Lists of Middot
“The Torah is greater than the priesthood and greater than royalty, seeing that royalty is acquired through 30 virtues, the priesthood twenty-four, while the Torah is acquired through 48 virtues.”
These 48 Middot are listed here on the URJ website: http://www.reformjudaism.org/study-48-middot
Rabbi Mendel Menachem Lefin of Satanov identified 13 Middot in Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul), published 200 years ago in Lithuania.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lefin was influenced by reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. Franklin listed these 13 virtues, along with a rigorous method for self-improvement. Franklin’s methods may have had an influence on subsequently developed Mussar practice.
A comparison of Franklin’s list of virtues with the 13 Middot in Cheshbon Ha0Nefesh, and the 13 Middot listed by Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the modern Mussar movement, can be found here.
National Mussar Resources
Local Mussar Resources
http://bayareamussar.org/ - aggregates information about Mussar classes and events across the Bay Area.
Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul) Preparing for the Days of Awe
Explore freedom from an embodied perspective with these Passover-theme related yoga postures offered by Julie Emden, Director of our Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative. Julie offers workshops, classes, and a Yoga and Jewish Wisdom Teacher Training. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
These postures and themes were created for At the Well, a project supporting Jewish women to celebrate Rosh Hodesh all over the world. See more resources from At the Well for the month of Nissan here.
Materials : yoga mat and blanket
Opening Kavanah - You are the Authority
The foremost theme for this month and gift of Passover is that we move from slavery to freedom, from constriction to expansion, from responding and reacting to other’s demands of us to acting from a place of true sovereignty and authority from within. Please take on these suggested practices (and those from any body-based practice) with this in mind, and consider your own body’s unique needs when practicing yoga. At Sinai upon receiving Torah, at the same time that we camp at the base of the mountain as one soul, we each also hear our own unique message, and we each receive our own unique place or letter in the Torah. And when we receive manna in the desert, the amount we each receive is according to our individual needs - no more, no less. Do not do anything that is not right for your body, in this moment, in this time. You are the authority and you are sovereign over the gorgeous domain that is your body-soul-heart-spirit being, for this practice and always.
Theme 1: Moving from Constriction to Expansion - Mitzrayim
When we look at the Hebrew word ‘Mitzrayim’, we see the word ‘Tzar’, which means constriction, surrounded by the word ‘Mayim’, which means water. All of the joints in the body are surrounded by water in the form of synovial fluid. As you practice these poses, bring awareness to the fact that the joints (tzar) in our bodies - our wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles - which enable us to move and create change in the world!- need mayim, softness, and fluidity in order to be healthy and strong.
Hip Openers - Lying on the floor
Theme 2: Softening the heart - Exodus 8:28 - “And Pharaoh hardened his heart…”
As Pharaoh witnesses and experiences the ten plagues, we hear over and over that his “heart is hardened”, and the language in the text indicates that his obstinacy becomes habitual. Releasing habits that no longer serve us to live in integrity with our deepest potential and desire is another theme for the month of Nissan. In fact, Moses is told at the burning bush to ‘take off his shoes’ (Exodus 3:5), but the Hebrew can also be translated as ‘unlock your habits!’ Day to day, as we sit and move with postures of leaning over computers and steering wheels, we can create a habitual shape in the body of shoulders rolling forward, chest collapsing and a ‘closing of the heart’. These poses support us in opening our hearts and shoulders, and also bringing awareness to the spaces behind our hearts. They provide a countering to the habitual way we often move through the world.
Theme 3: Stepping into the Sea on Dry Land - Exodus 14:22 - “And the Israelites entered the sea on dry land”
You may have seen the movie, or considered the scientific research about the parting of the sea in the Exodus story. What is possibly as fascinating as the notion that the sea parted for the Israelites, is that the text says that the Israelites stepped onto dry land ‘b’toch’, inside of, the sea. What?! How could the land be dry, even if the sea had parted? And have you ever tried to walk on wet soaky sand just after the waves recede on a walk at the beach? It’s not easy. This is our task in Nissan, and in our lives. How can we maintain stability, stay grounded and connected to our foundation, in times of turbulence, change and upheaval? How can we stay upright and connected to what is solid, perhaps relying merely on our bones, our etzem, our essence, during times of intense change and transformation. These standing poses can help us feel our feet, solidly rooted and firmly planted and the limbs of our legs rising up from that foundation, as a resource, a source of strength and support for us as we move through the world and reach for our dreams.
To experience these and more, join Julie for one of her Passover workshops:
Shalom all and Happy Adar!
