Faith when it’s hard to believe

This week’s Torah portion is Sh’mot. It takes us through the enslavement of the children of Israel in Egypt, the birth of Moses, his childhood in Egypt and his call from G-d to be the leader of his people. Quite a lot to pack into one portion! There are lots of lessons that can be taken from this particular portion – trust, community, obedience, kindness, fairness, faith… I’m going to focus on faith.

Faith in G-d is one of the hardest things to explain to kids. When it is used as a justification for beliefs, sometimes it can come across as an excuse. As in, “I can’t explain it, I just have faith.” That doesn’t always work for kids. It didn’t work for me growing up. I was living in the concrete, not some supernatural world where I just believed that G-d was there because someone told me to have faith. As we grow up, we experience things in our life that add to the growing collection of reasons to have faith, or to not have faith. For me, it was instances where the only explanation that made sense to me was that G-d was watching out for me or for my family. My faith was strengthened by my encounters with G-d.

burning-bushImagine you are Moses, you’ve had an interesting childhood full of privilege but with conflicting emotions surrounding injustice and the treatment of your people. You make the choice to prevent an abuse and end up having to flee your home. Then, you experience a fantastical encounter with G-d through a fiery bush. Faith at that time was a different animal. I would imagine it would be hard not to believe in a higher being if it is talking to you from a plant on fire. But we don’t encounter G-d in those ways anymore. We encounter G-d through people, through nature, through prayer, through tradition, through daily life, through dreams, through tough experiences, through beautiful examples. I think we encounter G-d through hope. This past year shook the resolve, trust, and faith of many people. We are worried about human nature, about the real feelings of people that we know and love. This is when we need to have a different kind of faith. The kind that knows that things will get better because we have hope. We can teach our children by example that when we lose faith, we gain it again by being the change that we seek (invoking a little Ghandi there), by being Awesome Jews! We can help our kids see G-d in the events around us and be that example to others as well.

++++++++++ Announcements ++++++++++

Wednesday, January 18th @ 6:30pm – Hebrew School; Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries education program for Teens and adults.

Friday, January 20th @ 6pm – Tot Shabbat – NO Gan K’tan this week.

Saturday, January 21st

  • @9:30am – TASTY Mitzvah day at Ronald McDonald House
  • @10am – Bar Mitzvah of Evan Schroeder. Mazel Tov, Evan!

Sunday, January 22nd

  • @9am – Religious School
  • @12pm – Purim Spiel Practice – come be in our super fun Pirate Purim spiel!

Coming Up

Friday, February 3rd – Family Shabbat at 6:45pm featuring the 4th and 5th grade classes

Saturday, February 11th – Parent’s Night Out from 5 to 9pm. Drop your kids at the temple and go out on a date! We’ll feed them, do some games and crafts and watch a movie. $25 for first two kids, $60 for three or more.

Sunday, February 12th – Camp Showcase. After tefillah, we will will have six different Jewish camps here to share about their summer programs and provide information. Please plan to stay and learn about what is available for your kids this summer. Camp scholarships are now available. Please contact me ( for an application.

Saturday, March 11th – Annual Purim Dinner and Spiel -we need players and dinner helpers. Let me know if you can help!

Sunday, March 12th – Purim Carnival from 10 to 12pm – we need a team to make this happen as well. Let me know if you are in!

Saturday, March 25th – License to Party – TOR’s Annual Fundraising Gala

++++++++++ Religious School Update ++++++++++

This week was Mitzvah Day so each class spent time working on their mitzvah projects. If you have items to donate but forgot them last week, we can probably still use them. We also had a fun time tie-dying more than 50 t-shirts after school. Shirts should be ready for pickup on Sunday!


Our littlest guys stuffed pairs of socks with different treats such as gloves, toothbrushes, baby wipes, snacks and bottled water for homeless people who might need warmth and food. They’ll be delivered this week to the Salvation Army in Roseville.

1st/2nd Grade

In addition to collecting stuffed animals for children affected by terror in Israel, Efrat’s class reviewed and learned the rest of the story of the matriarchs and patriarchs through Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Then they learned two more Hebrew letters (Tet and Yud) and  practiced using the letters they have learned to form words.

3rd Grade

Our 3rd graders sorted through donated Jewish children’s books, separating them into topics. The books will be sent to the Federation to be given to children who do not have a Jewish library at home. In addition to the mitzvah project, the class practiced their Hebrew letters and enjoyed music with Carol.

4th/5th Grade

Morah Sara’s class is working hard in preparation for their Family Shabbat on February 3rd. They have a special treat planned based on the Torah portion, Bo.

Special Note: The class is taking a field trip to the Placer SPCA on February 12th. This is a family education day where we will have a Camp presentation for parents directly after tefillah. Then at 10:45, parents will drive their 4th/5th graders to the SPCA for a tour and educational program. If you have other children in different grades, you have the option of taking them with you, or picking them up later. Purim spiel practice will be taking place that day so there will be someone at the temple until 2pm.

6th Grade

Barry’s class worked on their mitzvah project, writing notes of encouragement on baseballs to send to US Troops stationed overseas. In addition, the students helped the 7th grade with their mitzvah project, blankets for hospitalized kids. The class enjoyed music with Carol and reviewed their Hebrew lessons with the madrichim in the computer lab.

7th Grade

Our 7th grade class is working with Avi, Michele and Paul on their Hebrew decoding and prayers. We cannot stress enough the importance of practice outside of school. If the students are only getting Hebrew exposure and practice during Religious and Hebrew school, not only will they have difficulty mastering the material, they will also experience more stress during the process. The prayers are all available online for listening reference.

In addition, we would like to greatly encourage students to attend Friday night services at least twice per month. Exposure to the service in real time is essential to their comfort on the bimah. Please make Shabbat service attendance a priority for your student.