Bnei Mitzvah in the Garden

At the beginning of our first class meeting we were all a bit nervous…could we have a good class with only three students, two boys and a girl, all age 12?

But it’s clear: Yes we can! We are already enjoying the benefits that come with a small group: flexibility and easy group bonding.

Today’s focus was “Welcome!” 

Together we generated a list of “get to know you” questions.

What would you like to ask me? What’s your name? How old are you? Do you have any pets? What kind of pet? What school do you go to? What do you think of grade __? Do you get a lot of homework? What did you do this summer? Do you go co camp? Do you play any sports? Do you like to play soccer? Do you like tennis? Do you like swimming? Do you ski? What’s your favorite drink? What’s your favorite food? Do you play any instruments? Do you play video games? What are your hobbies?

We put the questions in a bowl, and took turns choosing, answering and elaborating on the questions. We laughed quite a bit!

We took a tour of the synagogue building, lingering for a while at the Torah.

When it was time to tour the outside of the building, we were gifted with a serendipitous coincidence. Ben and Yona from the garden committee were out harvesting in our community garden. We got to separate wheat from chaff, munch on wheat berries, harvest carrots, taste celery fresh out of the garden. We reflected on truth of the berachah (blessing) for bread: Thank you God for bringing bread out of the ground.

Over a bagel snack and many giggles, the students made an impromptu mini-drawing of one of the students doing all his hobbies at once. All three participated in a kind and respectful way, giggles notwithstanding. I noted this!

We focused and did a “bar/bat mitzvah quiz,” with questions like these:

“Performing a mitzvah” means doing: (a) a good deed; (b) a religious ritual; (c) both a and b.

“Bat mitzvah”  literally means: (a) “going to bat” for people in need; (b) helping the world by caring for small flying animals; (c) daughter of a mitzvah.

The Talmud (ancient book of Jewish law and lore) says that at age 13 a person becomes responsible for: (a) earning a living; (b) keeping their promises; (c) learning the entire Torah by heart.

The original bar mitzvah blessing was: (a) “Thank you God for bringing me to this day!” said by the bar mitzvah; (b) “Thank God that I’m no longer responsible for this child!” said by the parent; (c) “Thank you God for a new adult in our community!” said by a rabbi.

We discussed why we each chose certain answers. We concluded that a good deed can be a religious ritual if you do it intentionally. We agreed that learning to make and keep promises wisely is part of becoming mature. We found out that everyone in the class shares the same worry about learning all the prayers and Torah readings in time for the ceremony.

To close, I gave them a large piece of newsprint and asked them to draw a group portrait. What a great group! They brainstormed, discussed, negotiated, compromised.

As you can see, we have both male and female. One student wears glasses; one has curly hair. One loves pasta, one loves drawing, one loves reading. Two love cats, and one loves dogs. Together they have strength. Down in the corner you can see their first bagel meal together. They named their person “Danyaya.”

I am so excited about getting to know Daniel, Daniel and Maya over the next few months!

Garden photos by Yona Sipos & Ben Harris, gardeners extraordinare

  1. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for this class…especially for all the giggling! Thanks for the great start.

  2. Fantastic! Thank you so much for letting us know something beyond the “How was it?” “Good!” conversation that followed…I think they enjoyed it!

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