Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Little Goofs Read from the Torah

Memorial Day weekend was also the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah. It is a big thing for Jews (and really for Western civilization). It was extra-special for the Goof Clan, because GoofBoy read Torah the Saturday afternoon, just before the holiday began.

It is traditional for Jews at 13 to read from the Torah before their congregation and establish their commitment to Judaism as an adult. But kids don’t have to wait until they are 13 – they can read the Torah to the congregation before that. It should be emphasized, that reading the Torah out loud isn’t just a matter of Hebrew fluency. It also requires learning a special trope that is just for the Torah. My synagogue has a wonderful and unique program run by a member who volunteers his time, in which kids learn to read from the Torah and are given the opportunity to do so. They get prizes when they reach certain milestones – after their first reading, third reading etc.

An important component of the program is to teach trope to other kids. So on Saturday mornings at our synagogue we have a group of children teaching one another to read from the holy text of the Jewish people. It is as inspiring as it sounds.

GoofBoy is an enthusiastic participant. One of his motivations is that he is a bit behind Carpool Buddy, who has a mom and dad who can help him. For me this is yet another area where GoofBoy has surpassed me completely. Regardless, everything about this makes me proud of him. That he is learning his way around the central text of the Jewish people, that he is self-motivated to do this, and that he actually reads hard stuff out loud in public with aplomb.

Oh, and one more thing. When I was bar mitzvahed, several hundred years ago I fought and complained and refused to study. For me, and unfortunately most Jews, the bar mitzvah is a one off – the kid studies for that particular event but does not acquire the broader skill of reading Torah. My parents (the GrandGoofs) were terrified that I would flub the whole thing because of my refusal to prepare. No problem with GoofBoy – he already knows how to do it. In two years when it is bar mitzvah time he’ll own this. Anything involving a 13 year old is bound to be stressful, but this will take one small piece of that away.

GoofGirl’s Trial by Fire
GoofBoy is a natural leader and innovator. One of the great things about Torah Club is that younger siblings are inspired to learn to read the Torah watching their elder siblings. GoofGirl is too young to join the program, but she can’t wait and kept begging her brother to teach her.

So, Sunday morning – during Shavuot – GoofBoy acquiesced and began teaching his sister. She was a ready student (she knows Hebrew pretty well too.) Still, any beginner makes mistakes with the trope. Usually the teacher gently corrects the student. But GoofBoy had a different idea for motivation. Every time his sister made a mistake, he shot her with a Nerf gun. That was more fun for everyone (I think GoofGirl started flubbing it on purpose). GoofBoy is going to propose Nerf Gun firing squad as a regular Torah Club teaching method.

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