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Sep 29

Fiery questions

And Adonai came down in the cloud and stood with [Moshe] there, and called the special name of Adonai. ‘Adonai, Adonai, God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to grow angry, and great in kindne-” 

“WHAT!?”

“No way!”

“Slow to grow angry? Last time he [God] was just about to kill the Israelites in like two seconds! Consume them from the earth!”

“How could God say slow to grow angry? That’s not true!”

Although a lot of what we’ve done during this first month of the school year has been oriented towards brushing up on skills and learning routines, we’ve also been engaging seriously with our first theme of the year; The Elul Project, and in particular exploring a series of texts centered around the golden calf episode in ספר שמות (sefer shemot, the book of Exodus). And this text has provoked some BIG QUESTIONS for some of the children.

“Why is God so angry in the story?” “Why did God say ‘slow to grow angry’ when it’s not true?” “What if the Israelites just wanted to make the golden calf to represent God, to make it easier to worship him [God]?” “Is this story real?” ” Where does the Torah come from?” “What about the Egyptians’ gods? Wouldn’t they say it was Ra who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, and not Adonai-God? So why would Moshe say, ‘The Egyptians would find out.’ Who cares what they think anyway?”

One child decided to develop their questions and ideas about God and the Torah, provoked by the golden calf story, into a comic. Here are the first three pages:

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I can’t decide what’s more exciting: the fact that the children are already full of such thoughtful, critical, curious questions about the Torah, or the fact that they are confident and excited about expressing their own opinions and ideas. If this is where we’re starting from, who knows where the next theme will take us?

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