Friday, December 18, 2009

Numbers in Biblical Hebrew

Flash cards here are so much fun  - Go to the link, press a link on the left to get going then set your standards higher and do multiple choice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Star Sunday

It was a full afternoon today. My wife and I staffed the candle-decorating stand. A complex of children aged 1 to 14 decorated candles - at least 50! So there were a lot of people there - maybe as many as 70. Chaotic at times. The Sanctuary was in the church where there was a pot of bees wax boiling and each child was to take a wick and dip it, then walk the stations of the nativity and ring the bell, then return for another dip, circling till the new candle was fat enough to use.

Flute in the church, and carols by two violinists and a piano in the hall where the other stations were. Lovely music. There were stations for woodwork, making decorations, needlework, making chocolate, paper stars, oranges and cloves and golden walnuts, and present wrapping.

It has been quiet on this blog since the Sunday school have been preparing for pageant so I have not done any lessons for a few weeks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Comic arrives

Og the Terrible found his way into my house today thanks to Karyn at Boulders2bits.

This looks delightful and will be a great aid in teaching.

More information on this and related products can be found here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Splitting by age group

In the New Year we will likely split the Sunday School class in two groups. How will the younger group do a few minutes of letters and the older group also continue to learn Hebrew? What curriculum will we use for the older group? These questions are in our thoughts as the New Year approaches.

One thought on curriculum is to do a series of portraits of Jesus.

I scratched a few thoughts about overall themes during the sermon today. We have already approached the role of Prophet. I wonder if this spokesperson and mediation role could find expression in a study of the presence of the High Priest on our behalf at the Mercy Seat. This is a full subject for exploration and would encompass the ancient sacrifices and the self-giving of Jesus. - Portrait 1: Prophet-Priest

A primary role of the prophet is as servant. Christ as servant to the circumcision and Jesus as embodying the suffering servant. Servant is used as an early title in Acts. Mark, Acts, and Isaiah would provide study here. Portrait 2: Servant

The Lamb and the Bridegroom. The book of Revelation provides a third portrait. The Shepherd King, son of David a fourth. His humanity is perhaps foremost in the role of son of Abraham. This humanity includes walking by faith (Habakkuk) and the temptation and will focus on how Jesus used the Scripture. Portrait 5: the human Jesus. This can include the origin and use of the phrase son of man.

A sixth portrait could encompass the aspects of Judge and Redeemer, the teacher and preacher. Again in the role of prophet, the one who rebukes and builds up. Temple Builder? - the role of the Spirit - Is the Lord, the Spirit open to a portrait - perhaps a theological one?

And seventh - the Son of God. Such a portrait would likely take much of its focus from John's Gospel, summed up in the word made flesh and the seven I am statements. This too should not focus exclusively on the NT but also include the Hebraic roots of the imagery and the anointing of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings for our learning as well as all who have loved these words both in old times and now.

Each portrait merges into the other - a study in itself.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov 15 - restart alef-bet teaching

Today - 5 minutes only - I handed out some exercises for the two new older students and workwheets for all who wanted to do the exercise of finding each letter of the alef-bet in Zephaniah 3:8. See worksheet image here.

One of the younger students sang the shema for all of us as a solo this morning. (no prompts needed) Quite moving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Side bar update

With new students in class, there is a tug of war within me as to where to restart teaching the alef-bet. The sidebar has a link to another teacher of Hebrew to children and adults. The alef-bet rock song may be appreciated by some. Quite different from my low-tech imitation of the one we were raised with in English.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Prophets - postlude

It is not easy to summarize this morning's lesson. We started with the shema and rehearsed it phrase by phrase, note by note, with me getting a bit mixed up but it is coming along. Then we sang it together especially for our new students. Then we calmed the heart with a prayer. I pointed to Zephaniah 3:8 and promised we would do more alef-bet for the new students in the future. We searched out a few letters, but I noticed that the circle was not large enough for all heads to be searching so I will make up an individual game for this.

In the lesson proper, after our 5 minutes of Hebrew, I was much more interactive than usual, but I had several older children there and they were happy to search out the question 'what is a prophet'. We went round the class getting various answers like - 'a good person', 'I don't know'. Even the young Korean who could not speak a word of English 6 months ago said clearly 'I don't know'. This is a very good place to start. I am not sure what order we did the following things in, but I had the attention of all some of the time and of most except the youngest most of the time.

We defined prophet as a servant and read some of Deuteronomy 34 and the beginning of Isaiah 42.
So Moses the servant of the LORD
died there in the land of Moab,
according to the word of the LORD.
And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab,
over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth
of his sepulchre unto this day.
I added something about - not even those who pick mushrooms (just to see if anyone was listening and to get the attention of the one who had picked mushrooms the prior week.) Then I read to verse 10.

Then we read 1 Samuel 3 depicting in full Samuel's service, and the call of Hashem to him. (I read this as a story with appropriate low key dramatic voice - all ears were present to the story.) We related Samuel's name to the Shema as one who hears. So we had from Moses and Samuel two indications that a prophet is a servant and one who hears the voice of the Lord. Then I called for three volunteers - one to play God, one to be the prophet, and one to represent the people. I chose the older students and though I did not chose one rambunctious youngster, he participated in quite an unusual way. Here is the dialogue.

In each case I prompted the actor since they did not know their part (and neither did I till we started). I had been wondering whether to use props but I think the action is a far better teacher.

