‘Words’ – sermon by Marlene Plotnick

D’Varim, Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22

click here for cartoon: family circus

This Family Circus cartoon hit home since this Shabbat’s parashah and the entire 5th book of the Torah are called “Words,” Devarim.  Moses uses the power of words to bridge the spans of time, to promote self-esteem, to encourage and to affirm commitments made. This section includes a review of the lifetime of Moses and events taking place within that time. These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of Jordan in Deuteronomy.  Words can shape our lives. Moses uses words to bridge generations. He uses words to encourage rather than point out any shortcomings. He reminds us that children are a product of their parent’s legacies. Moses becomes a storyteller retelling the story of the past 40 years of Exodus before Joshua leads the Israelites.

“People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell,” said Elie Wiesel. Stories are important in our lives, especially to children. Stories are told through words, deeds, values and actions. As we pass these stories from one generation to another, or L’dor v’dor, we are teaching our children valuable lessons. When I am teaching the children in Sunday School the first thing we do to start class is to have Jewish Show and Tell.  The children share anything about being Jewish.. We also have a Jewish Journal to write in each week, which they also share by reading aloud.  The topic is usually about a particular Jewish holiday, Jewish event in their lives or whatever else Jewish topic is decided upon.

Stories are also told through pictures as well as the written word. My parents always had their den filled with family photos. As it turns out Jay and I do the same thing. If you look in our den you will see many family photos of the past and the present. This is our pictorial history that keeps memories alive. Connections can be made from generation to generation or l’dor v’dor at work.

Words are powerful. They can give us positive or negative messages. I have a daily calendar that most of the time has positive/good words or ideas to think about for that day. Some examples are – ‘Good things come to those who bake.’ Another is by Paul Cezanne-‘We live in a rainbow of colors.’  ‘Never, never give up’ by Winston Churchill, and ‘Believe in Yourself’ to name a few.

When a child draws a picture and tells about it we should write down what they have said. As a reading teacher I know the power of words is strong even at an early age. Seeing their own words in print under their drawing is a first step to becoming literate.  The gift of telling stories whether it be our own stories or those we read is providing our children with a piece of history. I read to the Sunday School students from a different book each year. Ike and Mama and the 7 Surprises by Carol Snyder was a wonderful book about a Bar Mitzvah boy with limited pictures. Last year I read Number The Stars by Lois Lowry  again with limited pictures  . This book was about a 10 year old girl and her family in Denmark who helped Jewish people during the time of the Nazis. This year I will be reading Anne Frank- a graphic biography by Sid  Jacobson and   Ernie Colon.  Telling, reading or drawing pictures then adding the words gives our children and families ownership.   The Torah gives us this valuable gift of telling stories through words.

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