Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blog Myers-Briggs rating

This blog has been rated as ESFP - The Performers! (See here)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

La dernière classe (jusqu'a 2009)

I did start with ח and it was fun. I set up by finding the letters nun-chet-mem sofit in the blocks - and on the way I also found the Latin letters for nacham - 6 in Latin and only 3 in Hebrew. I had found all the Latin letters before the first of the Hebrew ones turned up! (Something about the block content design?)

We fit the history of the hope of the world in 5 minutes - touching Isaiah (I began by singing the opening tenor recit from Messiah - just the first few bars - there were titters from the girls at my singing!) then to the difference between He and Chet reminding them of Abraham and Sarah - and on the way Ruach - (I forgot Noach!). Then a little on Simeon and Anna and the consolation of Israel - as outlined in the last post but without all the detail. And then the promise of the Spirit - the Comforter - for us all but particularly for those present.

One of the girls asked me 'what is the Hebrew for Christmas'? - what would you answer? I thought it should be something around anoint / Messiah and festival.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas is coming

the geese are getting fat! Well - it's more than that!

The children are getting ready to prepare for Pageant and I will be away for several weeks in England and France - to hear my daughter's services at Ely and Selwyn and for a little break near Nice. So this week will be the last Hebrew 'lesson' till January.

With what word or letter shall I introduce Christmas? What else is possible but with the word NXM (nacham)- as Handel's Messiah begins: נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר אֱלֹהֵיכֶם (nachamu, nachamu, 'ami, yo'mar 'eloheikem)
The children already know the word from the name נֹחַ (Noach) for of him it is said he will comfort us concerning our work. His name is from 'rest' but the writer of Genesis 5:29 connects it with נחם.

Of the human, it is used to mean console (Genesis 37:35).

Of God the word is used when God 'repents' - almost meaning 'sighed'. So Genesis 6:6-7 and Exodus 32:12. But 1 Samuel 15:29 shows some ambivalence over God's repenting. Nevertheless יהוה repenting in 1 and 2 Samuel is frequent. (1 Samuel 15:35). The children don't know these stories yet - I am just checking a few to see if I can say anything about how נחם relates to Christmas. The connection is with what Simeon was waiting for when Jesus comes to the temple for the first time with Mary and Joseph. (Luke 2:25) The consolation that Simeon is waiting for (παράκλησις paraklēsis) is that same comfort of which נחם speaks. It is the same word as the one John uses for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the paracletos. This shows the great Hebrew-Hellenist divide - how do we know what words make the transfer of the word of God from one culture to another? The LXX translation tells us - and here it is for Isaiah 40: παρακαλεῖτε παρακαλεῖτε τὸν λαόν μου λέγει ὁ θεός.

How does one introduce to children the helper of their lives? One doesn't need to - one simply points to the words that have been used through the millennia that have been God's word to us of love.

One could use Psalm 90 - a great psalm of 'turning' - for the children can at all times be encouraged to turn to God as God can be encouraged to turn to us. And in that psalm, Moses prays just such a turning (Psalm 90:13)
שׁוּבָה יְהוָה עַד-מָתָי וְהִנָּחֵם עַל-עֲבָדֶיךָ. Return, O LORD; how long?
And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants.
ἐπίστρεψον κύριε ἕως πότε καὶ παρακλήθητι ἐπὶ τοῖς δούλοις σου (LXX) Bring back O Lord! How long? Be consoled (parakletheti) over your slaves.

(Bob) Turn O Lord, how long? And sigh over your servants.
The truth about Jesus, the consolation of Israel, is that God need not repent further - for in him, he was well pleased. His pleasure in Jesus gives us all grace.

Perhaps I will begin with the letter Chet ח and see where it leads.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Father and Mother

This week I had a longer opportunity to work with the youngest. The main subject of this week's class was Mary so I brought in an image of the Lippo Memmi and Martini Annunciation and Two Saints 1333 currently at the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence - the kids loved it and identified the stream from the Angel's mouth as 'letters'. We talked a little of the word of God coming to each of us also.