Teacher: Prophet - face God; God - say something
Teacher: God say hello to the prophet
God: Hello
Teacher: Prophet - turn and face the people and tell them God's word to you
Prophet: God says hello
Teacher: suppose the people have done something bad
People: no comment
Prophet turns to God
God: tell the people to stop
(They caught on quickly)
Rambunctious voice - tell God to say kill the people
Teacher: OK - God, tell the prophet you are going to destroy the people
God: I am going to destroy this people
Prophet: about to turn
Teacher: no, prophet - don't tell the people, remind God of his promises and his reputation - What would the Egyptians say? Talk back to God, and by doing so suggest that God can't do this.

We stopped here - but recognized how many sides there are to communication and how the prophet also has the role of intercession for the people. This talking back to God is of course not making God's mind up for him but the pattern is clearly seen with both Abraham and Moses, as I am sure all who are reading this will be aware.

So we summarized the roles of a prophet and I mentioned Ezekiel's problem (Ezekiel 3:26) of his tongue stuck to his palate so he is unable to warn a rebellious people but we did not have time to explore this in detail.

We looked at some other one word roles of the prophet: I had several Bibles open and two of the students had brought their own, so we read some of the prepared verses and I noted briefly the role of the prophet in each whether rebuke (Nathan), sarcasm (Micaiah), hope (Isaiah), and so on. I also pointed out the books of the prophets and pulled Obadiah from the shelf to read the first verse of his call - so with the eyes and ears of Isaiah 35:5 still in our heads, we read that visions are also part of the prophet's receiving apparatus. I handed out to each of the older students a page (here) with several verses which I hope they will be able to look up on their own. (I have not assumed this sort of 'homework' in the classes before, but some of them are definitely old enough to read on their own or with parental help.)

Then I asked a student to read Ezekiel 3:1 and I opened the tin of edible scroll pastries that I had made last night. They didn't eat too many each but there were none left after - the parish ate the rest at our light lunch. The instruction on the tin was in Hebrew אכול את־המגלה (ekol et-hamegillah). It will be useful when we come to look at the five scrolls. They will remember the word for scroll and we will use it as a lesson in Hebrew plural formation.

Finally we turned to Hebrews 1:1 (I did not read it in Greek - it is too early for that move but the pieces are all in place) and we thought for a moment on Jesus as our prophet - with whom we can speak and who intercedes for us.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The prophets

Tomorrow I will present something on the prophets. We have already introduced them through the book blocks. I have prepared several scrolls here, here, hereand here. We will probably start with the Shema - sung and then go to finding letters one at a time in the image of Zephaniah 3:8 - it depends on who comes. Zephaniah 3:8 contains all the letters of the alef-bet. Who knows we may sing that song too.

I expect to approach the prophet as mediator, go-between for God and his people. Then each of the prophetic calls and chosen verses will reveal something of how God approached his people. I think also I will start with Samuel and Jeremiah both of whom are 'lads' - likely not older than my students. Then we will see how each prophet's call and perhaps selected verses tell us something about what a prophet is. I am not sure how long this will take - likely I have more material than I should have. I think I will make some rolled pastry that the children can eat in imitation of Ezekiel (but I will not make Ezekiel bread). My sweet will not be bitter in the stomach.

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st thy sweets along with thee. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Shema

Today, O joy - one of the children reminded me before I had sat down that we were to sing the Shema and so I asked them to tell me the words. They correctly repeated to me all the words with one or two questions to prompt them. It was a group effort. It showed me that repetition is critical to learning. And it showed me that they have learned. This is the fourth week in a row that we have sung the Shema and taken apart its words.

I had prepared 5 of the letter blocks with the word Elohim, אלהים for God which produces ha'eyalim האילים by simply moving one letter (and adding a yod!) - but with or without the Yod there is a 'sounds like' relationship. In the Song, God finds a way in (three times) even when not mentioned. (If I prepare letter blocks again, I hope it can be with mirrors and glass so that the chosen letter appears on all sides to avoid people reading random numbers, letters and signs!)

This morning's lesson was on the Tabernacle, and Alix had prepared a brilliant tabernacle constructed with popsicle sticks. I did not stay for the whole lesson - too much singing to do, but I did introduce the Song as a special place in the Bible - such as Rabbi Akiva noted.

The entire world is unworthy of the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all of Scripture is holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies. (M. Yad 3:5)

The book of the Song is in the middle of the Bible as shown in the picture. (For earlier posts of mine on the Song, begin here. For the first lessons with the blocks, see here and here)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The blocks are complete

For more pictures - see here. Note particularly the analytical powers of the shapers of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Brevard Childs in a new publication suggests a shaping of the Pauline corpus that does not show clearly in the colours I have used. (In fact - where does Philemon belong?) It will be interesting to see what we discover over the next year or two as we use these blocks to get an overview of the Bible across to the children. What analytical understanding could they bring to the table in their lives?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The book blocks are coming

I have all the blocks 35 for the OT and 27 for the New - the thirty five are shaped according to the organization of the Hebrew Scriptures in three sections: Law, Prophets and Writings. The Law are the five books of Moses, the Prophets are divided into the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings), the later prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) and the 12 (so named in Aramaic). The Writings are divided in three also: the Book of Truth (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job), the five Megillot (Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Kohelet, and Esther), and the three remaining (Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles). That's 5 + 4 + 3 + 12 + 3 + 5 + 3 = 35 'books'. I have not included the Apocrypha but I do have a few blocks left - and could do it. The New Testament is the 4 Gospel accounts, Acts, the 13 Pauline letters, the general epistles, John's letters and Revelation and Hebrews. That should give 27 (4+1+13+4+3+2) and it does - yea! 62 books altogether - 4 taken as one each where the traditional OT divides them in two.

