Jewish Journey / מסע Masa at BHA
At Beacon Hebrew Alliance, we believe that Judaism is a journey. We travel on a highway thousands of years long, and we use the traditions of our ancestors to guide our footsteps into tomorrow. We may journey together, but each of us is walking our own path. Every one of us carries some part of what our community needs to move forward. We call our learning program MASA (מסע) which means "journey" in Hebrew.
A journey can be challenging if you don't know who you are, where you are traveling, or how you are going to move yourself. This year, we will do our best to discover some answers to those questions. The Sefat Emet, a nineteenth century Hasidic rabbi, wrote that everyone* has their own letter of the Torah. Second century mystics suggested that the universe was created with the twenty-two letters of the aleph-bet. We will spend the year working to discover our own letters of the Torah. We'll learn some Hebrew (or perhaps just the letters, for our youngest students), and we'll study weekly Torah portions, daven together, and sing together. But there is more to Jewish life than study, so we will cook and eat, make crafts, play games, and explore the world around us. These things will hopefully help to answer the questions of who we are, and how we are going to travel.
What about the question of where we are going? The answer to that may be different for each one of us. Hopefully, we have some common goals in mind. By the end of a student's time in MASA, I hope they will be on a pathway to discovering what their own letter of the Torah is. Perhaps it will be ש, for shir (song), shalom, or shabbat. Perhaps it will be צ, for tzedakah, or ל for lev (heart) or lechem (bread). And all of us at MASA want students' paths to lead them to become mensches, no matter what direction they travel later in life. The signposts of Judaism can guide all of us to accomplish these goals.
We invite members of the community to come share their own "letter of the Torah" with us this year. What inspires you about Judaism? What excites you? What is a thread that has carried through your life, or a spark that has surprised you as you've grown? Please come and tell us about it! You can speak for a few minutes, or teach a song or dance, or lead a longer session.
We will begin this year's journey at the head of the year: our first Sunday session will be on erev Rosh Hashanah! In September, we will learn about wonder: that this amazing universe exists, and that we could have responsibility for any part of it. In October and November, we will explore themes of gratitude, including gratitude to the generations that have gone before us. In December, we will talk about dedication and commitment. In January, we will explore justice, and the Jewish responsibility for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). As we move into spring, we will learn about using the gifts we have in the world as we grow towards maturity.
Grades K-2: Sundays 9:30 am – 12:30pm
Grades 3-7: Sundays 9:30 am – 12:30pm and Fridays 4:00 pm – 6:00pm
SUNDAY MORNING MASA:
MASA students in grades K-7 will meet on Sundays from 9:30am – 12:30pm. As much as possible, we will learn through doing: by praying, singing, saying blessings, meditating, making art, and playing. We will also learn more formally, by studying Hebrew, by listening to Torah and to stories, and by discussing the themes of the year.
Here is a sample schedule of our weekly gathering:
- 9:30-9:45: Modei Ani journaling. Students will reflect on relevant themes in words and images.
- 9:45-10:15: Davening. Students will use a variety of tools, from traditional songs and prayers to meditation, to connect to the world within and around them.
- 10:15-10:35: Exploratory activity.
- 10:35-11:10: Wash hands, snack, bentsch, and learn/discuss content (holidays, Torah, life cycle, stories)
- 11:10-11:40: A deeper dive into new content. Discussion/activity within age groups.
- 11:40-12:10: Hebrew reading and vocabulary practice using relevant Jewish texts.
- 12:10-12:30: Wrap up discussion and songs.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON MASA:
Our older students (grades 3 – 7) will also meet on Fridays from 4:00 pm—6:00pm to experience the joys of reflecting on the previous week and welcoming in Shabbat through cooking, crafting, singing, engaging in meaningful discussions and growing friendships. Older students will have the opportunity to prepare a short d'var Torah, and to learn to present Torah to other members of the community in other formats.
We’ll offer quiet space and snacks for students who’d like arrive early to do homework from 3:00 to 4:00. Here is a sampling of how we’ll spend our time:
- 4:00-4:30: Yiddushkeit and schmoozing: Cooking, crafting, snacking, and visiting with friends.
- 4:30-5:00: Reflecting on the relevance of middot and parashot in our own lives. Conversation about current events and issues in the world around us.
- 5:00-5:30: Learn new songs, practice familiar songs, and prepare to lead Mini Minyan.
- 5:30-6:00: Mini Minyan. The Friday MASA students will lead a service for the younger members of our community.
- 6:00-7:00 (optional): Community potluck. On the first three Fridays of the month, there will be a community-wide potluck. Please bring a vegetarian dish to share! MASA families are encouraged to host a potluck by providing grape juice and challah.
- 7:00-8:00 (optional): Friday evening services.
Services will begin at 7:00pm weekly and will rotate in form: Musical, Bina Chanting, Lab, and Conventional services.
B'nai Mitzvah Students: Our b'nai mitzvah students will meet on scheduled afternoons from 4:00 - 6:00. We will prepare to be active adult members of our community by learning more deeply about Torah and middot, by doing service projects, and by learning about our responsibilities as adults.
*The Sefat Emet actually said that every Jew has his own letter of the Torah, and we will explore some of the ramifications of the original statement, and our reasons for shifting it. If there is no other justification, we can fall back on the second century mystics. If the universe was created with the aleph bet, then surely we are each created with those letters, and those letters can be found in the Torah!