January 14, 2021
-Ryan shows us God as the universe and everything in it.
Parents consider question: What were we taught about God as children?

As usual, parents offered up thoughtful answers and memories that gave us the context for our What is God to Me annual check-in. One parent described learning about God as a child as something "watching over us" and equated that with the lights in the ceiling of her synagogue. As she grew up, she felt that God was part of what guides our moral compass.

Other childhood understandings or teachings about God were...

-"God was everywhere, could see you and watch you, you were never alone."

-"God was an exterior voice, now as an adult I see that God is interior, that we are all energy."

-"God was a judge of right and wrong."

-"We weren't allowed to talk about God. God was for other people, which created confusion for me."

-"Like the Sistine Chapel- an old guy in the sky with a beard."

-"God just WAS. There was no conversation about it, no questions. We just accepted it."

This was a great place for our talmidim to start with their own inquiry into what God is for them on this day in 2021!
How do we show respect
-to others?
-The place we are in?

Cavod to Lucy for saying that talking about G-d is scary!

There was Cavod when Gabe helped Lemi think about the question in a different way and Lemi liked Gabe’s idea and said thank you

Kai and Rohin listened to each other and drew their drawings on G-d based on what each other said. They were in the same break-out room. (they both drew a colorful rainbow ball of energy!)

Zevi went back and added more details to his picture when asked to do so. 

Soli did a great job stepping inside his pet hamster DJ and answering questions about G-d.

Erez went out on a limb by teaching the Visual Midrash class a game of his own making.

Lilly showed cavod by being the volunteer student "Lilly."
What letters in the Alef Bet sound the same? What vowel sounds sound the same? Can we tell the difference when we read them?

This last week we spent some time considering AYIN and ALEF (the strong, silent types) and CAF and KOOF. Talmidim were not thrown off the scent after they learned the letters themselves. Causing some questions? VAV! If you know a good mnemonic device for VAV let me know! So far we have only come up pole vaulting, because VAV is tall.
Talmidim said the shema twice and looked at the words. The Shema says there is one God. Judaism is a religion with one God, and one God alone. Then they considered this question: What do we think God is right now on this day in 2021? (Below, Aviva's current definition of God)
(Pictured above: Joon described God as a cloud with lighting. Soli put his succinct belief in words.)

For our Talmidim, several possible definitions of God were expressed on Sunday morning.

Noa relayed that for her God was a being with supernatural powers. Elliot thought that God was like a Gandalf figure, a puppet master who controlled our actions. He also described a database that God must have, with movies of all of us, all our lives, with "all the possible realities."

Others considered the how, where and when of God for them:

When you think of G-d what pops in your mind? 
Zevi: Godzila
Rohin: air, waves
Kai: G-d is plants
Tova: Not sure

Where is G-d? 
Zevi: G-d is inside your body and controls you
Tova: in the sky
Rohin: in your soul and helps your body keep working
Zevi: sometimes I think
G-d is a she

 Soli: G-d is nowhere, it does not exist.
Ryan: G-d is everywhere
Joon: G-d is up in the clouds or somewhere else making another planet.

How do you communicate with G-d?
Rohin: You have to pray to G-d to communicate with G-d
 Zevi: when you say the prayers that is when you are talking to G-d
 Tova: Moshe spoke to G-d by whispering in the air
Zevi: sometimes I think that G-d can hear you, kinda like a genie, like can hear your thoughts and wishes

How do we show G-d?
Rohin: swirls of different colors to show different emotions
Kai: colorful, swirly rainbow
Tova: wilderness, a house, mountains, trees, bushes

What is G-d to you?
Hazel: it is like a big giant, he’s not nice

Where is G-d?
Hazel: on a magical land
Lucy: in a house near me

Lemi: I think the only reason God exists Is because people started believing God exists.

When we wanted to draw our ideas, we considered the Jewish tradition ( and the second commandment) that says we can't SHOW God. Why do you think that is we asked.

Ezra offered: "Because God is no one thing."

(Video link below to Dr. King speech at Stanford University "Two Americas")

Talmidim consider the words of Hillel: If I am only for myself, what am I?

Today was the reading from the Torah about the burning bush. This lead us to think about leadership and Moses. To answer this, we first listed
everything we knew about Moses (split the sea, led people out of slavery, had a lisp) and described the kind of person we think he was: caring, brave, assertive, old.

We thought about Moshe in context of the text from Avot, above. What does this text say about being a leader? When would Moshe have asked these questions?

Noach thought the quote meant "If I don’t like me, no one will, but if I only like me what am I?" Tyler pondered: "Trump is only for himself, who is he?"

Leadership conversations will continue the Shabbat after next!


The students in the Visual Midrash class are older and wiser than ever. How do we know? We added up all the years we have been learning (around 102 years!) and all the years we have been learning and playing games with OTHER people (around 82 years). Students aren't empty vessels, they bring a lot of experience to the table. Including working/learning/playing with someone or people who were challenging to us. Made it hard to play. Made it hard to learn. Part of learning in chevruta, the ancient Jewish practice of study, disagreement and learning in small groups, is knowing how to learn/play with other people who think differently than you.

To start off, our Jewish Leader in Training, Erez, invented and ran a game that had us practicing the words of the Amidah using cups, and objects you can find around the house. It was active, everyone could do it, but not everyone started with the same tools. Erez listened to the feedback from he is group, and will return next week with modifications!

Next, Lilly offered to volunteer to be "Lilly" a student and everyone else watched Phoebe and Lilly in a fishbowl while they studied a little Torah. Every now and then "Lilly" would freeze, and Violet, Soli, Joon and Erez would describe what happened. WHY? Because they are going to lead it next time!

With SEE THINK WONDER "you were having me envision and dig deeper into my brain, unlocked a path I didn't know was there" -Lilly

Lilly and Phoebe studied: "Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar." They used the SEE THINK WONDER protocol from "Making Thinking Visible"Ritchart, et al.

Phoebe asked "Lilly" what she saw in the text, what she thought about what she saw, and finally, what questions she had about what she saw. "Lilly" saw that "Sarai, she has a servant, she wasn’t able to have a child, see a woman, that is married, it looks like they have a slave or a person working for them."

"Lilly" thought that Sarai "tries very hard to make Abram happy."

"Lilly" wondered: "Is she upset at herself? Did she want a maidservant in the house? But what if Abram leaves her?"

Afterwards, the talmidim reflected back what they saw Phoebe do with Lilly so they could learn it for themselves:

"You listened to what she said."

"You made her feel like you heard her."

"You didn't just tell her what YOU thought."

"Lilly" had the last word. Did See Think Wonder help her get closer to the text?

"you were having me envision and dig deeper into my brain, unlocked a path I didn't know was there."

Next up: Sarai becomes Sarah, students lead SEE THINK WONDER

The Sylvia Cohen Family Learning Project
of Temple Ahavat Achim
Director: Phoebe Potts