Wednesday, October 8, 2014

That Magic Classroom Moment: Follow-up on the Clay in the Hands of the Potter Project

As a teacher, I cannot really plan for them. I can design learning activities and facilitate classroom discussions. However, it is up to the students to think deeply, make new discoveries, and create connections which they did not even realize existed. When they do,  it can be pure magic. Yesterday was one such moment.

We had two days of rich classroom discussions following up on our כחומר ביד היוצר, Clay in the Hands of the Potter project on Jeremiah Chapter 18 and the Yom Kippur Night Piyut which I described in detail here. After discussing who exactly was the Potter in Jeremiah's prophecy, obviously G-d, although some students pointed out that it could in fact be G-d AND the House of Israel since our Teshuva can actually change how G-d molds the clay.

Then we discussed the identity of the clay which in the case of Jeremiah Chapter 18 is clearly the prophecy. The students realized the connection between the prophecy and their experience molding their own clay. They first had to beat down their clay before forming it to get out the air bubbles. Without this, when placed into the kiln later in the process the clay would explode. Similarly G-d tells Jeremiah in chapter 18 that one moment a prophecy can be made לִנְתוֹשׁ וְלִנְתוֹץ, וּלְהַאֲבִיד, to pluck up, to break down, to destroy. If the nation then does Teshuva, this prophecy can be transformed for the good.

We then turned back to Jeremiah Chapter 1 to wrap up the unit before the Sukkot break. We had ended prior to turning to Chapter 18 with G-d calling Jeremiah to be a prophet, Jeremiah's response that he was just a boy, and G-d touching Jeremiah's lips. We now turned to the actual content of G-d's opening message to Jeremiah. G-d told Jeremiah:

10Behold, I have appointed you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to uproot and to crush, and to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.י. רְאֵה הִפְקַדְתִּיךָ | הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַל הַגּוֹיִם וְעַל הַמַּמְלָכוֹת לִנְתוֹשׁ וְלִנְתוֹץ וּלְהַאֲבִיד וְלַהֲרוֹס לִבְנוֹת וְלִנְטוֹעַ:
(Source Chabad.org)

My students' eyes lit up as one exclaimed:

G-d is telling Jeremiah that he is the Potter! 

At that moment, the entire class realized, including me, that Jeremiah Chapter 18 summarizes the ENTIRE book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah's primary role throughout his life is to help shape the destiny of the Children of Israel. He is the Potter and the destiny of his people is the clay. Even though the majority of Jeremiah focuses on destruction. It is never in fact a destructive act. He is actually creating a new and greater future for Israel and without the beating down of the clay, the knocking out of the air bubbles so to speak, this destiny would never be possible. This puts a new perspective on ALL of our learning this year. What a magical moment!

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