Well, we’re not going all the way back to the very beginning. But in ענפים (Anafim- branches, for 3rd-4th grade), our first text of the year takes us back to Genesis 18, to the story of אברהם (Avraham) and שרה (Sarah), being visited by three mysterious strangers. Later in the chapter, God tells Avraham, “The cry of Sedom and Amorah is great, and their sinning is very heavy. I will go down now to see if the cry that comes up to me is true or not– and I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21). Avraham draws closer, and says, “Will you sweep away the righteous, too, along with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23).
It may only be the first text we’re exploring together this year, amid all the excitement of getting to know new peers, establishing on our classroom routines together, and celebrating the marathon of autumn Jewish holidays. Still, where text interpretation is concerned, ענפים (Anafim) are fired up and ready to go, overflowing with questions and insightful ideas.
“Who are the three men?”
“Messengers God sent”
“It’s three men God took the form of. It makes sense– if God can inhabit a burning bush, it makes sense God could inhabit anything, even the bodies of three men.”
“Here… it’s showing two planes at once. Down here on the human plane, with the tent, God is in the form of the men who are talking to Avraham. At the same time here on the red part, that’s up on the God plane, it’s at the same time but Avraham is talking to God about the righteous and the wicked and there God is just one, just God.”
“What is ‘the cry’ coming from the cities?”
“It could be lots of different kinds of cries… there’s sad cry, happy cry, battle cry, crying out for help…
“The twigs are showing the outline of a speech bubble, that’s the cry. Inside it shows a wicked guy (the tall one) forcing people to carry heavy weights… And the cry is coming from the the city.”
“What does righteous mean? Who are the wicked people?”
“Righteous is doing the right thing.”
“Fairness, fighting for other people”
“The wicked people are running around with daggers to kill people, and the righteous are trying to save them”
“In the wicked city there is mayhem, marauding, murder…”
“Good people would suffer in a wicked city”
“With the slab of rock, the wicked people are forcing the good people to carry them on their backs. And up here, Avraham is talking to God up on a mountain about the righteous and the wicked.”
“It’s not like that, really. Some people are wicked or righteous but mostly people are just normal”
“The blue tiles are righteous people and the red gems are wicked. In the first city there’s more righteous than wicked. But in this one there’s more wickedness than good so you can see the destruction that is about to surround it…”
Wow. If this is any indication, 5778 is going to be a year of amazing ideas!