Then I read them this verse from Exodus 20 and pointed out the av and the em. They had seen these words before.
כַּבֵּד אֶת-אָבִיךָ, וְאֶת-אִמֶּךָ
Honour thy father and thy mother
We read it together several times and I noted that the younger ones are both more absorptive and less distracted when they are alone. We also reminded them of the mothers and fathers they had studied in the last 4 or 5 weeks. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah. We talked a bit of Mary as mother and of Eve. And I promised them that sometime later we would read about Hannah and Samuel - another special mother and son in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 1-3).

I brought out all the flash cards and laid them out. Some of the smaller ones were disappearing into small hands. Then we went to find the father and mother in the flash cards - of course, being the smallest, they disappeared even in a small hand - but we did find them.

They like the flash cards and turn them over to read the transcription and meaning.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vowels - an introduction

This morning I had a few minutes to continue the lesson on Vav and to introduce the Masoretic markings - or 'vowels'. This was not a successful lesson - from my point of view. I felt that I was unprepared, and that over the last 6 months I had achieved nothing. I think the children remember the cookies and the games but none of the content. But the 10 or so children in the class were just as wonderful as ever. It was only me with the depressed heart. Why art thou so heavy O my soul! (Psalms 42-43).

I write this so that anyone reading will know that there are times that are down as well as times of elation. Hope still in God.

Vav - the hook for the tabernacle, the connector of words, is a letter that can say va, vi, ve, vey, o, and u (oo). Isn't it curious that the v disappears before the o class of vowels? Is it perhaps that vav is the proto vowel?

Linguists out there, help me out if you see this question.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Presenting Vav

There was an interesting 4 minutes at Sunday school today. I very briefly introduced Vav and pointed out some of the circled vav's in the pictures here. Then I took a writing implement (a thin point magic marker) and placed the strip on the floor and lightly held the marker against the strip so that I could drag it under the marker making a line as it moved. As I dragged the marker, the children watched the vav's go buy - many of them saying - 'there's a vav', 'there another vav'. Then when the line came back to the starting place - their jaws dropped and their eyes popped out and they said - 'how did you do that?' - and one picked up the strip and looked on both sides of the paper clearly seeing that both had been marked without turning the paper over.

They won't forget the Moebius strip - and I hope they won't forget the vav that connects or hooks words and the curtains of the tabernacle. Not one end to the other with a half-twist, but there are curious connections still to be discovered. There is much more to learn about hooks and they will have fun doing it.

(Incidentally, they can see the differing vowel points, but I haven't introduced them yet. The time will come.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The sixth letter (continued)

Vav is for U and vi, and O and va, and ve and vay. Today I have made an image of a set of verses most of which we have already seen in a three dimensional strip with only one side so you can keep reading continously.

Print the base image on landscape. Print another on the reverse side of the same page. (This may be tricky depending on your printer since the strips must line up.) Whether one sided or two, cut the image into strips and paste them end to end. before joining the beginning to the end, twist the strip once and you will create a moebius strip - a three dimensional figure with only one side.

I think it is important to lay a rich table - not to oversimplify. I will present only the vav's in this image. I will ask them to find the vav's that are not circled. You can see that the image can be built on for lesson after lesson.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The sixth letter

Vav is a hook. See this post for a description of the form of the letter and its role as a hook in the tabernacle. In Exodus 27:11 we have the instruction for the building of the tabernacle including the silver hooks of the pillars.

וָוֵי הָעַמֻּדִים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶם, כָּסֶף [vavei ha'amudim vahasheqeihem kaseph] The hooks of the pillars and their attachments of silver.

חשק is a verb meaning to love, be attached to, long for, or be joined. As in English, 'attachment' can be literal - a hook to a pole, or figurative.

