Educationally Speaking – October 2019

Experience + Enjoyment = Education

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

John Dewey, a pioneer in modern educational philosophy, lived just under 100 years. He was born in 1859. He changed education forever by emphasizing learning through experience. He is quoted as saying, “The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.” Although his thoughts were cutting edge for the 20th century, the rabbis of blessed memory and our Torah illuminate for us experiences to teach important lessons repeatedly in the 20th century before our secular calendar.

In our school, we run towards exciting, meaningful, pleasurable and community-building activities like learning to read and speak Hebrew. We meet our friends in our temple and laugh, learn, eat, and grow. The thrilling festival of Sukkot is upon us and I want to evaluate the lesson plan provided in the Torah.

At the website we learn, “According to the Torah, on this holiday we should ‘live in booths (sukkot) seven days… in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God’.” (Lev. 23:42-43)

The object of the lesson is Jews live in booths during Sukkot in order to acknowledge God’s role in making us. The method of teaching is to bring us outside of our comfortable structures into shacks that let rain and wind pass through the walls. We become a part of nature and simply enjoy the world that God has provided us with all of the fanfare and pageantry of our great holy days; Shabbat, Pesah, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah, and Yom Kippur. We have lived our lesson for the last four thousand five hundred years.

We connect to earth and nature on Sukkot in ways that resemble the ancient peoples of the world. We even take palms, myrtle and willow branches with the citron and perform ritual movement in order to connect to the earth and to God. Although we can often forget we live in nature, we are forced to recognize that nature is a power that will shape us without our input.

I urge all of us to spend moments in the open air during this Sukkot and to let your mind rest, to take in the beauty and power of the environment that we live in. It can teach us that we are a part of the world and that it helps God to make us.

I pray that your year is filled with joy, meaning, health, sweetness, prosperity and peace. I wish you the very best during our Autumn Holy Days. Please ask the children from the school how fun the time in a sukkah can be.