So much of what we do in Anafim is done in חברותא (chavruta, learning partnership) or in groups. Like spontaneously comparing the text inside of different מחזורים (machzorim, High Holy Day prayerbooks), for example. Or watching a video of a Kol Nidrei service to get the “feel” of יום כפור(Yom Kippur).
As it happens, though, even in our bustling, high-energy, and highly social classroom, we have moments of privacy. Of introspection. Children identify projects that they want to take on, like learning to recite the 13-part name that God announces to משה (Moshe, Moses) in Exodus 34, and put aside the group exploration to pursue that personal interest.
Or a child will disappear from the table where other children are expressing their ideas with watercolor crayons, and I’ll find them tucked behind the couch, working on a drawing with quiet, deliberate focus.
During the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I invited the children to reflect individually on their hopes for themselves and their family and friends for the new Jewish year, or what they imagined the next year might hold. And in the bustle of the classroom environment, I didn’t really see how the children responded until the end of the day.
When I did, I was floored by the sincerity and introspection reflected on some of those maps and notecards. Some children drew complex pathways, showing the interweaving of all of the things in their life that are important to them– people, places, and experiences. Some children wrote hopes for healing relationships, for personal growth and moving past bad habits. (I won’t post their pictures of their words or drawings, because I didn’t ask the children’s permission to share them.)
Where, among the laughing, playing, conversing, and collaboration, do those introspective thoughts get a chance to develop? How did the children find the moments of deep self-reflection evident in their responses? It’s still a little bit of a mystery to me. I’m so glad, though, that it’s part of the mix of what the children experience and create in Beit Anafim.