Every week, I am blessed to work with students all across the South as each prepares for his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah: from Arkansas to South Carolina, from Kentucky to Mississippi… thanks to the modern miracle known as Skype (and other online forums)!
Recently, during a Skype session with a student in Florida, my student noticed something. He pointed out the unique mark above one letter in his Torah portion. It was a trope (cantillation) mark, which had two dots like a colon and a straight vertical line next to it – like so:
“I know it’s not a vowel…” He said. And then: “It looks like an emoticon. It can’t be! Can it, Rabbi?”
For a brief moment, I thought about dismissing this notion, considering it just a crafty tactic of distraction in this particular student’s endless game of procrastination. But then, another thought came to me, and I said: “What?! You mean to tell me that you’ve never heard that Jews created the emoticon, hundreds of years before the advent of the computer?! I mean, think about it. What’s the purpose of emoticons?”
He answered, “To let us know the feelings behind what someone wrote.”
“Precisely, my dear Watson!* And the same could be said of these trope marks, written down in the year 1000 C.E by the Masoretes. They added these marks to God’s words in order for us to know not only how to read Torah, but also how to express the Torah, adding feeling and emphasis to the words.”
In that moment I became the father from My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding. Somehow, I found a rational way to explain how everything can be traced back to Judaism, of note here are emoticons. Yes, indeed, there is a direct line from Torah to our tweets, so that we can be ever mindful that – when it comes to words – what is important isn’t just what we say, but how we say it.
*Pseudonym used to protect student privacy, of course
A few weeks ago, Rachel Stern wrote about the real blessings technology can bring, particularly when you’re outside of a major metropolitan area and want to connect to Jewish life.
This holiday season, we’re excited for another resource that will be streaming our way. This one takes the form of a new and ongoing podcast series, demonstrating the power of passionate teaching by preeminent Jewish educators. It’s a project of The Covenant Foundation, broadcast by JCast Network.
Marking the Jewish New Year, the series – From Dreams to Deeds: Join the Journey – debuts with Dr. Erica Brown, a 2009 Covenant Award recipient and Scholar-in-Residence at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Upcoming podcasts will feature Jewish educators influential in their own communities and nationally – in the realms of Jewish education, religious thought, community building and generational continuity.
Podcasts will feature, among others, Rivy Poupko Kletenik, Head of School at Seattle Hebrew Academy and author of a monthly Jewish advice column; Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, Founder and Director of Project Y.E.S., and a prolific writer on issues concerning parenting and children at risk; and the ISJL‘s own Macy B. Hart, who will talk about Jewish life in the South and taking a regional approach to Jewish community and programming. Segments are hosted by Darone Ruskay, Executive Director and Producer of JCast Network.
From Dreams to Deeds: Join the Journey will live at jcastnetwork.org/covenant and on iTunes. Each segment may be played immediately or downloaded to computers and mobile devices. We’re excited to tune in and take advantage of this learning opportunity – especially when we’re on the road, on our way to visit communities. Should be great conversation starters, and those meaningful conversations are ones we love to have. It’s also the perfect time to tune in for some streaming, stimulating Jewish content that will inspire you to think, to do, and to share – what better way to welcome the new year?
Thanks, Covenant and JCast, for making this resource available to everyone, no matter what your zip code!
L’shana tova, y’all!
How do you take advantage of things like podcasts? Do you listen to them alone? While running? Have you ever used them for a program or in any interactive way? Will you be tuning in to “Dreams to Deeds?”