Monday, November 14, 2011

Avraham Avinu The Friaer - Dvar Torah for Parshat Chayei Sarah

I listen to a popular American radio program (via the magic of iTunes podcast) called "This American Life", a story-based show about different aspects of, you guessed it, American Life. In March, while running in Yad Binyamin listening to the show, I heard a story that taught me pshat in Parshat Chayei Sarah.
The show's narrator interviewed an Iranian immigrant about the unusual Iranian custom of Ta'aruf, which, according to Wikipedia, "leads people to constantly offer things they may not want to give, and to refuse things they really want." Basically, even though you want something, practitioners of Ta'aruf must say exactly the opposite, in an elaborate charade meant to finally reach a nuanced conclusion. The Iranian immigrant, interviewed for the story, describes an imaginary interaction that takes place in Iranian stores every day.
You go into a story and you go and you buy dried fruit or something. You take it up to the counter to go pay, and the store owner says, "It's worthless. This is worthless. Your value is so much greater than this thing that you're trying to buy. Then you have to say, 'No, no, no, really, how much does it cost?' He tells you, 'No, no, no, just take it.' You have to argue to find out the price, until finally you get to the point where he tells you the price, and then he quotes you a price that's way more than the item is actually worth. Then it becomes a bargaining session." 
Does that sound vaguely familiar? Listening to the story, I realized that this short description precisely matches the first section of Chayei Sarah (Bereishit 23), where Avraham Avinu purchases the Me'arat Hamachpelah.

To read the rest of the piece, click here to download the formatted pdf version.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Bat Zion 5764 Reunion in Nof Tzion

By Debbie Ifield, Bogeret of BZ 5764
It was Chol Hamoed Succot and I was off to Jerusalem. I set out from South Netanya, very excited to reunite with my Orot friends. I finally made it into Jerusalem, despite heavy Chol Hamoed traffic, and asked a taxi driver to take me to Nof Tzion. 'Sof Ha'olam!!' he said, but he eventually found the area, and I ran into my friend Eddie's (Shoshana Bauer) apartment to be greeted by the greatest bunch of girls I've ever had the privilege to spend time with.

I was quite late, so everyone had already arrived, complete with husbands, children and smiles on their faces. This year the Orot Succah Party was particularly special. Not only was it 8 years since we first became a Bat Zion group, but this time we were also celebrating our fantastic madricha Debbie's 30th birthday. It was a surprise for her, and we partied in style, in the succah and the main room, with lunch and birthday cake, with recounting old Orot stories and playing with the new generation - the Orot kids. I finally saw the newly engaged Chaya and had the chance to wish her mazal tov in person, (as well as Bshaa tova to quite a few of the other Orot ladies). The Tal programme was also represented. We gathered together from all areas of Israel, from Jerusalem to Shuva to Netanya to Maale Adumim all the way to Mizpe Rimon!
Seeing my Orot friends was a definite highlight of my trip to Israel. It always is!!

2nd Annual Sukkot Orot Reunion

By Debbie (Krug) Shochat,
Madricha of Bat Zion 5764
A long time ago, when I was a madricha at Orot, “Batzi” the car was driven into the Orot parking lot, and there was room for 4 other passengers. 7 years later, Baruch Hashem there isn’t an available seat. As Oriya and I drove down the windy road to get to Nof Tzion, standing at about 5 different bus stops stood all the Orot Bogrot, with Baruch Hashem, many children in sight. Sadly, I wished that I had room for everyone in the car, but I was beyond happy looking at the continuity and growth. Though it was no simple task arriving, over 30 people attended the reunion, and from literally all over Israel, as far south as Mitzpe Ramon, to as far north as Shilo. (Though, a bogeret from Ma’a lot wished that she was able to come). There was good food, good laughs, and reminiscing over the good times. And while topics of discussion 7 years ago were about Rav Kook, filling out Shabbat lists, what’s Shula serving for lunch, and Rav Shvat’s latest new song, suddenly other realms of conversations can be heard. Whether it be careers, politics, children, communities, with occasional divrei Torah as well, it’s a true blessing to see commitment to Torah, to Israel, and to friendship, so many years later.

