Living much of life online has been a challenging side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic for many of us. This reality made our Family Learning Experience of building an ark with the BMitzvah families so much more sweet! We gathered on Sunday outside Makom Community to study and create together, despite the chilly weather.
The BMitzvah cohort shared some of the curiosities they had about that week’s parashah, Chayei Sarah. Each week this fall, the cohort has studied the parashah of the week. They read through a whole chapter of Torah, choose some key verses to study more intensely, pick apart the Hebrew, and have deep discussions!
Zoey and Leo had a challenge for this parashah, chapter 25, which mostly focuses on the genealogy of the generations following Abraham. Boring, Zoey thought. They came to our Family Learning Experience with only a few questions. One had to do with why Abraham gives his inheritance to Isaac and only gives gifts to his other sons.
Leo’s mom, Ioana, said this made her think about what the inheritance rules might be like at the time. Maybe Abraham gave his inheritance to Isaac because he was the son of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. This led them to question whether Abraham was being more generous than the law required by giving gifts to his other sons or not being generous enough. And what was Isaac’s responsibility towards his half-brothers, if he had all this inheritance?
“What are parents’ responsibilities to their children? What are siblings’ responsibilities to each other?”
There was silence for a moment, while we all thought about this question. All out of a chapter that, at first glance, might seem boring!
We shifted gears from looking inside the Torah to making a home for our own Makom Community Torah! Our cohort has been working since the beginning of the year to research and design an aron kodesh (ark) for our Torah. On Sunday, we finally were able to begin to realize those designs!
Like our Cooking and Diversity Rosh Pinah project from last year, the cohort learned new skills and practiced patience while processes take time. This time, they had the joy of learning alongside their parents. Remi and her mom were tasked with painting the top panel of the ark, which Remi had designed as a blue shamayim (sky) with dramatic clouds. First, though, they needed to learn how to stain, sand, and prime the wood to prepare it for painting! After trying it out themselves, they were able to teach Ronia and her family the process so that they could prepare the back panel too.
Our design included vines wrapping around the back and sides of the ark, symbolizing the aretz (land). The buds and flowers on the vines represent the different k’vutzot (groups) at Makom Community, and how kids grow through their time at Makom! Zoey and her dad, Steve, drafted out what the vines might look like on a scale model before taking their pastels to the sides of the ark. Steve worried that their drawing styles were too different.
“I like that, though!” Zoey said. “Because the sides of the ark look different already and it’s like how at Makom we know different people do things differently.”
The unique and diverse nature of our community is all over this design! Ronia and her family worked on the stained glass door of the ark, an abstract design in rainbow colors. The cohort chose an inscription for the ark that included our name, from Genesis 28:16, when Jacob stops for the night on his way to Haran and dreams of God promising protection and blessing for him and his descendents. When he wakes up, he says:
“אָכֵן֙ יֵ֣שׁ יְהוָ֔ה בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א יָדָֽעְתִּי׃”
“Surely, God is present in this place and I did not know it!”
Leo and his family brought the inscription to life through wood-burning the Hebrew into a plank of wood to be mounted on the top of our ark. We decided to keep וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א יָדָֽעְתִּי (and I did not know it) in our inscription to represent the diversity of beliefs at Makom Community and the fact that we’re all always learning and growing. No one has all the answers!
Like much of this year, our process of building the ark has been a little complex and incomplete. With two of our cohort joining us virtually this month, we didn’t feel comfortable finishing the build without them. Zahdi and Nathan designed a beautiful shamayim inspired interior for our ark, made out of marbled fabric. They’ll be creating the fabric next month and we plan to have our entire ark finished in time for our first BMitzvah-led Torah service in December!