Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hiney Ma Tov

The first words of Psalm 133 are a great song and I introduced it to the two younger classes today. It is rhythmic and repetitive and they caught on quickly.  The class could work up a dance as well.  Even one in the youngest class recognized the Roman Numerals in my Hebrew Bible - a curiosity, CXXXIII, equivalent to the Hebrew numbering symbols קלג qof-lamedh-gimel.

שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת
מַה טּוֹב
וּמַה נָּעִים
שֶׁבֶת אַחִים
גַּם יָחַד
1A song of the ascents
of David
How fine
and how pleasant
it is for kin to sit
as one

The words of the first verse relate to both verses we have looked at recently - Genesis 1 and Psalm 136 about the good, and also the Shema, where the word one occurs.

The word I translated as hey! is the traditional behold! - It can mean - look at me! The very thing that youngsters sometimes sing.  I told them the story of the 15 rising steps of the temple and the Songs of Ascent of which this is one (Psalms 120-134).

An example of the sound of the music and a full translation for the psalm is here.  (I did not have full orchestra available.)

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Hard work for the older students.

    I had two in the older class today and I had several things up my sleeve as possible lessons: continuing Acts, working a little on the Spirit in the Old Testament, and learning how to read a psalm.  I chose to present to them from my presentation on three tools for reading a psalm.  See the post here for a brief summary.  We talked a bit about gardening tools and the three tools for 'seeing' a psalm and therefore learning to 'hear' also. I used some of the slides from my presentation (PDF here)that I will give at the University this week (Wednesday at 10:30 at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society - if anyone is interested.)

    What struck me about 'teaching' was how critical it is to learn how to hear and how to see (think Isaiah 35:5 which strikingly uses the same language as Genesis 3:7) before one is into teens and twenties. Being a slow learner myself, or else too much running on momentum all my life to stop and think,  it took me till age (somewhere between 40 and 66) to get this lesson clear. (Of course, such obedience of faith is a lifelong process.)

    Anyway - my two students stayed awake and were very polite. They answered the questions I asked them during class, and after my call from the choir leader (to whom many of the psalms are dedicated) to come back for the anthem, they both remembered the big words for three tools... parallelism, prosody, and recurrence.  They likely thought this was more like school than usual for Sunday morning!

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    New year in Sunday School

    It has been some time since I have done regular posting on this blog. But perhaps the time has come again. After 5 years of learning Hebrew, it is a joy to share a bit of it with the students.  I think this model could be followed elsewhere also.  Compared to the first year and the first word I taught to a class in age range from 4 to 13, today I taught the first word to a class of 7 in a very much more focused age group - 7 to 9 (or 10), and also I was able to teach something of the Spirit's work in Creation to the older class (11-14) learning the Acts of the Apostles.

    The first word was again ki-tov, for it is good. The original lesson is in the archives here. I used a new handout, but the content is very similar. Some of the children remember earlier lessons and I can build on them. So I included another use of the phrase from Psalm 136:1.

    Psalm 136 is roughly To-dah le'adonai ki-tov, ki le'olam chesedo and the Genesis verse vayareh elohim et-ha'or ki-tov.

    After introducing this word and the sound of the Hebrew, we sang the alef-bet song. It was the first time for many of the children, but they caught on quickly.

    In the older class, one student had just read Peter's defense in Acts 4:8. To begin at the beginning we read the first two verses of Genesis and the role of the Spirit / Breath of God in Creation brooding over turbulent waters, even as Peter and all of us have to deal with turbulence in our lives. There were some very attentive faces in the older class.  Some of them are completely new to Hebrew, so there was some mystification also.  But they too will learn quickly how much fun this is.

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Psalm 34 in Hebrew planned for tomorrow

    Last week we had a full class and 50 solid minutes of Hebrew. At the end of the class, every child and young adult was able to write his or her own name using Hebrew letters.  After our opening prayer, we sat around the table and worked through the first three exercises in my 22 page Hebrew workbook. I had 7 copies printed and they all got used - one being given away during coffee.  The workbook is full of exercises and little tidbits of strange sounds that seemed to capture everyone's attention for the whole class - from age 6 to 15 + two adults.

    I hope to build on it tomorrow. I have two extra workbooks printed in case someone new shows up.  But it's summer, so who knows.  The psalm 34 text that I will use is available here.  We will use it for 'teaching' - the first letters of verses 2, 12, and 23 spell aleph. אֲבָרְכָה לְכוּ פֹּדֶה  I will bless, walk, ransom. So perhaps it was written for teaching.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    The Seven Swords, Easter and Pentecost

    Some weeks ago I asked if anyone knew the identity of the seven swords of the Dawn Treader. Here's one possible suggestion.