I am doing some Spring cleaning ahead of Passover. This is not your usual inspection for the evasive chametz nor is it just to get rid of tchotchkes and other accumulating junk. It is a web-based Spring cleaning. Jewish LearningWorks is retiring its old web pages and I was told that if I want to capture anything I have done for the past few years that lives on the web, I better take a look right away or else it will be gone forever. Oy!… Unlike the junk in my house, I have a real relationship with some of the stuff I have written, plagiarized or curated. So, I went straight to work and salvaged the Israel Education Initiative Newsletters from the past 3 years. And just in time for Purim, what follows below is a compilation of resources for the holiday. It was in a virtual attic, but dusted off it will shine like new.
Enjoy and Happy Purim!
A Collection from Past IEI Newsletters
By Vavi Toran
Let's start with some fun stuff!
The story of Purim has been told throughout the centuries in many ways. From Purim Spiels to a variety of visual versions of the Megillah, writers and artists utilized their creativity to interpret the story according to their imagination and the zeitgeist of their era.
A delightful comic book version of the Scroll of Esther was published a few years ago by the CET (The Center for Educational Technology) in Israel. The booklet is easy to follow and, besides the story itself, includes background and ideas for activities and discussion. It is in Hebrew. But hey, it's Purim and you know the story. Improvise!
Download Megillat Esther Comic Book (Available for sale from CET)
Artistic Playing Cards
Jacob's Bible Playing Cards designed by Ze'ev Raban, a leading artist of the Bazalel Academy founded in 1906, featuring King Ahasuerus and Queen Esther among many other biblical royals. In this deck, the jack of club is Harbona, one of the seven eunuchs who served Ahasuerus and to whom the order was given to bring Queen Vashti before the king. Now let's play!
Music and Videos
For young viewers, The Purim Story from Shalom Sesame.
From G-dcast, The Purim Story for Kids and Other Double Dutch Jumping Hipsters.
Purim songs with Uzi Hitman and Hani Nahmias.
Hebrew lyrics to the songs on Chagim website.
Some of the songs in English transliteration.
"When Adar enters, we increase joyfulness." Babylonian Talmud Ta'anit 29a
We are doubly joyful this year since we are celebrating two months of Adar, Adar Alef (First Adar) and Adar Bet (Second Adar). Why is this?
The year in the Jewish calendar consists of twelve lunar months, but the festivals follow the solar year, since several of them (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot) must take place in certain seasons, and the seasons are determined by the earth annual revolution around the sun. The lunar calendar is regularly adjusted to keep it in conformity with the solar year. This is done by periodically adding a second month of Adar. Since the discrepancy between the solar and lunar years amounts to 207 days every 19 years, the extra Adar is added seven times in a 19-year lunar cycle. During these leap years, most observances normally held in Adar are moved to Adar Bet, including Purim.
Masquerading and Mask Making
One of the most joyful of the holiday's customs is Masquerading and Mask Making.
"Masquerading on Purim originated about the end of the fifteenth century among the Jews of Italy, who observed and imitated the carnival practice of the Lenten season, which occurs about the time of Purim. From there it spread to all countries where Jews lived. The first known reference to the wearing of masks on Purim is found in 1508. In masquerading, people did not always wear mask. The mask was probably a much later invention, as people became more sophisticated and felt ashamed of their burlesque dress and childish tricks their "characters" were supposed to perform. Thus, to avoid recognition by their neighbors and friends and to achieve greater freedom of joyful expression, they covered their faces with masks." (from The Purim Anthology by Philip Goodman,1973)
Israeli artist, Hanoch Piven depicts the Iranian (Persian) politician known for his anti-Israel propaganda and Holocaust denial, as a modern-day Haman. The connection to Purim is achieved by using Hamantachens, a dagger, a gragger and a whip.
Purim is a perfect opportunity to incorporate his teaching and technique to create portraits and masks for the holiday.
The Somber Side of the Holiday February 2015
We don't mean to spoil you rambunctious Purim spirit, but this year we cannot ignore the somber side of the holiday. Anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide and acts of terror, violence and desecration are on the news daily. A few years ago, we commented that there are no Jewish communities in peril. Now, thousands of European Jews are feeling vulnerable enough to seriously consider Aliyah.
Anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate are difficult issues to discuss with students. We want to foster pride. The story of Purim as told in the Scroll of Esther offers an opportunity to examine these issues.
To support your effort to introduce these topics, we offer resources:
Confronting Anti-Semitism - ADL
The Scroll of Esther and Anti-Semitism - by Prof. H. Gavriyahu, JAFI
Purim and the Persian Period - JewishHistory.org
Purim: Strangest of Holidays - By Steve Israel & Noam Zion, Shalom Hartman Institute
Purim: Joy in the Midst of Uncertainty - By Rabbi Prof. David Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute
Purim Resources for Children with Special Needs - Gateways, Access to Jewish Education
Purim and Art
An Artist's View
In this version of the Esther story, Arthur Szyk portrayed himself as the interpreter of Jewish history. The artist gazes at the swastika-bedecked figure of Haman, hanging on the gallows that Haman had built to kill Mordechai. Szyk holds a hamentasch, the pastry traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim, while writing "the people of Israel will be liberated from their persecutors."