There are two pdf's.  NT and TNK They fit exactly on 3 x 5 inch plywood blocks - print without scaling on 8.5 x 11 paper. (The plywood edges sort of look like pages). One requires the following sizes.











(use glue)

The book labels themselves are in Hebrew and Greek. The labels are meant to be put on as for left to right reading (sorry). They are intended for Hebrew to English and Greek to English exercises as well as for piling on top of each other and learning to count and learning what the books of the Bible are (without too much  parochial reductionism).

It is possible to print them out on white paper that will take glue or on a mac-tac type of paper, then cut the images out and paste them onto the wood blocks (you'll have to make those). You can cut the Hebrew labels in two (or 3) and bind them right to left. You'll get the idea. (But if you are interested, get in touch with me. I found a few errors and difficulties as I actually did the matching so I am not sure if my sizes are quite right, and I have added a few puzzles to the labels since printing to PDF which has its own idiosyncrasies with large paper sizes.) You could also print them on cardboard stock and fold them to shape - but they won't be as resilient as wood.

Oh - I did do a short lesson last week - just a few minutes on counting again and we sang the shema - I will repeat this till they really know it. There are some fine musicians there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Immersion in אֶחָד

Well, how did it go this morning? How much Hebrew can one immerse the children in? Not too much at least not for me. We did our five minute lesson on One and they all learned, practiced and sang the shema with me. words alone - tune to la la la and then put it all together. I know we got through this with some success - I have never heard this group sing so loud.

As usual when looking at my illustration of 'One', all heads gathered close so I had to ask for my space back to spread out the map of Genesis 1. It was 4 feet by 2 feet. The colors are many and I think they recognized some of the patterns in the refrains on the page, but I did not read anything in sequence.

There was no one there who remembered the first lesson from Spring 2008 so I repeated it quickly. Then I pointed out the uses of and God said - I found only 9 but I was sure there were 10. The computer counts 10 so there must be 10. Where is the tenth? (One of them is in verse 28 and the computer is counting only the word 'and he said'.) We read together the refrains and counted thus up to 7.  I think we will have a lesson on every number, so all this was by way of introduction.

Have you noticed this?

ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו
And God said - let us make a human in our image after our likeness 

וירדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים
to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of heaven etc

ויברא אלהים את־האדם בצלמו
So God created the human in his image

בצלם אלהים ברא אתו
In the image of God he created it
זכר ונקבה ברא אתם
male and female he created them

God says - let's make the human in our image according to our likeness
But then God creates the human in his image

What's missing? In a poem where repetition is a pattern closely followed, this 'after our likeness' is not repeated.

Likeness without image is used in Genesis 5 - How are we to understand the missing words? The use of likeness with respect to the human is not taken up again till the visions of Ezekiel.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A New Beginning

Tomorrow's lesson is on Genesis and Creation. I will also be introducing the number 1 and the first Book of the Bible by means of a plywood block model that will sit on the bookshelf looking like a book - a draft copy of the first of many. It will read on its cover something like this:
תורה ספר אֶחָד


בראשית ברא אלהים
את השמים ואת הארץ

And it will have a colorful spine as noted in the prior post.

I have a 2 ft by 4 ft blowup of this diagram - I wonder what I will do with it or how much I will read for sound. I am not into reductionism when teaching. Slow and steady in a rich environment - that's how to grow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The organization of the books of the Bible

The topic of the books of the Bible is a very complex one. (See for example the link at the left) North American Protestants are not much aware of the issues:
  • that there are several versions of the canon; 
  • that the word "scriptures' as used in the New Testament did not mean necessarily the 'Old Testament' in the order we have it today, and certainly did not include the New Testament; 
  • that the Hebrew Scriptures are in a different order from the Old Testament as used in the churches today.  
A preliminary image of a model that eventually may illustrate the whole and the many parts is here. I hope to construct (with some capable help from my friends) a set of blocks that represent this 'library' and see where the new set of blocks might lead us to teach the books of the Bible to the Sunday School.

Imagine these attached to a set of blocks and on a shelf - looking like a shelf full of books. (Note how the books would be organized right to left.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guess what's on for Sunday School tomorrow?

Cookies - The letters are designed to be inscribed but cookie dough is difficult to inscribe in! You can just make out בית in the upper left corner and there are lots of alefs. When you cut out alefs, you leave diamonds - so there are lots of diamonds too. (It took me a while to figure that one out.) Tomorrow for the older students there is a new alef-bet book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New draft of alef-bet book

This should be a lot of fun even for adults. Even for those who have never seen the Hebrew alef-bet before. But you won't find some of the exercises easy until you have struggled with the easy ones.

I have printed the book in 3 parts since the pdf's were getting big. Note that it is designed to be printed in duplex open at the left (or right) and collated and stapled on the right to read from right to left as all Hebrew books are read.

Pages 1-12 (for a printer - actually these are pages 13-24) are here
Pages 13-25 (for a printer - actually these are pages 1-12 and the title page and its back) are here
Page 26 which could go as back to page 25 contains the 34 exercises here.

How many can you do? (There are 4 songs to sing - the music for the alef-bet song is an experiment in printing right to left.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Year approaching

Sunday School will start again in September. Some of the lessons last year were very hard and even my learning from them was limited. This year I am thinking that a book for each child might work as a year long exercise - 24 pages. There are a few pages without examples since I did not succeed in covering the entire alphabet last year. Any of you have ideas out there? How would you use a booklet like this? I am thinking colouring book + workbook. My initial draft is available here in pdf form.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Looking to year 2

Today we reviewed the alef-bet and sang through the alef-bet song. (You can hear the song here. I opened discussions as to how to better finish the lyrics.) There was a particularly attentive group today. Even the energetic spirit pointed out that Hebrew has two s's two t's and a ts. And the studious spirit had us repeat the song many times. I suggested that next year we might do a page for each letter as a letter of fire and end the year with an alef-bet book for each person. (Note the comment of the Velveteen Rabbi on this post re letters of fire.)