We have met several vavs in our existing vocabulary and verses.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The experience of names

Today's lesson was very full. After the greeting of the door keeper and the forming of the circle and the mutual greetings and the thanksgiving prayer, my short section began with the blocks - selecting the five (and guarding against using the only mem-sofit) for Abrm and Abrhm and briefly presenting them on the floor in the circle, moving them around so that all could see. Then I put the laminated children's names on the floor, right side up. They paused, counting letters first and deciding 'my name can't be there - too few letters'. But then I said that the vowels are missing (except for the helper letters - the mater lectiones). Yes I did use that big word in Latin, but it didn't seem to phase anyone. Then they discovered that the names were in English on the back - so the game was quickly short-circuited.

Then I showed them a page of the English Hebrew Bible in parallel. One comment that arose was: 'Nice, you can see the relationship between the English and Hebrew'. (The Bible is the Parallel Bible, Hebrew on the left, English on the Right, Biblica Hebraica Leningradensis and the KJV.) Not an interlinear - though some of them are very helpful. A Parallel Hebrew-English Bible is online here.

We had two new children in the class today - so some new name tags must be created for Sophie ספי (wisdom חכמה) and Nick ניקלס (one who overcomes - or ruler of the people). Both are Greek names. May we indeed have wisdom and triumph with all the necessary tension of humility that must come between them.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

THE GREAT FAMILY - Godly Play Lesson 4 - 12/10/08

This week will focus on Genesis 12-15 and 24, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah.

The point of this lesson, in my opinion, is to show the children that no matter where you go, God will be with you, especially if you feel frightened, alone, or hopeless. Abraham and Sarah showed their incredible faith in God again and again.

It is also important for them to know that God can do seemingly impossible things. Sarah had her first baby - Isaac, when she was about 90 years old.

I also want them to be able to relate themselves to Abraham and see how they fit in to the great eternal story of God's creation, as one of God's people, as is every person on earth.


1) We will get ready and shake hands and say good morning to each other

2) I will lead a very small discussion about what Thanksgiving is and why we have it.

3) We will all have a chance to mention something special that we would like to give thanks for.

4) We will say a Thanksgiving prayer, trying to include one thing that each child is grateful for.

5) Bob will give this week's Hebrew lesson, focusing mainly on the letter 'H'.

6) I will lead a small discussion "Where is God?"

7) I will get the material for the story and tell the story.

8) We will have a wondering time after the story is told.

9) We will have a feast if we have time for it.

10) We will clean up and be escorted back to the church in time for communion.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Abraham and Sarah - Names

וְהָיָה שִׁמְךָ אַבְרָהָםbut will be your name Abraham (Genesis 17:5)
[vehayah shemka avraham]
לֹא-תִקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמָהּ שָׂרָי: כִּי שָׂרָה שְׁמָהּ. you will not call her name Sarai: for Sarah is her name (Genesis 17:15)
[lo-tiqra et-shema Sarai: ki Sarah shema]
What will we do with a name? There are some lovely lessons about Hebrew in the above phrases - for a later lesson.

We are still at the beginning of a long process. One cannot be in a hurry. We will introduce the letter ה and we have a plan to hand out laminated names - I think we can put them in a pile and see whether the children can identify their own name. As you can see from this post, their names are differing lengths. I wonder what clues the children will use to find their own.

Clarifying Learning and Teaching Objectives

Why would one introduce Hebrew into a Sunday School curriculum at an early age? I can think of a host of reasons and a host of risks.