Identity in the Story of Purim - An Art Project
Earlier this month we offered a workshop in collaboration with CJM, Havruta in Art and Beyond: Collaboration and Creativity in the Classroom. As an exercise of collaboration across disciplines in preparation of the upcoming holiday, we chose two verses from the book of Esther as text for Havruta study. Participants engaged in text study, identified a "big idea" for Purim and translated it into a collaborative artwork. It was a small example of how to approach any Jewish theme that we revisit year after year, and how to interpret big (and sometime old) ideas in a new creative way. The resulting list of big ideas and art ideas suggested that this year several schools will be engaged in an art activity that is very different than past years.
By Rabbi Yoshi Fenton
These have been trying times for our community, our country, and our world. The lights of the hannukiot in our homes, the blasts of the fireworks at new year's celebrations, and the expressions of hope for a better year, have all been muted by the violence of recent weeks.
In this post you’ll find resources on teaching about protest, bigotry, terrorism, violence, the unrest in Ferguson, and our responsibilities to further civil rights. We hope they are a help to you in your classes, with your students, and in your personal and professional lives as we all grapple to make sense of the brokenness of our world.
With Tu b’Shevat and springtime around the corner, I am reminded of the light which always follows the darkness of winter and so I’d like to share two additional teaching with you, as a blessing for us all. The first from the sage of the Mishna, Rabbi Tarfon, and the second from the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Shneerson.
Rabbi Tarfon teaches, "It is not our job to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it." The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often conclude a letter or article with the blessing “Immediately to Teshuva (repentance), Immediately to Redemption.”
It is our prayer for this New Year that we commit ourselves to creating a better, kinder and more loving place for our students and the world around us. We offer this guide of educational resources as a support to you, Jewish educators, in your work to make our prayer a reality.
Websites for Resources on Teaching about Social Justice
On1Foot is a project of AJWS and a wonderful website and resource for sources and texts on a variety of social justice topics. You can both use already created materials or make your own.
Justaction.org is a project of Panim, The Institute of Jewish Leadership and Values, and is another wonderful website that offers a variety of resources relating to teaching about and for social justice and change.
Uri l’Tzedek is another organization committed to both working for and teaching about social justice and responsibility, and is the first Orthodox organization committed to social justice work. The website is a great resource.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a wonderful resource to learn about what’s happening around the country regarding race and class. Lots of articles and thought pieces.
In Response to Ferguson
Channukahaction.org was created to help support those who celebrate Hanukah, connect the holiday and its observances to the events in Ferguson and conversations related to race, justice, violence, and social responsibility. The resources and tools section is a wonderful collection of materials from a variety of sources.
The following Jweekly article highlights many of the ways in which the Bay Area Jewish community has come together to support calls for an end to police brutality and demand a new perspective on equality and justice for all.
This Kveller article exploring what if anything to say to our children about race in our country is an interesting and thought provoking read.
A rabbi's response
Articles and Resources on Teaching about Race and Violence
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton is an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Are We Born Racist?: New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology.
The Atlantic Monthly asked teachers, academics, community leaders, and parents to recommend resources they’ve used and/or would recommend to support adults as they teach children about race.
The PBS program The Teachers’ Lounge gathered a number of teaching strategies for how to talk about Ferguson in school. Here’s a link to the google doc.
Also check out this blog from The Teachers’ Lounge on grade specific strategies.
Reuven Firestone wrote a wonderful article examining the major Jewish sources which speak to violence and reconciliation. For those of you interested in diving into the sources, this should be just what you’re looking for.
Text Studies, Lesson Plans, and Curricular Resources
Ask Big Questions, a project of Hillel International, has put together some wonderful collections of texts and study guides geared towards young adults and teens.
When Do You Take a Stand?
For Whom are We Responsible?
What Advantages Do You Have?
The Rabbinical Assembly has also made available a few really great source sheets below.
On Gun Violence
On Our Obligation to Remember We Were Once Slaves
Embracing the Stranger
In his song, Elohai, Israeli singer-songwriter Kobi Oz wrote about
"This great synagogue called the Land of Israel
Where everyone is welcome to look up at the heavens,
pray for rain, and watch out for missiles."
Oz, like many Israeli artists, was commenting on the existential reality of Israeli life, where lethal attacks from bombs and missiles can be commonplace, coexisting with the practicalities of everyday life ("pray for rain") and inspiring spirituality ("look up at the heavens"). "Watch out for missiles" has been all too real for many Israelis living in close proximity to Gaza, and now, as Hamas rocket power has grown, tragically, for a larger portion of the population..."