And I assigned homework for the summer. A kind of find Waldo exercise - see this diagram. For each letter in red on the second page, find it in the corresponding paragraph. For some of the children this will be more difficult than for others. I had a mistake in the diagram which I only discovered after printing it. So I left it there for the eldest to find. I don't know how it happened - somehow I had copied storm wind סער from Psalm 107:25 instead of sustain סעד Psalm 119:117. In the diagram I have replaced the Samech word with Support סמך as considered here. Perhaps I had two examples and kept differing pieces of them. It looks though as if I had traded a resh for a dalet - easy to do when reading or when writing but hardly when using copy and paste on a computer.

If we have a class during the summer, I will explore these shapes - maybe.

Have a fun summer - all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catching up

There was a full room on Sunday - 11 children and 4 adults. We sang and looked at the Shema in the book דברים (debarim). the second word of the book we call Deuteronomy (Greek roughly for second law). We read the Shema also - שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד just to the first word of chapter 6 verse 5 - and thou shalt love... ואהבת (ve'ahavta)

I wasn't sure how much time I had - and I could have gone further. But it was good to complete the sentence in English also...

After a year, I feel the need to emphasize the aural more - more talking - more singing - more communicative behaviour in the ancient tongue. I think I will try and link in further to the Cohelet project on this subject. (A very clever name - sounds like Qohelet the preacher = our Ecclesiastes!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Continuing with song

Last Sunday we had five minutes of hiney ma tov - Psalm 133. The letters for the Shema were still up from the previous week, so I showed the one letter difference from אחד to יחד. From the quiet circle, I put the song in the middle, and like bees to honey all noses converged onto the text as I sang the song and followed the letters of the psalm with my finger - careful - it's easy to get the direction confused when you are reading upside down.

After 3 or 4 times through, some were singing clearly and everyone was trying. Must repeat the songs and let the letters fall out from them. No Sunday School next week - high mass for Pentecost and a special Palestrina choral feature with several visiting singers.

After a year, I must think how to continue the teaching process. Blocks and singing and lessons with action seem to be the best for retention for children and adults alike. But this much is true - five minutes a week makes a difference.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The subject this morning was the Eucharist - so I put the Shema as counterpoint and taught the word 'one' with the blocks. There were a number of new people in Sunday School so it was good to restart at alef and repeat a song. I will likely repeat this next week and also do psalms 133 again - just for singing. Maybe I will prepare some music on paper too...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thinking about Isaiah 61

Jesus reads Isaiah 61 a long time ago in that Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19). He closes the roll and returns it to the attendant. All eyes are fixed on him. And he says: today...

There are so many possible lessons in today's words that I noted as I prepared for this part of the class, on its own, about the presentation of 'ancient time' and 'today' to those of us with only a few years of memory.

Then I also covered the upper room and the institution of the Eucharist - It was of necessity brief - but again time, memory, and presence are in the story.

Honey cake for the feast. Jewish New Year and Anointed Time all in one. Delight yourselves in fatness (Isaiah 55:2).

After Job or even in tandem, I think Isaiah 40-66 a good next project.

The 35 minute lesson was successful. The door keeper and I acted out the reading. She handed me the 'scroll' to read, I read the frame in English and the Isaiah portion in Hebrew, showing them a scroll in English and Hebrew, then I handed the scroll back to her and sat down. In contrast to other godly play lessons where eye contact is not the norm, this one with its lesson - all eyes were upon him - required action and eye contact. A student had helped me prepare by finding the Spirit רוח (ruach) and 'on me' עלי (alai) with the blocks. The whole class 'learned' these two words.

We made a time line to illustrate the 'length' of 2000 years. We started with a question to the young Korean - how old are you - and he held up his five digits with open palm. So we marked on the time line our points, the dates of the events of the gospel and the time of Isaiah, 600 to 800 years prior to them.

For such a long lesson everyone was quiet. It is a good lead in to Pentecost.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Next class - Spirit on me - Isaiah 61

The next class is mine to teach again - it is on "Synagogue and Upper Room" and has an elaborate building structure. The text is Isaiah 61:1-2 which is in the Godly Play in English of course. But we will do it first in Hebrew and compare Luke 4:18-19 with the passage in the Hebrew Bible. (I will not be using the Vulgate which includes the Dies Irae.)

Here is the Hebrew text in an image (till I find out why Mac's don't display some Hebrew right!)

Read it with me (cover the following if you don't need it):
ruach Adonai יהוה alai
ya`an mashach יהוה iti
'lebaser anavim
shelachani lachvosh lenishberei-lev
liqro lishvuyim dror
vela'asurim peqach-qoach
liqro shenat-ratson la יהוה
vyom neqam le'elohenu
lenachem col-avelim

And translating:
the spirit of the Lord יהוה is on me
because יהוה has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor
He has sent me to bind up
the brokenhearted
to proclaim to captives liberty
and to those who are bound, emancipation
to proclaim the acceptable year of יהוה
the day of vengeance of our God
to comfort all those who mourn

Spiritus Domini super me,
eo quod unxerit Dominus me;
ad annuntiandum mansuetis misit me,
ut mederer contritis corde,
et prædicarem captivis indulgentiam,
et clausis apertionem;
ut prædicarem annum placabilem Domino,
et diem ultionis Deo nostro;
ut consolarer omnes lugentes,

