By Laura Seymour
At most Jewish events, someone stands and delivers a d’var Torah, which literally means “words of Torah.” Usually, the expectation is that the speaker will talk about the Torah portion of the week and relate it to a lesson for us to learn.
It would be wonderful if each week, your family talked about the portion of the week during dinner or car rides, but for most of us that would be a daunting task.
Actually, many people have asked me to help with a d’var Torah that they must give at a dinner or meeting, and I know it is a challenge for many. So, many years ago at the Aaron Family JCC, we stopped doing a d’var Torah at meetings and started doing JEM’s — Jewish Educational Moments.
The topic has to be Jewish, and it has to be a learning experience. Great idea you may say, but how do we find the topics? Enter an item that should be discussed into a container, and you have a JEM in a jar. You have a container filled with Jewish texts (little quotations); pick one out and talk about what it means. Even the youngest child can participate if only by picking the text.
Since this item is not available in stores, how do you make your own? Simply find a book filled with Jewish quotes and write down your favorites. Then, when you are looking for a discussion starter, pick one and let each person share their understanding. Remember, as Ben Zoma says, “Who is wise? The one who learns from all people.”
Here are a few of my favorites, especially for families, to put in your container:
- Teach your tongue to say, “I do not know,” otherwise you will invent something and be trapped. — Talmud.
- Imagination is more important than knowledge. — Albert Einstein.
- If one person says, “You’re a donkey,” don’t mind; if two say this, be worried; if three say so, get a saddle. — Adapted from Midrash Rabbah.
- People usually hate what they don’t understand. — Moses ibn Ezra.
- Who is a hero? He who turns an enemy into a friend. — Avot de Rabbi Nathan.
- Every person should carry two cards at all times … on one card should be written, “For my sake was the world created.” The other should say, “The Lord, formed man from the dust of the earth.” — Hasidic saying.
Now take those moments and turn them into JEMs — Jewish Educational Moments.
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.