Reasons: makes people aware
  • that the world is bigger than their assumptions,
  • that communication with ancient thoughts is possible,
  • that the Bible wasn't written in English,
  • that there are a lot of intriguing and puzzling things about our tradition,
  • that there are decisions to make about understanding that are not obvious.
  • may be too complex to manage,
  • may be frightening,
  • may be incomprehensible,
  • may turn people off.
How to manage the risks. These are teaching objectives:
  1. make it fun,
  2. make the steps to reward easy (like eating cookies or deciphering one's own name),
  3. let the concerns be expressed and hope that the real Teacher (the Holy Spirit) finds ways of mediating, defending, or prodding the students and teachers as they need,
  4. find ways of integrating the letter or word of the day into the other parts of the curriculum,
  5. make every lesson stand alone since some students will not have seen prior lessons (use handouts and notes for keeping track of things - create some easy posts and exercises online).
Here too are some measurable learning objectives - keeping them low key. When the first year is finished, that the student would be able to:
  1. recognize a Hebrew letter and place it right side up! (use the blocks and make cookies)
  2. put two or three letters together to form a word and see the difference from writing Latin letters (use an English name that is familiar and spell it in Hebrew)
  3. recognize some words at sight (use large print cards)
  4. recognize some words aurally (pronounce and sing words)
  5. remember and recite a famous phrase (read the phrase, sing it, show it, memorize it)
  6. given a word, find the letters that make it (use the blocks)
  7. given several words, put them in order (use large print cards)
  8. given a set of words and their transcriptions and translations, match them (use a matching game)
  9. given a set of familiar names, apply vowel markers to indicate pronounciation
  10. read a short passage, e.g. psalm 117, 133, 150 (target after 12 to 15 weeks)
  11. read an acrostic psalm (target after 25 weeks)
I am guessing as to targets, but I would judge that the first four objectives are beginning to be met after 5 sessions - that is about 60 minutes of teaching over a four month period. Interest, absorption and retention seem quite high - but I would not want to examine achievements too closely yet. The age range in the class is 4 to 10.

Any ideas for additional objectives?

A useful link

I have added a link on the left to the 1000 most common words in the Hebrew Bible.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The letter He ה was delayed in its presentation for a week or so.

As I sat listening to the story of Noah, I thought of a better way to approach this letter - using the story of Abram and Sarai - of which more later. One young man was particularly proud of the H in his name, and his discussion of his name came up with zero prompting from me - for I was silent.

This gave me the idea to spell the names of the children in Hebrew - but I did it without vowels. Some of the names are very complex - what do you think the names spell? (Some sounds in our language do not translate into the Hebrew letters!)

Note how frequent is the nun sofit - at least for this class!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A target psalm for reading and singing

I just remembered in the post-lunch quiet a song I learned in Toronto in the 70s

א שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת, לְדָוִד:

הִנֵּה מַה-טּוֹב וּמַה-נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אַחִים גַּם-יָחַד.
1 A Song of Ascents; of David.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
mizmor quf-lamed-gimel (all the numbers are letters)
[1]hineh ma tov
uma na`im,
achim gam yachad
`al ha-rosh,
yored `al hazaqan,
zaqan 'aharon
`al-pi midotayv
`al harrei
ki sham
ha-shem (adonai),

A literal translation and image is here. A freer translation here.This psalm is short enough that we might be able to set it as an objective for a first read. The vocabulary will need to be approached. The song I remember from memory though the words I sang then had lost the rough edges of the Hebrew sound which you can hear here. There are, come to think of it, a number of short psalms that would work. It would also make a good introduction to ה which is for הִנֵּה.

Someday maybe I'll record it :) Here is my recording.

Some vocabulary

Also introducing the letter H - as simply as possible - no word, just the prefix for the definite article.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Potential vocabulary to date

Note - some of this is explicit in the past lessons, some only implicit. Some is with vowel markings, some without.

כּי-טובki-tovfor good
the object marker
the light
דרך derek
גמלgmol recompense








Whole verses that the children have heard
Deuteronomy 6:4
שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד
[shema Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai echad]

Genesis 1:1
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
[b'reshyt bara elohym et ha-shemaym v'et ha-eretz]

Genesis 1:4
וירא אלהים את-האור כּי-טוב
[vayare elohim et ha'or ki-tov]

Genesis 2:4
בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם
[beyom asot (adonai) elohym eretz vshamaym]

Psalm 34:2
אֲבָרְכָה אֶת-יְהוָה בְּכָל-עֵת
['avarcah et-(adonai) becol-`et]
I will bless יְהוָה at all times

Psalm 34:3
גַּדְּלוּ לַיהוָה אִתִּי

[gadolu la'adonai 'iti]
magnify - make great - יְהוָה with me.

