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.