Our first week together as a class in 2021! The day marked a variety of new beginnings for the cohort: the new year was freshly upon us, winter break had just ended, they were getting a new teacher. In ways we were all looking forward to what lay ahead of us.
“I want each of us to repeat the word I’m sending you into the mirror.” I said to start off our first class. A bit of a strange activity, but the class hopped into it with enthusiasm and excitement. “Stranger” “Leader” “Insider” “Doubter” “Follower” were distributed. We each took a minute to reflect on our words, and then a moment to write down some of our thoughts before swapping our words around.
“Stranger was my favorite,” said Zahdi. “Whoever made that word seems like a really rude person- the root word is strange!”
“Looking in the mirror for leader reminded me that I was the leader of my own life and I am in control” Said Remi. Zoey came across with a similar response “With leader, I felt like I was convincing myself I am ready to be a leader. Harry Potter came to mind as I shouldn’t HAVE to be a leader.” We discussed a bit of the human element, later in the week thinking a bit about how Moses must have felt with this new set of responsibilities in a new position in a new place.
Nathan reflected on the truth of the idea of a total stranger. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone that really didn’t know a single person”. The idea of a leader was a bit more hard lined. “They lead everyone they are around, they’re in charge and supposed to lead everyone to what their goal is”.
We pondered over each of these ideas as the meanings of our words got deeper and deeper. I then posed a new question to the cohort: “In what ways does Torah act like a mirror for us?”
“You’re staring back at your own self when reading the Torah” said Remi. “In Torah, when you’re reading about all these other people the ideas you have about them reflect back on you”. We reflected for a moment about how one might be feeling in a moment of new leadership. Had we ever had one before? What did that moment feel like to us?
“It reminds me a bit of B’Tzelem Elohim (being made in the image of God)” said Zoey. “You can have moments where you reflect on yourself while you’re reading about these people”
On Wednesday, we began more of our discussion about where the Jewish people found themselves at the beginning of Parshat Yitro.
As we look ahead and move through the first chapter of Yitro, yet again we find ourselves face to face with a moment of reflection. Here are the people, now free from the hand of the Egyptians, just before they will receive the ten commandments in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai. They will define themselves in new ways both individually and as a group in the rest of the book of Shemot. They will face hurdles and joys with a new leader at the front guiding them through what will become another series of great challenges. If that doesn’t connect to our new class I don’t know what will!