The children don't do Latin yet - but soon :)

Where does Jesus stop in his reading?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Repeat lesson on head and shoulders

Today we did some review from the beginning - recalling the first word they learned 11 months ago, כּי-טוב. I reintroduced each body part in the head and shoulders song one at a time - singular and plural when required for the song.

head - ראש
shoulder - כתף - shoulders כתפים
knee - ברך - knees ברכים

When you see knee, right away you know that it is the same word as bless. One kneels for a blessing - right?

extremity - toe or finger - אצבע - toes אצבעות

One nameless nine-year-old had offered foot instead of hand to the teacher as a greeting. So as distraction, I could appeal to the lesson that toe and finger are the same word in Hebrew.

eye - עין - so very like the English eye in pronunciation
ear - אזן - the hardest to open though it has no lid!
mouth - פה
nose - אף - as anger

When we had finished - all sang the song with me - and all did the movements. As the light is good and the Lord is good - so also the blessing to us in our limbs is good.

Notes and miscellany

No lesson last week. Trying to organize this week - may just do a bit of review. I have put reusable papers in envelopes - a long way from card stock and stand-alone exercises. Next week I have a whole hour on Church and Synagogue. That will be a challenge for my thought this week.

We have been going nearly a year - time to consider results...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Biblical Studies Carnival 41

Hear ye - hear ye - come one and all. The Sunday School Blog has been given lead billing in the Biblical Studies Carnival LXI - Do take a look. James McGrath of Exploring Our Matrix has done a great job of summing up a complex month.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On toes - for meditation

and there was yet a battle in Gath
and there was a man of great size
and the fingers of his hand and the toes of his foot were six and six
twenty and four in number
and even this one was born to the giant
(2 Samuel 21:20)

Strengthen drooping hands and tottering knees secure
(Isaiah 35:3)

then will be opened the eyes of the blind
and the ears of the deaf will be unblocked
(Isaiah 35:5)
note the assonance in the Hebrew

- so many to choose from, 78 uses in the psalms alone

my mouth will speak of wisdom and the musing of my heart of discernment (Psalm 49)

nose - and wrath (Psalm 115)
ears to them and they do not hear;
nose to them and they do not smell

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some verse possibilities for body parts

Some parts are hard to find - so כָתֵף is used for back, side, and all sorts of other translations - and there are other words rendered shoulder - but here is a verse from the prophets for shoulder and ears - a tough verse worth learning in its context. (Zechariah 7:9-11)
ט כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת לֵאמֹר
מִשְׁפַּט אֱמֶת שְׁפֹטוּ וְחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים עֲשׂוּ
אִישׁ אֶת-אָחִיו

י וְאַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם גֵּר וְעָנִי אַל-תַּעֲשֹׁקוּ
וְרָעַת אִישׁ אָחִיו אַל-תַּחְשְׁבוּ בִּלְבַבְכֶם

יא וַיְמָאֲנוּ לְהַקְשִׁיב
וַיִּתְּנוּ כָתֵף סֹרָרֶת
וְאָזְנֵיהֶם הִכְבִּידוּ מִשְּׁמוֹעַ

So says יְהוָה of hosts saying: judge with a true judgment
and mercy and compassion do -
so it should be for anyone to any other who is near
and widow or orphan, stranger or the poor - do not oppress
and evil - anyone to any other who is near - do not imagine in your hearts
but they refused to pay attention
and gave a shoulder to stubbornness
and their ears they stopped from hearing

There are many sounds we have heard in other contexts in these verses alone.

Ideas from anyone else on suitable verses for teaching about how we use head and shoulders, knees and toes?

Note: this post altered to see if the Hebrew letters will work on Apple.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Body Parts - lesson 1

The world premiere of Head and Shoulders, the Bob version, was given today to 9 or 10 children. We sang it together first in English - so they know they knew the tune. Then I reminded them they already knew the first word from Genesis 1:1 The word for beginning בְּראשית bereshit contains the word for head ראש rosh.) - and away I went with the Hebrew version - there were many smiles all around. Then there being three fluent Korean speakers, the eldest sang a bit to us in Korean and the youngest smiled. Some things are universal - like how cultures teach children words.

The version I used is here. I did try and record it if you can play a .wav file. I really should find out what it takes to do the other control for playing things.

Note for a more complete list of body parts see here. I think I could occupy several 5 minute Hebrew lessons with a verse a week on various body parts.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Head and shoulders

רֹאשׁ כְּתֵפַ֫יִם
בִּרְכַּ֫יִם אֶצְבָּעוֹת
ברכים אצבעות
ברכים אצבעות
ראש כתפים
ברכים אצבעות
עֵינַ֫יִם אָזְנַ֫יִם
פֶּה אַף

Now just get the right 'and' with each and you have a new head and shoulders song. Review of all body parts see here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday - Zechariah 9:9

We had a great procession around the neighborhood. We had a new boy from Korea at Sunday School today - and fortunately for him, our young Korean violinist was there to do simultaneous translation from Hebrew or English to Korean. What a lovely gift. How shall I spell the boys name, Jinyoung in Hebrew? Some sounds are hard to imitate.

Today I simply read Zechariah 9:9 in Hebrew and translated as I read. I asked first what did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on - and one youngster duly guessed a horse - so we talked briefly of war and peace. The three words for donkey in the text provided a nice continuation of our series on animals. I wonder if horse would make a good subject for Easter?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Order of the Phoenix Sunday

Last Sunday - that was yesterday, 28 children came to St Barnabas to take part in an experience. There were several tents set up in the hall, filled with colour and props and staffed by costumed leaders.