Practice, Practice Practice

By Rabbi Ephraim Levitz,
Student Teacher Practicum Department, Elkana Campus

Field work is proscribed in many professions. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, social workers, psychologists, etc. all require intense practical experience, guided by licensed and experienced experts in their profession. The student teacher must undergo similar training and field work to avail the opportunity for reflective practice under the supervision of a teacher trainer. This practice is highly structured and the benefits rewards are invaluable.
The practical aspects of our teacher training are considered the crown jewel of our program. After many intense months of theoretical coursework, the students go out in to the classroom to apply what they have learned. In the beginning the questions are more numerous than the answers. At this stage the students realize what they have learned well and what requires further revision.
In comes the מדריכה פדגוגית (teacher trainer). With a warm smile and an encouraging word, the Madricha escorts the student down to the playing field for a practice game. No pressure. The new rookie, knees shaking, voice trembling, enters the classroom to teach the first lesson. While stage fright takes over the Madricha pushes the student out from behind the curtain to center stage. “בקר טוב תלמידים...” she begins in a quiet voice, and her lesson plan slowly unfolds into a full blown drama. After the lesson the Madricha gathers her flock for the feedback powwow. She tries to highlight the strengths of the lesson, leaving the critical comments for another day. The student walks away exhausted and excited, “I did it”!
The first semester of teacher training has started on the right foot. Ode to the tireless efforts and assistance of Dalia Plesser, who recently retired from the position as head of department but obliged to assist with the arduous task of assignment, the placement of each of the students went smoothly. The general feeling is everyone is content in their schools and there is a sense of satisfaction and intrigue for the challenges yet to come.
I assumed the position as head of the department in July. I am still trying to get acquainted with the myriad of rules and regulations as well as to understand the needs of the students. Although flexibility is needed in many cases, especially in a college for young women, I am working hard to maintain the standards of excellence that are the college’s trademark. Hopefully the right balance will be found and the students will be able to enjoy the student teaching experience.
Goals and Aspirations:
For the short term, my efforts are focused on keeping the momentum of the system going forward, business as usual. This alone is a challenging task. I am not planning changes at this stage while I am learning the system.
I hope to survey students from the various streams to get a firsthand impression of the student’s experience in the field. This will provide food for thought for future plans and development.
At this point I am establishing working relationships with the Madrichot. In the future I aim to expand the use of technology in the running of the department, and in promoting team collaboration. The staff has been very welcoming and helpful until now and I look forward to a very productive year.
The middle range goals are in the area of opening more communication between the lecturers and the Madrichot. Through these meetings I hope to clarify the special requirements and needs of each department and prepare a coherent guide for the perplexed student teacher. In the same vein I hope to examine each of the templates and forms used routinely by the students to try to ease some of the confusion that currently exists.
Besides serving as מדריך פדגוגי in various colleges in Israel, I have specialized in cognitive training for the classroom. My long term wish is to incorporate some of the practical skills and tools of creative thinking development and metacognition in the teacher training program in אורות ישראל.
Teaching has been the passion of my life. It should never be perceived as a job, rather as a life mission. The פסוק states,
”ושננתם לבניך”. רש"י cites חז"ל, “To your children: These are your students”. The verse is not speaking about the mission of the father to teach his own children the lessons of the Torah. That is obvious. Rather, hints רש"י, the Torah is speaking to teachers. Every teaching situation should be viewed as personal as parenting. Teaching students is like raising your own children, with the same love and patience and concern for their success.
I would like to express my gratitude to Rabbi Professor Neriya Guttel, the President of Orot Israel College, and to Rabbi Dr. Moshe Rachimi, Dean of Students, for their guidance and support. I feel privileged to serve in such an esteemed institution for higher learning in Israel.