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.