Educationally Speaking – August 2018

The Shape of Learning

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

Shalom! I am filled with excitement to have a few words to share with you as I begin the position of Educational Director for Beth El. Your energy, creativity, history, members and facility show much about the community to which I am being welcomed.

Pausing to consider things is important in the process of learning and thinking. Also, realizing that different people see the same thing uniquely is important to being a successful educator. I enjoy trying to look at my world through new eyes and experiencing the wonder and amazement one discovers in learning.

I ask myself, what does my lesson or activity mean to a person without previous experience? Am I helping my students to learn? I have learned that the great sages of our people have, at times, encountered unclear or troubling texts in our tradition. How did the sages explain an answer? Sometimes they invented super-hero-like creatures who helped to solve the problems.

The rule from the Torah is that an object used for sacred purposes cannot be made with items that could be used for making war. This means a Torah scroll is not touched with iron in its writing, rather one uses a quill. The stone used in building the Jerusalem Temple could not be carved with metal blades. So, how did Solomon build his Temple?

How could you explain the solution?

The sages relate that the Shamir – a little worm, could look at some stone, metal, or object and change its shape. So, all of those giant carved stones were created from the mystical Shamir. The sages also tell us that the Shamir was created in the moments before God rested for the Sabbath on the 6th day of Creation.

After Moses, Akiba is thought to have been the greatest teacher of all time. Our tradition teaches that he was 39 before he could read. He saw a large stone that had a hole carved in it for water to pass and with his wife’s support, Rachel, Akiba became the generation’s most learned scholar.

My point is that whether you feel your head is like stone, there are ways that the stone can be shaped. Maybe it is the Shamir, or erosion, repetition, amazement, passion, joy, desire, or need. The mind is a miracle any way that we look at it. While oceanographers continue to find out new information about the worlds in the ocean, there is much to be learned about how a brain works or how we actually work as living creatures.

Please introduce yourself to me. Let’s stop and consider what is around us and join our children in the wonderful chance to learn about ourselves and to appreciate the uniqueness of each member of our community. I hope to use this article and future ones to explore different topics related to Jewish education and the activities and the program that we offer our students.

Enjoy a safe, healthy and joyous summer, Shalom!