Month: May 2021

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Beha’aloscha

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of “Stinkin Thinkin”

The colorful term “Stinkin Thinkin” was coined by Zig Ziglar, an American motivational speaker and sales guru in the 1920’s. His main premise was that goals and aspirations are realized when we aspire to make others happy as part of our goals, and when we are focused on the right things and are not focused on the wrong things. This is true at the personal level and at the communal level.

Some common “Stinkin Thinkin” pitfalls are:

Overstatement, magnifying the negative: Nothing is going right today. Nobody cares. I never get a break. My whole day/week/life is ruined!

Choosing to focus on small things: If I don’t get this ….., I’ll never be happy.  Live for… My vacation was ruined because I didn’t get the car rental I had chosen.

Disproportionate reactions: I will block the whole lane of traffic because he cut me off. I’m entitled to act angry and rude because my order wasn’t ready when promised.

Making it all personal: If my …. would respect me, they wouldn’t … I know he has it out for me. I can tell she doesn’t like me from the way she…

Blaming: I was late because that server at the… was so slow. Someone moved my stuff that I left on the dining room table. My company can’t succeed because my employees are so

The point is that faulty cognition and attitude feeds poor and unproductive behavior which than causes a downward spiral of self-reinforcing negative beliefs and behaviors.

With this in mind, let us turn our attention to the story of the מתאוננים, The Complainers. The Torah describes an episode in which the Jewish people were acting discontented. They had just spent a considerable amount of time (over a year) at Har Sinai receiving the Torah and the mitzvos and now they were heading to Eretz Yisroel. The אספסוף, riffraff, suddenly became overwhelmed with feelings of discontentment and a feeling of want, “…we recall the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost, the squash and melons, etc. Now our lives are barren with nothing but manna.” They succeeded in finding company for their misery when they involved others in their complaining. It came to a point that entire families stood by their tents crying with misery.

This was an absurd situation. They were pining for the “good ole’ days” of harsh slavery in Egypt because the food was better! The food wasn’t really free at all, but it was without any moral requirements. The manna was a delicious and miraculous food, but it came with divine accountability. If you were not on your best behavior, the manna fell far from your tent and everyone saw that. Nobody likes to be held accountable and that made them miserable. This made them declare that they missed Egypt and that their lives were wasted.

This is the power of bad attitude and bad self-talk. The Hebrew verb א.נ.נ , mourning, is always conjugated as a reflexive verb -להתאונן- to make oneself mourn. A person can suffer and be happy and a person can have everything and be miserable. That is because happiness really is a state of mind. If a person is focused on big ideas and the big picture, he will not lapse into pettiness and misery. If the Jews had not “run away” from Har Sinai and that which it represented, they would have retained their exalted status. When people threw that away and got focused on mundane and petty things, they talked themselves into being unhappy and discontented. This brought about a great calamity and a fierce response from Hashem in the form of a devastating plague.

The lesson is obvious. We need to stay focused on what is important, work hard, do the right thing and not wallow in self-pity about imaginary problems.

There is another important point in this story, the danger of mob mentality. We are living through it right now as our enemies distort the truth, vilify those who are acting morally and champion the vicious murders of innocents. There are so many people who don’t even know the basic facts of the matter, but they become drawn in by the rhetoric and join the chorus of condemnation and defamation of our people. We are prone to do similar things if we keep the wrong company and if we don’t think clearly for ourselves.

Let us stay the course, strengthen ourselves and do what is right. It will pull us through the challenges of the times.

Digital Tools for Bloom’s Taxonomy

A Virtual Trip to Bar Ilan University for ATT Teachers

ATT teachers were treated to an incredible three-part series over the past few weeks entitled “Digital Tools for Bloom’s Taxonomy.” The program was part of a partnership with the Lookstein Center of Bar Ilan University in Israel. 

These three workshops addressed practical and engaging methods to help students become better learners. The series covered six digital tools, each matched with a category in the taxonomy. For each tool, participants explored specially created examples and learned how to create their own lessons using the tool.

  1. Knowledge and Comprehension 

The first class focused on Knowledge and Comprehension through levels in the taxonomy that help students understand and remember. Teachers saw how the tools Edpuzzle and Quizlet can help teachers with classroom implementation.  

EdPuzzle is a free assessment-centered tool that allows teachers and students to easily create interactive online videos by embedding either open-ended or multiple-choice questions, audio notes, audio tracks, or comments on a video. Student responses are shared with the teacher.

Quizlet is a free website providing learning tools for students, including flashcards, with study and game modes. A teacher starts by creating his/her own flashcard study sets with terms and definitions. There is a wealth of ready-made quizlet card sets that are public domain for sharing. Flashcards can be made using English or Hebrew fonts. Quizlet has a free version for studying and a paid version for student tracking and assessment.

  1. Application, Analysis and Evaluation 

The second class focused on Application, Analysis, and Evaluation, the levels in the taxonomy that help students apply and analyze what they have learned. This lesson showcased the tools Padlet and Flipgrid

Padlet is a free online tool that is best described as an online notice or bulletin board. Padlet can be used by students and teachers to post content or notes on a common page. The notes posted by teachers and students can contain links, videos, images and document files. Padlet can be an interactive addition to any classroom and is a great brainstorming tool that allows for communication between teachers and students or between peers. 

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Padlet’s free version for all users allows teachers to create up to three Padlet boards at a time. Padlet also offers Backpack for Schools, a bulk pricing plan, that gives schools more privacy options, extra security, student portfolios, and more.

Flipgrid is a website that allows teachers to create “grids” to facilitate online video discussions. Each grid is like a message board where teachers can pose questions, called “topics,” and their students can post video or written responses that appear in a tiled grid display. Flipgrid develops a sense of community for students. A library of created videos can be accessed, or teachers can create their own videos.

  1. Creation

The final class focused on Creation, which is the level in the taxonomy that helps students produce digital projects and products. The many facets of the Google Apps Suite were featured during this session. Google Apps are very useful for student collaboration as well as active participation in content. Speakers presented strategies to use with Google Docs, Google forms and Google slides. 

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Participants learned how to work with one shared document and how to share a unique document with each student. Examples included using Google docs or Google slides to teach text, invite comments and display comprehension. 

The group also discussed ways to use a Google form as an exit ticket, which can be a sample reflective exercise to bring closure to the class. The Google Suite can be used with Hebrew documents as well. Specific advantages of Google Classroom were explored as well as rules for digital collaboration.


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The teachers left each class with new tools to assist them in designing materials that will ensure student learning.

The what, how and when of behavior intervention plans

Parents and teachers working with students whose behavior challenges are impeding learning can breathe a little easier knowing there is an effective strategy to help. 

According to Mrs. Rusi Sukenik and Mrs. Ellah Orevi-Greenberg of REACH, changing one’s behavior is possible. They agree that it’s difficult and challenging to achieve, but when following the ABC steps (The Antecedent Behavior Consequence Model), it is attainable.

Change is possible – The ABC’s of behavior 

In a recent interactive workshop, Mrs. Sukenik and Mrs. Orevi-Greenberg discussed the step-by-step process of identifying a behavior of concern and how to modify it. The first step is to recognize the antecedent to the behavior, the trigger that sets off the problematic behavior. This requires that teachers describe the behavior using observable, nonjudgmental language rather than subjective language. 

The consequences then reinforce the behavior itself. Positive behavior results in a positive response from others. In order for this to be effective, the response needs to be universal and appropriate – otherwise the child is receiving mixed messages regarding the desired particular behavior.

Following are some possible functions of behavior: 

  • the child wants something
  • the child wants to escape/protest a situation
  • the child wants attention
  • the child has sensory issues (the child likes/does not like a particular feeling)

Understanding these is useful in helping teachers consider options of how to change antecedents and consequences. 

Awareness of our responses to our children’s behavior is paramount to successfully helping them change a disruptive behavior. 

Understanding the A, B, C’s of Behavior can be an important and valuable tool to a teacher’s strategy toolbox.

Data collection tools and methods to change a student’s problematic behavior

When it comes to helping a student overcome a challenging behavior, collecting data to first understand that behavior is a key step in the end goal of improvement.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Nasso

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

The Strength of Community

In the last verse of this week’s Torah portion Naso, it states, “When Moshe will come to the Ohel Moed to speak with Hashem, he will hear the voice speaking to him … between the Keruvim.”  What is the significance of the word of G-d coming through the Keruvim? Why does G-d specifically speak through this venue?

The Keruvim were angelic-like figures that were on both sides of the Ark. Their wings were spread upwards, yet they were facing each other. Their stance is a physical reminder of how we should study and apply the timeless lessons of the Torah in our daily lives.

We all need to look upwards and strive to improve ourselves every day. Yet, there is a condition being taught to us here how to grow spiritually. As we climb the ladder, we must be cognizant of our brothers and sisters around us.  Personal growth cannot come at the expense of others. When we grow as individuals, it is in the context of doing it together with our community. We are responsible for each other and need to keep everyone in mind to grow as a tzibbur (community), helping each other attain greater heights.

That is why Hashem speaks to us through the KeruvimHashem wants His presence to be felt in this world. It is felt through the words of Torah that He has given us. The symbolism of the Keruvim is the ultimate goal. He wants all of us to strive for greater heights with the people around us as a community.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Bamidbar

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

This week’s parsha is devoted to the regimentation of the Jewish people during their years in the desert. The 12 שבטים (tribes) were counted and organized into camps with a very specific configuration, both during traveling and when they camped. The center of the camp was always the holiest. When they were encamped, it was the אהל מועד (Tent of Meeting) containing the ark and the holy vessels that stood in the center surrounded by the 12 tribes in their designated configurations. The mishkan was the center of the communal service and sacrifice to Hashem. During travel, the holy vessels were covered and carried in the midst of the procession. Throughout the description, there are warnings to maintain careful boundaries and that the Holy should not be trespassed upon.

Rav Shamshon R. Hirsch (prominent Jewish thinker and Chumash commentator 1808-1888) notes the dichotomy in this arrangement. The Tabernacle and the Torah that sanctifies it are the unifying presence in the midst of the camp. This conveys a message of affinity to the Torah and its constant presence in our lives. However, at the same time, the Torah must be regarded with extreme awe and approached with respect and trepidation.

Rav Hirsch explains that these formalities are an expression of the Jew’s relation to the Torah. The Torah is not a set of communal values that were developed by the Jewish people to guide the community’s interaction. It is a G-d given Torah, imposed  from the outside which we must accept and use to model our thinking and our lives. Nothing else will work for us. Therefore, it is in our midst; yet, it is also separated from us by boundaries to assure that we have the correct attitude when we relate to it with respect and trepidation.

The centrality of the Torah to our lives, the accountability it creates for us and the awe we have for it are merged with our joy that Hashem has chosen us to receive His Torah. It is the Torah that testifies that we are His chosen people, and it is the Torah that is His expression of love to us. We reciprocate by expressing our love for Him by learning His beloved Torah, toiling to understand it and to come closer to Hashem through it.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

Reflections on Meron

Parsha Bechukosai begins with Hashem’s words, “If you will walk in my chukim and keep my mitzvos and fulfill them…” Chukim generally refers to laws for which there is not an explanation. Therefore, we don’t usually understand the depth of their significance. Mitzvos, on the other hand, describe those commandments for which we do have a level of understanding, e.g. charity, justice, etc. The question is often raised about the order of the choice of words that is being described in the posuk. Wouldn’t it be more fitting to say first if you walk in my mitzvos since one has the ability to understand what is expected? Then wouldn’t it follow that the natural progression would be that one would be able to even keep the chukim as well? Why does Hashem begin with the commandments that we cannot understand?

I believe this goes back to the beginning of our relationship with Hashem at Har Sinai. We uttered the famous words Naaseh Vnishma, we will do and then we will understand. Our faith in Hashem led us first to accept whatever He sends our way. Our ancestors had total faith that whatever it would be, it was for our good.  They clearly saw the Hand of Hashem in their lives redeeming them from Egypt and all the miracles performed for them. They saw His loving embrace, and they knew enough to understand that they did not understand everything. We need to follow this behavior and walk with the chukim and move forward like our ancestors did.  We need to continue experiencing and developing the relationship between ourselves and Hashem by observing the chukim. After we make that commitment, we can progress in our relationship with Hashem. At that point, we are ready to grow and move further. If it started the other way around, we would question and question and perhaps never move forward.  The following story illustrates this point.

The Klausenberger Rebbe Zatzal was a survivor of the Holocaust who lived through several concentration camps including Auschwitz. He lost his wife and 11 children. On one occasion he was asked the question, “After all that you have been through, do you have any questions for Hashem?”

He replied, “Yes, I have many deep questions. I know if I would ask them, Hashem would invite me up to Heaven to give me the answers Himself. However, I prefer to stay down here on earth with the questions than up there with answers.” He moved forward and continued teaching and building Torah following the war. He walked with the chukim.

The grief and pain that Klal Yisroel is feeling now is immeasurable. We are all reeling from last week’s events. Forty-five souls left this world, many young with so much yet to offer this world. We do not have the capacity to understand this, and yes, we may have questions.                                                                                               

Let us take a moment to step back and see all the miracles and good in our own lives, the tremendous growth of the Jewish people after the Holocaust, the millions of Jews now living in Israel, and the mere fact that we were able to have 100,000 people plus celebrating in Israel together on Lag Ba’omer from all different backgrounds, Chassidic, Sephardic, Litvish, Secular, etc., that came together in unity. Aren’t all those events miraculous? Haven’t we all seen the Hand of Hashem just like our ancestors?  Let us take a cue from them and the Klausenberger Rebbe. Let us walk with what we do not understand as well.

Sometimes faith lies in the question not the answer.