    We are in the period known as counting the Omer, the 50 days between Passover and Pentecost, the Jewish feast of the first-fruits of the harvest. From this week's excellent commentary here on current events in this context, I noted this paragraph
    The counting of seven weeks came to reflect seven character attributes associated with key divine qualities, each of which we emulate in fulfilling our creation in God's image: Chesed (Love/Grace); Gevurah (Discipline/Rigor); Tiferet (Beauty/Compassion);Netzach (Victory); Hod (Glory); Yesod (Foundation/Righteous Loyalty); and Malkhut(Majesty/Leadership). All seven weeks and all seven days of the week each correspond to a different attribute. This results in a seven-by-seven grid of virtue-pairs, traits we must cultivate in preparation for reliving our ancestors' spiritual elevation as freed slaves receiving the Torah and becoming both "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exod. 19:6).
    On the question of the origin of the name Easter, I came across this article showing several possibilities. There's a cute story about the venerable Bede who may not have been so venerable in his surmise on this question. Finally the article suggests this:
    Scholars who study the history of languages have established that the roots of the word "Easter" are found in the Proto-Indo-European language, the prehistoric language that is the common ancestor of nearly all European and Southeast Asian languages. The Proto-Indo-European word "aus," meaning "to shine," gave birth to the Proto-Germanic word "austra," which, in turn, gave life to the Old English word "Easterdæg," the predecessor of our modern English "Easter." In short, the origins of the word are found in a verb meaning "to shine."

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Salt Sunday

    I regret that I myself will not be available Palm Sunday in the afternoon, but the whole idea of salt I have spun into a post at my Dust blog here. You may find it of interest.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Lenten ideas for the three to five minutes of Hebrew

    Scripture in blocks of wood
    This first Sunday in Lent, at Jasmine's request, I prepared a brief lesson on the bitter herbs.  (My lessons and songs are never as complex as this post implies, but the realities are always under the surface of the play, the singing and the movements.)

    In response to Jasmine, I picked Exodus 12:8 and realized that one could focus on this one verse for the entire period of lent.

    The Pascal feast will point us directly to Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).  This one verse of Exodus has innumerable lessons and like a fractal reflects the patterns of the whole of Scripture.

    The institution of the Passover meal – Exodus 12:8

    And they shall eat [perfect]
    the flesh [of the lamb]
    בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה
    that night [in the night - that one]
    roasted with fire
    and the unleavened bread
    with bitter [herbs]
    they shall eat it [imperfect – 'story' tense]

    Roughly, the Hebrew reads: ve-akalu et-habasar balylah hasah tsly-esh umatsot al-mrorim yokluhu

    Notice how it begins and ends with the same sound. This is typical of the poetic structures of Hebrew (and even in this case in prose instructions - Our Lord loves poetry.)

    Eating – psalm 22, together with worship - see this post and the accompanying links here and here for the place of eating in worship in this psalm. It is quite surprising.

    the flesh – of the lamb who in his own body bore our sins. See also (or perhaps first) John 6. Especially John 6:51.

    that night – not to be delayed, in that same night it is to be done, the night in which the blood is put on the lintels of the door. (verse 7)

    roasted with fire – there is one fire, of love and of judgement. The fire forms one of the themes of the Davidic psalms - see e.g. psalms 7, 21, 140.

    and the matsot – the bread that has no time to rise. Unleavened bread also reminds us of the Eucharist. But here it reminds us of the haste with which we are delivered. The psalmist often prays that the Lord should hurry to help. And so it was done.

    with bitter things – all our bitterness absorbed. This was the word we took for the first lesson yesterday. It reminds us of Naomi's change of name from Naomi (pleasant) to Mara (bitter). See also Psalm 90 for a lovely play on words between dwelling place (Mo-an) in verse 1 and pleasant (Na-om) in verse 17. The whole poem is framed by a palindrome.

    Eating – encloses the verse – the different tense means that it goes on and on. So it is that in our worship we eat every week.

    Postscript: for those I was asking, the Shema is in the New Testament only in Mark 12:29. Perhaps he is the first gospel after all.  We cannot fail in this unity per the prayer of John 17.

    The Sunday school was very full and besides Hebrew, we had a lovely interaction in the language of Vanu-atu also thanks to the returning Nelson who with the younger class spontaneously moved us with this different tongue and interpreted for us.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Some pictures from the family service

    Saturday afternoon and the church is decorated and set up beautifully. Here are some pictures of the stations before and during the service and of our dinner afterwards.