Infectious laughter infused the outdoor portion of our afternoon together at Soul School.  Authentic silliness and energetic release after an already full day filled the fresh fall air.  Memories and teachings had a place to land, be named, and deepen as we revisited the Torah portion we’d just heard on the first day of Rosh Hashanah: Yitzhak, whose name means Laughter, was certainly being born in this new year. (Esther comes to mind infectiously laughing with Shir Yaakov.)

The children introduced themselves to a new student (Luca), and a new teacher (me, Ruth) with their name and a gesture, expressing an inner mood with their bodies, which we all reflected back to each other.  This was to entertain my way of learning, and what I have to teach — which is embodiment (Talia comes to mind giving voice to her name verbally and with a deep gesture of her arms dipping poetically towards each other without touching).  We practiced breathing with a “take five breath,” folding down each of our fingers of our hand to open and then close it, to be mindful of our inhale and exhale and to create a “magic pause” between names and reflections.  

As Shir Yaakov asks to review last week’s class, Ezra defines teshuva as “an act of noble kindness.”  He then wonders about what that actually might mean?  Indoors, this theme is explored.  Noah points towards teshuvah as the arch of returning to what was, and what you were before you needed forgiveness.  And here for me was that moment, as Shir Yaakov has taught -- that we teach each other Torah (young and old).  My deep personal aha at Noah’s reflection (which I interpreted as returning being the noble act of kindness to oneself), fell deep into my own heart which I will unpack in my own journal.

Shir facilitates a talking circle for verbal sharing with each other about an act of kindness within the family, an act of kindness from a friend, and an act of kindness from oneself to the other.  Stories are told of watches fixed, wake up songs sung to children kindly by dear parents, helping friends pass through narrow passages… a softness arrives in the room.

We revisit the words Teshuvah (returning), Rosh (head) and Shanah (year), and Yom (day) and learn we are at the head of the year looking towards the day in the cycle of life.  Simultaneously one child is re-creating Adamah and Adam with colored chalk in English and Hebrew — practicing organic learning of liturgy and letters, and another child is on the floor in the center of the circle shaking out his body of all its stuckness or all the words or stimulation of the day, clearly feeling the freedom and containment to do so.

To close, we continue to strengthen our Chesed (kindness muscle) together.  We learn a Buddhist heart sutra yoga practice with our arms that twists and spirals around the space of our hearts.  Then we come into our hands and release into drawing with oil pastels.  We draw to express and release a time for which forgiveness is needed or we draw whatever is arising for us when thinking or feeling into forgiveness.  

Shir and I end class with asking forgiveness — time — sacred time of Rosh Hashanah has “flown by” and we are parting sweet ways with the want of more completion, and then we bow into… next time… Soul School continues! (Ezra exclaimed, “that only felt like ten minutes!”)

For me, the gift of tonight is in the layers and the awareness and the experience that when that awareness is held in a way that others feel felt, heard and tended to, how all the teaching can be facilitated to unfold before us, from within each child-- each child a unique piece of our beautiful community coming into themselves (and their cells!)

We encourage you to continue these teachings, as you are moved to, in the home. Allow the completion of class and learning to happen in the home, and the learnings to cycle back into the school in a continuous loop as we educate and re-educate ourselves.  

With love and gratitude,

Ruth Kalvert on behalf of Shir Yaakov and Simon 
and the Soul School Education Kevutzah

shir feit


Shir Yaakov is Kol Hai's founder and spiritual director.