The 10th grade at the San Francisco Waldorf High School has an amazing 3-4 week course on Tanakh during the year long “Explorations in Early Literature” track course. In the track course, they learn the Ramayana, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Gilgamesh, Mesopotamia, the New Testament and more. For Tanakh, students read passages, do pictorial representations of scenes, learn to identify the characters, write their own psalms and proverbs, write an obituary for Moses or other characters and write about the ancient Judaic world view, as well as identify biblical allusions.
I had the honor of being a guest teacher on the last meeting of this class. (My usual role is the metal arts and technical theater design teacher.) I brought in the Torah (I have one originally from Germany written in the 1850’s) so that the students could see it up close, hear me chant from it, and have a better understanding of the difference between the Torah and the “Old Testament.” I chanted from Deuteronomy the Sh’ma and V’havta– passages that are central to Judaism. It took a lot of courage for me to both stand up as a Jew in front of this audience of 40 students and even more courage to sing/chant Torah in front of them.
It was a fulfilling experience in that many of the students had never experienced the Torah up close. They were tremendously respectful. They had a deeper appreciation for the hidden meanings of the Torah, than just the stories they read in English. A fascinating discussion ensued about G-d, how Torahs are made, Jewish customs, Reform vs Orthodox world views, ways of repenting, holidays, Israel/Palestine conflict and more. I felt grateful to help bring the text to life and bring more understanding to the world– one student at a time.
All three of the Humanities teachers were also there. One teacher felt uplifted by the chanting and wondered where the “Trope” or melody originated. They loved the presentation and asked that I come back and do this presentation every year. Of course I said I would be honored to do so. Stay tuned for more on sharing Judaism with humanity!
With Eternal Love and Gratitude,