Psalm 34:8
טעמו וראו כּי-טוב יהוה
[ta`amu ureu ki-tov יְהוָה]
Taste - ta-'amu, and see ure'u, that is good ki-tov the LORD.

Psalm 119:17
גְּמֹל עַל-עַבְדְּךָ אֶחְיֶה
[gmol al-avdeka eheyeh]

Psalm 149:2
יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעֹשָׂיו; בְּנֵי-צִיּוֹן, יָגִילוּ בְמַלְכָּם
[yishma Israel be'osayiv, beni-tsion yagilu bemalkam]
Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

Flash cards - develop
Spell the letter names (without looking at the diagram they have).
Fill in the blanks in the table above

Achieving our first objective

This morning, I was asked to do a few minutes in Sunday School - after the Kyrie and before the sermon (which I didn't want to miss) so I embarked on the next letter daleth, ד.

As a small amount of preparation, I had thought of using ד is for דרך [drk=way] since 'way' is a common word and similar to a couple of English words - direct and Derek - giving a slight advantage in memory. But those letters are notoriously difficult to see and distinguish - but why make it easy for young eyes!

Anyway, apart from this preparation, I had no other props, so for the first time I got the children to find the letters among the blocks. This too is not an easy task, but in a trice, their fingers and eyes were up to the job.

There they were heads down, gathered in a huddle around the pile of blocks that have their home in a small tray. My first questions were review - find the alef, then the bet, then the gimel. This is a substantial exercise. One has to pick up each block and search around the four faces with Hebrew letters and recognize the shape. They learned that the letters used in English are the Latin alphabet and they soon learned to ignore these ones. They were successful in finding several alefs, bets, and gimels - congratulations to all for the achievement of a joyful first objective:
At the completion of this course, the student, given an example, should be able to find the equivalent in a pile of blocks!
I think there were some students who had missed several prior lessons, but they also seemed to be happy with the others in their focused scramble among the blocks.

Then the new letter - where is a daleth? This proved harder. Vav and zayin were frequent confusion, but dalet and resh ר and the kaf-sofit (one of five letters with a special form for the end of a word) ך came up from the pile and formed the word דרך. I explained the differences in the letters - the stroke sizes (distinguishing from vav ו and zayin ז ) , the sharp and the round edges of ד and ר, the different kafs ך and כ - a tricky problem in seeing.

Then I even added a few letters to the front (back - upside down!) of the word to make 'the way' הדרך, and בדרך in the way or on the way. Too much learning at once? No - too much fun. I said to them that they are learning what they do not yet know, but that as we continue through the season at 10 minutes (I was late for the sermon) a week for the next six months, they would be surprised at how much they knew and they would have a deep joy in discovery. Then one asked me - do you know the Hebrew for joy? I said there was more than one word, and I couldn't remember the exact word - but I said I would substitute the first word of the psalms - Happy אַשְׁרֵי. [asheri]

(You can see the psalm in Hebrew and English here - you can listen too. Notice the word דרך in the second line).

To come: a summary of the vocabulary we have seen so far, all of it in a Biblical context.
Then: a reasonable objective for the whole year - can we begin to read a psalm? Will we try some vocabulary quizzes? Could there be some memorization of verses in Hebrew and English? Flash cards - here we come.

