Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Learn and to Teach

Rabbi Sharon Clevenger, a recent addition to our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens faculty, is the middle-school rabbi at the Rashi School in Dedham and the mother of two young daughters.

Today in my Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class, I learned something so elegant and inspiring that I wish I had thought of! I can’t wait to try it out in my own life.  I pretty much come home to my husband after every class and say this very same thing. Which is exactly what the framers of this course want - they hope that the small and large “aha moments” inspired by exchanges among teachers and learners will lead to lives more meaningfully lived.  I love and look forward to what I will learn each Sunday.  And I am the instructor.

There is a prayer in the morning service called Ahava Raba.  It thanks God for showing divine love for us (the Jewish people) by giving us the gift of Torah.  It asks God to have mercy on us by giving us what we need to: “understand and discern, to heed, to learn and teach and to fulfill all that is in God’s Torah with love.”  As a Jewish educator, I deeply appreciate the fact that “learn” comes before “teach.”  I walk into my classroom each Sunday, ready to guide my phenomenal students through the inspiring and challenging texts in our binders.  Yet I also enter knowing that I will leave that room knowing far more than I knew at the start of class.  I am there to learn and to teach.

Most of the participants in the class are relatively new to Jewish learning and a few are non-Jewish spouses.  Therefore, each person brings wisdom and knowledge from his or her life.  A typical class session might include students making references to renowned secular philosophers, American business law or Hindu religious and cultural traditions, not to mention the daily inspirations (and grinds) of parenting.  This would be a great conversation on its own, but what amazes me is the way that it all ties together with the texts in the binder and helps frame a “Jewish lens.”  This class is definitely providing transformative Jewish learning for all of the learners, including me.

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