The task was to experience each tent and carry something away. Each child needed a password to get into the upper room when they had finished collecting their experience in all the tents. We in the Hebrew tent were the source of the passwords. We had a few books as props, a table, and a box full of words in Hebrew with the meaning and transcription on the back of each word.

The password was simple. Each child had to pick a unique Hebrew word from the box and find the correct first letter of the word. That means getting the word right side up and picking the rightmost character. Then they could find their password - the name of that Hebrew letter - by scanning the walls of the tent where all the letters were hung - right to left of course - to match the shape.

Perhaps a half-dozen of the children found this easy since the letters were not new to them - but all succeeded and each listened to a bit of the Bible in Hebrew which contained the word they chose. Then they memorized their password and put their word in their bag and went to the next tent.

After everyone had finished, children and parents all went into the church for an episode of Godly Play. Everyone came away with sparklers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The children of the Raven

We had a fun lesson today - I gave the boys and the girls two sets of 7 blocks containing sufficient letters to spell לִבְנֵי עֹרֵב without the vowel pointing. It is not a very easy task - both groups succeeded in forming the words with the letters in the right order. (Each had a little confirming help from me - but the boys won.)

The advanced 11-year-old student was not there, but I am told by his mother that he has finished the first four chapters of Putnam's Toward Reading & Understanding Biblical Hebrew. So soon he will be teaching me. Now here is a time for careful encouragement and a new source of teaching material and experience.

Think of this though - in a small Sunday School, you can make a difference with 5 minutes a week. Children like content and a rich environment - they will respond in their own way at their own time. It is a joy to see.

This was our last week on the Hogwarts house animals. The exercise was difficult but we were able to focus on bits of it. If we come back to these verses with the same children a year from now, we can go deeper.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Just right - and more than expected

Before I even moved into the circle today one youngster said to me - 'I remember last week's word'. And he did - how delighted I was, because I had prepared the blocks to show them last week's word and two more words that can be made out of the letters with one substitution and have them spell two of the other animals in the Hogwarts menagerie.

Here they are:
  • badger (or seal or dolphin or whatever this animal is): תחש, tachash
  • serpent (as in Genesis 3:1): נחש, nachash
  • and lion - the fierce one from last week: שחל, shachal
There were just 4 in the class today and one of them, about 8 years old, really enjoyed laying out the blocks and organizing them in the right order to spell each word. Much more to be said.

The blocks have lasted well - almost a year since I made them with blocks from the dollar store and some mac-tac using this image.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Too much - too complex

Lions they know about but not the simple shape of Hebrew poetry. So we did Lion - as planned (see the homework I did here) , but I note there are also two variations on snake in Psalm 91:13 and next week we will do the subtle serpent. But I really ought to look at one word at a time. (Though the Genesis passage has several words that some of the children might recognize.)

I had two new 10 year olds who had never had a Hebrew lesson - I suspect they were a bit flummoxed by the 5.5 minute Hebrew lesson! (Yes I went overtime.)

Too much - too complex. I will take some of my exercise books to the Tuesday class - and it will be too little - too boring (לִ לֵ לֶ לַ לָ לֹ but we'll get through them quickly and they are useful for practicing the sounding out of words). Where is the middle ground?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Some more images

Placeholders for the next 3 weeks. These are the images I will work a lesson around. The aim is that after 4 weeks the children will be able to see how letters and vowel markings fit together. They will probably learn a few other things also.

The hints so far are here

Tomorrow - poetry

Psalm 91:13 is a beautiful example of Hebrew poetics - 6 words, a b c / c' a' b' - not quite a reversal. The image does not show the 'answer' 3-3 but puts the words in the form 2-2-2 in order to have the children find the 3-3 pattern as an exercise.

We will begin with transcription - since most of the children cannot yet hear the Hebrew - then we will move to form - all in less than 5 minutes.

And this is part of the preparation for Easter using Hebrew scripts from Hogwarts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Easter, Hogwart's and Animals

What have the Lion, the Snake, the Badger, and the Raven to do with Easter? As we work through Lent, we will look at these animals in the Bible, and I am sure we will be able to find some teaching that will suggest answers to this question.

Such is the direction that I think we will go.

I can report after an hour's lesson today with one older student and his mother, that there is more retained and grasped than one might expect - even at 5 minutes a week! For the older student, I am now recommending 15 minutes a day.

Today's hour was largely review of the first 10 or so lessons, (see here). We did both writing and sounding out words and reading.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

No lesson last week

The children enjoyed the colorful pictures from Hogwarts - but I think the project is going to be much too difficult for most of them - so I am unsure how to proceed.

I will talk to them about it - and see where it goes. I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It too is way over the heads of the age group I am working with. The enemy within - the pairing of good and evil - the difficulty of appearances - the allusions to Job~! All these are too much - too abstract. Animals in the Bible they might cope with. But badger - so loved in the King James Version has become dolphin or sealskin in the current versions - that's a stretch! Was the tabernacle covered by the skins of an unclean animal?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The direction to Easter

We are going to do a project that I think will catch the children's interest. See if you can figure it out. It involves these verses - related to Lion, Raven, Serpent, and Badger.

