Second Keruv Class

For our second Keruv class we were assigned to read the chapter on Chanukah from the book, “Seasons of our Joy” written by Arthur O. Waskow. His book outlines the Jewish holidays in sequential order starting with the New Year (Rosh Hashanah). Also each chapter outlines the origins, customs and recipes associated with each holiday. So far this book has been my favorite because Mr. Waskow explains the significance of the holidays with enthusiasm, giving just enough detail and historical significance; this keeps the material interesting.

This class we opened our “Shalom Alecheinu” to page 23, where ewe started with a new consonant, Bet!, sounds like “b”. We also learned a new vowel, Qibbuts! Sounds like “oo”.


To practice we read nonsensical syllables using phonetics such as, “BEL”,  “BAYL”, “BEHL” etc…

I like doing this, it helps to get a feel for how Hebrew words sound and feel when you pronounce them. We are taking it slow and learning the basic building blocks first, this makes learning Hebrew very manageable! Although at times it does sound really funny when a group of adults are chanting “MOO, LOO, CHOO, HOO, SHOO, ROO, TOO, YOO and NOO. It’s quite comical! 😉

We finished the Hebrew portion of the evening on the consonant Nun, sounds like “n”.

We also learned a name for the “Divine One”: Hashem.

Next week we will be learning, Daled, sounds like “d” and Kav, sounds like “k”.

For the second portion of the evening we were invited to open our latest text, “It’s a Mitzvah” written by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson. His book is a step-by-step guide to Jewish living, it has a lot of pictures and looks like a friendly, inviting guide to eating kosher, celebrate the holidays etc… Rabbi O asked us to read the first two to three chapters: Why this Book Our God and the God of our Ancestors and What is Jewish Law? Why does it Matter? Once I’ve read the assigned reading I’ll post a summary of the readings.

To tie up the loose ends of last week’s discussion of the Minor Holidays we delved into the historical significance of Hanukah or Chanukah. However you decide to spell it, the holiday is based on the hope that light will prevail over darkness. Last year G and I observed our first Hanukah together! After lighting the candles and saying the prayers I truly felt that the Festival of Lights is a celebration of Light over Darkness of Good over Evil.  Historically, the tales of the Maccabees victory over the Greeks and the reclaiming of the Temple are celebrated for eight nights ensuring Jews remember the miracle of the oil for centuries to come. 

Minor Holidays!


The final hour of class was spent discussing minor holidays in the Jewish calendar.

We discussed Tu Bishvat, this holiday occurs on the fifteenth of Shevat. This year the holiday starts on the sunset of 25 January to nightfall on 26 January. In English it’s called the New Year of the Trees. Today, its celebrated as an ecological awareness day. The Jewish faith in the renewal of the earth and the coming of spring are now the major themes for the holiday.

A side note, there is a branch of study called gem atria of the Hebrew letters. Each has been assigned a numerical value, for example: Aleph=1, Bet=2, Kuf=100 and this makes it possible for Jewish scholars to evaluate biblical phrases numerical, mathematical significance. Of interest are words with equal values, for example the Hebrew word for ladder has a numerical value of 60; the Hebrew word for money also has a numerical value of 60. This coincidence has led scholars to believe that the two are linked and draw conclusions based on the numerical link. Money and the lack of it leads one to high or low circumstances, as does a ladder that brings us to high or low places. Although more science fiction than fact, the inferences gained are at times mystical and wise.

There are two subcategories of Jewish holidays: Major and Minor. For a holiday to be considered Major it must have both agricultural and historical significance: Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Minor Holidays are either historically or agriculturally significant; not both. The ancient purpose of Tu Bishrat is tied to tithing of the harvest. There was another tithing holiday in the Jewish calendar: the tithing of cattle but it has since become irrelevant when Jews became involved in mercantile trade and moved outside of Israel.

I’ve learned that this is a day to love and respect the fruits of the earth and the animals that share our planet. Jews have been preoccupied with the idea that animals feel pain since ancient times. The noahide laws contain one such decree among six others, to guide Jews and non-Jews alike! If you follow these seven commandments you are assured a place in the world to come.

Here are the seven Noahide Laws:

The prohibition of Idolatry.

The prohibition of Murder.

The prohibition of Theft.

The prohibition of Sexual immorality.

The prohibition of Blasphemy.

The prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.

The requirement of maintaining courts to provide legal recourse.

Wow. Are these not universal laws we all abide by regardless of religion as a member of society? We also discussed the principles of destruction. Can I destroy property if I own it? No, something things belong to all people we all have a responsibility to the environment we live in. This builds a theological religious framework for Jews to live by. DO we not care for the earth or does G-D own the land? If G-D owns the land, what right do we have to destroy his creation?

We also discussed Purim. This is a historical holiday, according to the tradition as there is no historical evidence. Remembers the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews with a Public reading of the book of Esther while “blotting out” the villain’s name Haman

Customs include, Costume parties; drinking; eating fruit-filled triangular cookies, Hamentaschen! 

First Keruv Class November 5, 5774

This week G and I attended our first Keruv (Conversion class) together! We arrived at 6:30 pm to meet with Rabbi O, the leader of Keruv classes.

We discussed our backgrounds, mine: United and Anglican, and G: Conservative Judaism. Among other things we discussed where we met, where we were living, what brought us to conversion etc…When the who, what where’s were out of the way we were welcomed to the program with at course binder and our course material. The binder contains sections on Hebrew, Personal Reflections, General Info and Resources.

We reintroduced ourselves to our new classmates in the synagogue library. Including us, there are 15 in total. The majority of the class is composed of heterosexual couples married, engaged or in common law relationships. Out of these couples it is the women who are converting.  There were also three singles, there to learn about a lost heritage and for general interest with the possibility of conversion. At first glance everyone was pleasant and welcoming and the couple seated next to us shared a book with us as we had yet to receive our own copy of the Hebrew workbook. We look forward to getting to know our classmates better over the next few months! Also, one couple wasn’t there but we’re sure to meet them next week.

Rabbi O is down to earth, friendly, and quite the comedian! He loves to make us laugh, and tells the most captivating stories. We of course hang on every word; Keruv was over before we knew it! Time just flew by…

Our Keruv is a two-hour weekly commitment, Rabbi O has broken the class into one hour of Hebrew lessons and the final hour is an hour of study, group discussion and teachings.

For (our first) Hebrew hour we opened the book Shalom Aleheinu written by Noah Golinein. We started on page 19 with a review of last week’s lesson. To date the class has covered the consonants, Mem, Lamed, Final Chaf, Chaf, Final Mem, Hay, Shin, Ayin, Aleph, Resh and Tav. The vowels covered were AH, AY, EE, and O.

Page 19 contained 19 phrases and used all the vowels and consonants from the previous pages.

For the first hour we took turns reading as a group the review. The next page (20) introduced Yud, and page 21 Nun. We stopped there for the night. A note on reading Hebrew texts, they are read from back to front and from the right to the left on the page. Rabbi O is very clever. He has asked that he correct our mistakes instead of our partners because, “ you can’t yell at him (Rabbi O) when you’re home.” I like him already.

The topic of discussion for my next blog will be our study hour topic: the Minor Holidays!

To be continued!

Check out this video! You’ll be singing along in no time!

Keruv (Conversion) Classes

G and I are looking forward to this Tuesday! We will be attending our first Keruv class together. We are joining the class late, there have already been a few classes but thankfully we are still welcome to join. We are very grateful! I’m posting the course outline below: