Wednesday, December 9, 2009



It was clear to me that I was not going to even mention most of the events of this week's parsha, namely the rape of Dina and the violent revenge of Shimon and Levi. It actually seems pretty strange to me that these stories are even alluded to in childrens' coloring pages. I was particularly shocked that Aish chose to depict Dina hidden in a box behind Yaakov when he greets Esav. This is a reference to the Midrash that relates that Yaakov hid Dina in a box because he was fearful that Esav might want her hand in marriage. The Midrash goes on to say that this was a mistake. Had Esav married Dina, she would have transformed him into a righteous man. For the sin of withholding this opportunity from his brother, Yaakov was punished with the rape of Dina. Why or why would Aish choose to evoke this disturbing Midrash in a childrens' coloring page???

So, I thought to focus instead on the reunion of Yaakov and Esav. This seemed like a preschool-friendly idea - brothers making up. Of course, in order for me to tell the story in that way, I had to ignore the slew of Midrashim in my brain that interpreted Esav as manipulative and deceptive.

Finally, Andy had the idea of focusing on Yaakov's name change. In the beginning of the parsha, the man/angel/Esav that Jacob wrestles with informs him that "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." We talked about how many names, especially Hebrew names, have special meaning. Maya already knew that Yaakov came from the Hebrew word Ekev, or heel, because his hand grasped Esav's heel at their birth. It was more difficult to explain that his new name Yisrael meant to wrestle with God. Although the idea of wrestling with God may be very inspiring for adults, it is pretty meaninless for a 4 year old. But, she did appreciate the idea of names meaning different things. So, our project was to illuminate the meaning of the Hebrew names in our family. I prepared examples using my Hebrew name, Sarah, which can be translated as princess and Andy's Hebrew name, Aryeh, translated as lion.

Then, it was Maya's turn to make her Hebrew name sign. She already knew that he name meant water (in Aramaic). So, we found lots of old photos of her in playing with water, at the pool, or on the beach. She cut and pasted the photos into a collage.

The best thing about this project is that it gave us a great ice-breaker for our large shabbat dinner. Everyone spoke about their name or names and what it meant literally or personally.


  1. Your project was a great ice-breaker! I'm inspired and looking forward to your posts for each parsha.

  2. I really appreciate you writing about your own struggle with choosing what ideas to present to your kids.

  3. Just found your site while surfing for ideas on crafts for my children. Can you please share if there is a place to copy out the Hebrew letters that you used for this project?