עַל־שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּֽין

נֹותֵן לִבְהֵמָה לַחְמָהּ לִבְנֵי עֹרֵב אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָֽאוּ

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים

וְעָשִׂיתָ מִכְסֶה לָאֹהֶל עֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים וּמִכְסֵה עֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים מִלְמָֽעְלָה

I will give the children a very big clue: here

I am not sure yet where we are going - but I think they will learn a few words of Hebrew for they will need them in clues for an as yet to be defined Easter exercise.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bread, rule, and thanksgiving - after the first lesson

Generally, the class went very well from my point of view. We began with the planned Hebrew lesson on מָשָׁל (mashal) and we had much more time so I got the children to find the letters in the blocks and help figure out how to pronounce the word. They successfully matched the letters and sounded out a pronunciation. We finished with a children's version of Psalm 47 where I encouraged them all to stand up and jump and clap their hands.

Then we did the parable of the leaven as planned - I think I got most of the necessary bits in the right order. I started I think with the woman then the leaven. If I were to show the props in the word order of the Greek, I would start with the leaven. Our understanding of the kingdom of God arose naturally from Psalm 47 which is all about the king and trumpets and shouting. By beginning with the psalms, both the idea of parable and kingdom in the words of Jesus form in the mind out of the Jewish tradition.

In the response period, two of the boys hammered away at wood - and neither of them struck a finger. This is success. One of the boys asked me why we only do 3 minutes of Hebrew a week. So we worked through the whole alphabet and song. He is ready for more detail. I encouraged him to find and review the blog and ask questions. The door-keeper worked with the girls braiding, sewing, and colouring. (We just divided into girls and boys, it was not planned!)

Later I also delivered a lexicon to my senior student - maybe there will be time for lessons with more specific intent in Hebrew.

For the feast, we had the Challah which I had baked yesterday and we took time over the grace in Hebrew and English. (Thanks to this site for the image.)

Baruch 'ata Adonai Elohenu melek ha`olam
hamotsi lechem min ha-erets

Blessed are you O Lord our God king of the universe
who brings forth bread from the earth

This prayer linked our parable of the leaven with the thanksgiving of the world today and with the rule of God from all time and for all time.

Here's the alefbet song

You can hear the song - old technology here

Friday, February 6, 2009

Preparing the Mashal

Parable, riddle, dark saying and our search. Here is a diagram for riddle.

I have collected and shaped the parable material for Matthew 13:33: a bit of felt, a picture or two wrapped in tape, a criticism or two suppressed, and a potential for life from a riddle.

I have a picture by Vermeer for the woman and she stands. I have three images representing three measures of meal. I have a square of tan felt which I have cut in two – one flat and one round. The round folded in half hides under the flat. I made a small golden tetrahedron for the leaven, like a morsel of sourdough. The action could begin like this:
After opening the box, take out the woman –
then take out the little box with what she has to work with
– 3 measures of meal and the leaven –
then show what she does to make the dough by mixing them all together:
  1. place the flat felt piece hiding its fullness over the three measures and the tetrahedron to hide the yeast
  2. then leave time to rise
  3. then make the lump rise by pulling the larger piece of felt above the flat piece
I am going to need to practice.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Godly Play in the sections on Parables has a number of scripted statements that leave me slightly cold. So the Hebrew lesson preceding my parable will include the word מָשָׁל (mashal) in Psalm 49:1.
אַטֶּה לְמָשָׁל אָזְנִי
אֶפְתַּח בְּכִנֹּור חִידָתִי

Transcribed (read the Hebrew words and letters in reverse order to match)
'ateh lemashal 'azani
ephetah bekinor tidati
and a literal translation
I will stretch out to a parable my ear
I will open on the harp my riddle

In GP, parables are in a gold box - nice image. They must be opened and they are dark - good.

But what about the parables of the kingdom? Do they just come out of nowhere? Is there no root for them in the Old Testament? The psalms that use mashal are Psalm 44:14, Psalm 49:3-4, Psalm 69:11, and Psalm 78:2. Psalms 44 and 78 are Maskilim - songs of skill. 49 I have not classified and 69 is one of the many personal psalms.

But who is King? And does the Old Testament kingship - particularly as portrayed in the Psalms - have anything to do with the parables of the kingdom? Part of the English problem is the substitution of heaven for kingdom in Matthew - leading us to uproot the words from the first century tradition as if somehow the place where God reigns is not our concrete reality. I hope whatever I say will not leave this impression.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Note - the opening verses of Ruth use the verb תִּשָּׁאֵר from which leaven שאר is derived - very curious.

Coming up to the parable of the leaven. The presentation of parables seems a little rigid to me - but I must do it like a musical performance - the same only different every time. Will summarize it later.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


There was a long procession this morning and the Kyrie was after the procession so I was late for Sunday school. That meant my Hebrew letter occurred after the parable of the pearl of great price. Fortunately it fit well into the parable and the children joined in the alef-bet song too. Isn't it curious that KLMN-O turns into ךלםןס and that Samekh looks like an O which can be seen as a pearl?

After singing the alphabet song in English first then with the Hebrew letters as underlay (and following this image), I told them briefly about the 8 acrostic psalms. Then we read psalm 145:14 (which I had a challenge reading upside down - you try it) and we talked about the cost of God's support of us, the cost of our own learning when we really want to learn something (in this case, I knew I had a young violinist there, so I mentioned the cost of learning great violin music), and the reality of hope in God's support when we commit ourselves to him. Here is the image right side up also (that's the way the children would have seen it)!

I am thinking about Godly Play and I will receive a few lessons in it this week so I will report more later. It seems to me that no amount of explanation or apologetic will win commitment to the promises of God. What a mystery choice is.