For joy - try Psalm 149:2,
יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעֹשָׂיו; בְּנֵי-צִיּוֹן, יָגִילוּ בְמַלְכָּם
Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
[yishma israel be'osayiv, beni-tsion yagilu bemalkam]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gimel cookies a success

They loved the cookies. We began with a reminder of which language we are learning - and the response was 'it's very hard'. It's hard not just because it sounds different but because it's a new writing system too. Well, that was the cue to bring on the cookies - a complete surprise to everyone (since they don't do blogs yet).

To keep life very easy, I had already set up two words with the blocks, גדל, גמל [gdl - great and gml for recompense, reward - see this note for the verses]. The children were quick to point out the matching shapes and the letter that the cookie matched. We noted how גמל spelled the letter also.

We could have gone on about the reward in today's lesson (Matthew 20:1-16 the parable of the labourers in the field) but we didn't. We could have talked about גמל in modern Hebrew - as in the phrase 'he got what he deserved', but we didn't need to. Wisdom is knowing where to stop.

During Sunday school, the cookies were eaten. Later in the lunch time after the service, there was a tendency for some to lick off the gimel first, then forget the less sweet biscuit under it! So in the end, they decided that the letters are not hard, but rather sweet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Letter Gimel

Gimel is for growth (גמל) and greatness (גדל). Both these can be gained by eating cookies. So here are the gimel cookies.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Beauty of the Bible

I came across this set of posts on Genesis 1:1 and the pictograms that preceded the use of the aleph-bet. Very creative...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The letter Bet

Next lesson is
Bet ב begins the text of the Bible. It also begins the second word.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bet and gimel

The summer is not yet over but my thoughts return to the next letters of the alef-bet. That is bet ב and gimel ג.

Who will be at the next Sunday school lesson, I wonder?

ב is of course for In the beginning. ב occurs twice in the first two words of the Bible. Here is a good verse to memorize - why? Just for fun. It feels and sounds like a memorable verse (Genesis 1:1).

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
[b'reshyt bara elohym et ha-shemaym v'et ha-eretz]

The ending of the first word ית is rare - at least to me! The bet in the first word stands for the preposition 'in'. The רֵאשִׁ is a word meaning 'head'. Is there something more to the form of this word? (Curious that Paul writes of God as the head of Christ.)

The second bet occurs in the second word - created - the word בָּרָא occurs several more times in this first great poem (Genesis 1:1 to 2:4).

We know the poem ends at chapter 2 verse 4 since the words of chapter 1 verse 1 are repeated in reverse order. Notice too the change from אֱלֹהִים the word used for God in Genesis 1:1 to יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים in Genesis 2:4.

בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם
[beyom asot (adonai) elohym eretz vshamaym]

Bet also begins the word bless. We see this word in Psalm 34:2 - I will bless יְהוָה at all times: אֲבָרְכָה אֶת-יְהוָה בְּכָל-עֵת
['avarcah (adonai) becol-`et]

But you may notice that the word begins with alef! That is a secret that you will learn - the root word is בָרְכָ.The alef signifies an action that continues - so we translate in this case, I will bless.

As for gimel - I will take that from Psalm 119 part 3 (Psalm 119:17).

גְּמֹל עַל-עַבְדְּךָ אֶחְיֶה - [gmol al-avdeka eheyeh] Deal bountifully with your servant that I may live. Eight verses in this psalm beginning with this verse begin with the letter gimel. To translate this one so it begins with our letter g - we could write - grow your servant. For another word beginning with gimel, we could use Psalm 34:3 again: גַּדְּלוּ לַיהוָה אִתִּי [gadolu la'adonai 'iti]magnify - make great - יְהוָה with me.

I will make up some games with these letters for September and also use that time to review our first lessons.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Alef is for One

Today we read and sang Deuteronomy 6:4 under the banner: this lesson is brought to you by the letter א, Alef.

שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

To prepare, I researched some words beginning with א. Which would best express this letter that is head of the alef-bet but is called humble since it declined to be the first letter of the Bible?
In the story, all of the letters come before the LORD giving reasons why they should be the first letter - all, that is, except for the letter Aleph. When the LORD asked why, Aleph explained that since he was silent, he had nothing to say. But the LORD honored Aleph’s humility and declared him to be the first of all the letters -- and to be honored as the letter of the first word of the Ten Commandments.
Look at the letters above to see a very few of the many words with differing starting sounds might be selected for alef.

'Av for father and father's day. 'Eben, a stone.
'Ohel for tent.
'Echad for one.
'Or for light (but it needs the vav as mater). 'Eretz for land.
'Ish for a man.
'Em for mother. 'Emet for truth. 'Et for the object marker (already introduced in lesson 1).

It is quite a boggle game, isn't it? (One could even select verbs in the first person singular imperfect, as if alef were the letter of hope and promise, but we did not discuss that option.)

As it turned out, I did not present any of these words. I only presented the one, 'echad. The children searched the image of the text of Deuteronomy 6:4 for the word 'echad and for the three alefs - ignoring those in the substitute word for the divine name. (Click for a larger image).

It was heard among the students that the lesson was complicated, but after class, one of them could be seen looking up each letter and sounding them out.

So though Alef became A, it is not A and can sound many other vowels. It has more than nothing to say.

I asked them how many strokes would it take to draw an alef. They answered with 7 or 8 - for the letter forms are with serif and they counted the vowel marks. The relation to three strokes: two yods, one looking up to heaven, and the other connecting to earth, crossed by a vav, suggests a three in one image, but even in a humble letter, one must not read in too much theology.

You can read more about alef here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Learning Hebrew

In recent weeks, the children have been learning about the Hebrew language. They began with one word: כּי-טוב

Transliterated this is ki-tov. Written as one word with a maqqep (hyphen), it really is two: the preposition כּי, and the adjective טוֹב.

We have examined two places in the Bible where this phrase occurs. In Genesis 1, it occurs 6 times and is translated into the phrase 'that it was good'.
וירא אלהים את-האור כּי-טוב And God saw the light, that it was good.
We read the words va-yira - he saw. And Elohim, God, and the special word 'et' and the word ha`or, the light.

It all sounds and looks so different from English words in the Latin alphabet. But the children all remembered this word easily so we can say ki-tov - it was good.

In Psalm 34, this word occurs in verse 8, the invitation to taste and see that the LORD is good.
טעמו וראו כּי-טוב יהוה. O taste and see that the LORD is good.
Taste - ta-'amu, and see ure'u, that is good ki-tov the LORD. It's a little hard to recognize the similarity in the words for seeing but God sees (yira) - and (u) you see (re-u). In English, we recognize that 'see' and 'saw' are not very similar either. We see something else here too - there are two different words, as in English, that are used of the one LORD God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4) - the word אלהים Elohim in Genesis 1:4 and the special name יהוה that you can see in the letters above in Psalm 34. Someone reading in Hebrew does not normally say this name out loud.
The special name of the LORD God is not spoken. Hebrew readers substitute ha-shem (the name) or adonai (the Lord) instead of speaking the name. In the Jewish tradition, the name is spoken once a year by the High Priest at the feast of Atonement.
The children and adults were able to identify the letters in כּי-טוב in this alef-bet page. We talked a little about spelling our own names also.

Our plan is to introduce each letter in turn, perhaps like the Sesame Street, the program is brought to you by the letter alef א. I expect by the end of next year, judging from the speed of absorption already observed, that the children will be able to read a psalm.

For more about the alef-bet listen to this video, not exactly the style of music around St Barnabas - but definitely an effective rock.

For a work in progress that shows each letter and a little about it, see this image of an alef-bet book largely from the text of the psalms.

A Beginning

Welcome to the Sunday School Blog for St Barnabas Church, Victoria, BC.

The St. Barnabas Sunday School uses a program called Godly Play. Godly Play teaches children the art of using religious language - parable, sacred story, silence, and liturgical action. Each week we respond to the stories related to the liturgical year and the lessons of the week.