshama (soul) is tehora (pure). When we wake up each morning we know that Hashem thinks we are good and can make good choices that day. After we hopefully live a lot of years, we die and Hashem takes our neshama all the way back to Hashem. At some time after the moshiach arrives, there will be techiyas hameisim. The people who died will live again. Hashem will return their neshamos into their bodies. At some time after the moshiach arrives, there will be techiyas hameisim. The people who died will live again. Hashem will return their neshamos into their bodies.

“Devorah” mentioned that smoking damages the lungs. We spoke about the mitzva to care for our bodies so that we can live long and do mitzvos. We should not damage our bodies by smoking or using drugs.

In our Book Club, we discussed the story Responsibility, about a Jewish boy who takes care of things at home because his parents are both deaf and mute. discussed One fact we learned about sign language is that words do not always have to be spelled out, but there are hand symbols for different words. A person can choose a symbol to represent his or her name. We used our webcams and the smartboard to try imagining what symbols we might choose to represent our names in sign language.

“Devorah” and “Esti” were a little challenged when it came to sharing space on the board. “Devorah” wanted her boundaries better respected. But at the end of class, she drew a girl standing in the rain, and “Esti” collaborated by drawing an umbrella for the girl in the drawing. 🙂

In Aleph Beis class, Morah Elana explanied that Hebrew is actually a very simple language because all the words sound exactly the way they are spelled. A few students were very surprised that Hebrew is easy – they said it’d difficult! We learned that our wise rabbis from the Gemara teach us that all beginnings are difficult, kol haschalos kashos. But once we learn all the letters and vowels, we will be able to read any word at all in Hebrew with no mistakes!

We were introdiced to the vowel kamatz. We saw how it looks and what sound it makes. We saw examples of the kamatz placed under a letter, and how that changes each letter’s sound.

We continued Peanut Butter and Jelly for Shabbos in Storytime class. Laibel thought it was too hard for the two boys to make all the Shabbos food. Sometimes something seems difficult, but when we try to do it, we see that Hashem helps us and we are able.

Using the board, “Avi”  gave the boys’ mother a bright yellow key to enter her house. “Kobi” drew a baby sister for the boys, all pretty in pink.

Hashem tells us to take care of our bodies – to try to stay healthy. This mitzvah is venishmartem meod lenafshoseichem. Young children should not use a sharp knife. We can help keep ourselves and other people from getting sick by washing our hands with soap and water before we handle food.

Insightful words from Room 613’s principal, Rabbi Yosef Resnick:

 

It strikes me as ironic that we are using the latest in technology to study the oldest text in the world! But then, the Torah has always been ahead of it’s time. So why shouldn’t the methods we use to study it also be? As I occasionally like to remind students, the Torah may seem antiquated to those on “the outside,” but we know that the Torah is actually timeless, and  perhaps might even be described as post-modern

 

Ritalin (photograph)

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My friend Ayala had Shabbos guests, a personable, intelligent couple named Yitz and Rivka and their young children. During the meal, the general prevalence of ADHD came up. Yitz started joking about it. My friend and her husband let it go. Then Rivka began joking that there really are a lot of people around with ADHD; the prisons are full of them!

Ayala placed a hand on Rivka’s arm. “Stop,” Ayala said, in a kind voice. Rivka brightened at Ayala’s apparent interest, smiled, and started elaborating on the humor.

Ayala looked into Rivka’s eyes, speaking calmly and firmly. “Stop. Stop.” Ayala’s hand remained on her guest’s arm.

After a moment Rivka turned a little pale and whispered confusedly, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Ayala’s son has ADHD and related behavioral and learning issues. She and her husband have had a lot of challenges with their son. Currently he resides away from home and seems to be doing well in a yeshiva that tries to meet his needs.

It’s disconcerting to Ayala to hear a Shabbos guest suddenly bring up her deepest fears.

You never know on whose toes you may be stepping.

Speaking of meeting the needs of special learners, I think that Rabbi Resnick, who runs Room 613, put it so well:

Students are able to choose their method of participation in the virtual classroom. As I remarked recently, for a student to use a smartboard, perhaps the ultimate in traditional classroom technology, they still have to walk up to the board. And that seemingly simple act can be a painful experience for some students.

Our format allows for so many permutations and possibilities for learning. Students can tailor their experience to their own comfort level.

Some of our students just use the chat feature – exclusively – to participate in classes. That means neither I nor the other students have ever seen their faces or heard their voices! Yet they are an integral part of classes, fully engaged and participating, offering their opinions and ideas.

Others choose to use a microphone, with or without a webcam. 

For the shy student, for the autistic student, for those who like attention, and choose to use the webcam and mic, I can’t think of a better way to reach, empower, and satisfy all types of learners.