I repeat the Hebrew transliteration of Psalm 145:14 from last week.

somech יְהוָה lecol hanoflim vezoqeph lecol-hakfufim
Sustains יְהוָה all the fallen
and he raises up all the distressed

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Upcoming lessons - pearl and leaven

Pearls - how does one approach this with children? I don't teach the parable this week but I may stay a bit longer to see what the approach is like, since next week I am supposed to prepare the materials and teach the parable of the leaven - (which usage I wonder? Likely Matthew 13:33, Luke 13:21 - not Matthew 16:6 and parallels)?

And again he said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

What Hebrew letters would you choose for the pearl?

Hmmm pearl גביש (gavish) occurs only once in the ancient writings, Job 28:18 - and it contains other rarely used words.

רָאמֹות וְגָבִישׁ לֹא יִזָּכֵר וּמֶשֶׁךְ חָכְמָה מִפְּנִינִים
ra-amot (high and precious things - coral?)
vegavish (pearl?)
lo yizkar (that's a word we did recently - this one is niphal passive - not remembered - or as KJV has it - no mention shall be made)
umeshek hokmah (for the price of wisdom)
mpaninim (is above jewels / rubies?)

Pearls get a good press in Revelation 21:21

I was going to move on to the final mem and/or the samech - the suggestion that samech meaning support symbolizes the presence of God in the world is a nice one. It is curious that it is in the place of our O and that it looks like O. But it isn't O. But it is the shape of a pearl!

Read those links - the play that John Parsons has with the letters is delightful.

Psalm 145:14 is a good example of the use of samech (it is in the acrostic - the last ABG psalm.)

סֹומֵךְ יְהוָה לְכָל־הַנֹּפְלִים וְזֹוקֵף לְכָל־הַכְּפוּפִים
somech יְהוָה lecol hanoflim vezoqeph lecol-hakfufim
Sustains יְהוָה all the fallen
and he raises up all the distressed

note to self: the alef-bet is easily sung to ABC

alef-bet gimel-dalet / hey-vav zayin
chet-tet-yod kaf-lamed /mem-nun-samech ayin
peh-tsade qof / resh-shin taf
that's all the letters / that you have
now I know my alef-bet
see if you can sing this set
AlephBet / VetGimmelDaletHeyVavZayinChetTetSamekhAyinYodLamedMemNunKaf / Khaf

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The letters ayin and tsade

Today with the help of a tree-like image of Psalm 1 and a Morris print of the tree of life, I introduced 'tree' as a word made from the two oddest letters of the Hebrew alef-bet. The tree of life is in Genesis 2:9, Psalm 1:1-3 and Revelation 22:2 - beginning, middle and end of the Bible. Leaves specially in the last two sections. I read them the psalms and had spelled out עֵץ הַחַיִּים [etz hahayim] from Genesis 2:9 on the blocks. It was a full 5 minutes.
כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל־פַּלְגֵי מָיִם
Like a tree transplanted by streams of water
The children stretching their arms and fingers had no trouble imagining themselves as trees.

Curiously, the first response to the colours in the image here was PH. I didn't know I had a 10 year old chemist in the class. (I think the message is - use every bit of your knowledge for joy because the children see right through you.)

Friday, January 23, 2009


There is a plan till Easter - 4 parables beginning last week: the Sower, the Mustard Seed, the Pearl, and the Leaven. Any ideas for a Hebrew lesson to begin each parable? This week - the idea of a tree suggests teaching a little of Psalm 1 shaped like a tree.

I think I cannot reveal any secrets - so if I use this image, it will have to be related to the colour and shape of words.

After the parables comes the Mystery of Easter. Then the Faces of Easter for 5 Sundays.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zayin - the seventh letter

ז is for זכר remember. Zayin, the seventh letter, for remember was quite successful. The children, with a little prompting, remembered the first six letters of the alef-bet and we sang them together to the first musical phrase of the ABCD song. As they remembered each letter, I read them each verse in the diagram here. The verse I chose for remember, Psalm 25:6, is one of many where it is God who remembers - in this case as the psalmist prays: remember your compassions יְהוָה and your loving-kindnesses.

We touched on what we do every week in the Mass where we remember Jesus' death. We did not have time to develop the act of remembering - making the past present. But we had a good start to discussion of the Eucharist and we did briefly connect to Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 to the concepts and reality behind the Eucharist and how the Exodus is similarly used in Jewish tradition. Note that in at least one Hebrew NT, the words in Luke and 1 Corinthians for remembrance and proclamation are both based on זכר

Friday, January 16, 2009

Restarting teaching the alefbet

After nearly 8 weeks, what does one do to restart the teaching of the Hebrew alefbet? Who among the children will remember what?

I did a new diagram of the first 7 letters here. My 5 minutes could be as little as getting them to find the first seven letters in the blocks (and introducing the seventh ז zayin), or as large as reading some of the verses they have seen earlier. I am being encouraged to include the singing and may be brave enough to do that. Repetition is important and so far I have done little repetition.

I am also reading the Godly Play book 1. I am very impressed with the chapter on a theology of childhood. I can be quite critical, but not here. I think the tone is just right. Perhaps I will blog more on this program later. I will be teaching a full session soon so I will have some new experience to report.

Another question: given 4 weeks of parables, and 6 weeks of the Lenten program on the faces of Jesus, how could the Hebrew letters and Old Testament counterbalance fit in?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reading Hebrew

Try reading this as if it were English but typed as Hebrew

.dg m dg ry dnא lpp m b llš lpp ry
o- y-- o- ou-- : a e eo- y e-: a e eo ou
This looks like a fun exercise to restart the Hebrew learning

With thanks to Fred Putnam here and Naama Zahavi-Ely here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Related post for learning Hebrew

For an older student, I have posted the first three verses of Ruth here.