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Saturday, December 25, 2010

And arranged the stars according to Your will...

Each Tuesday afternoon during the late fall and winter months, the 3rd through 7th grade read this phrase. It is found in the first paragraph before the Shema, part of the Maariv (evening) service.

During our prayers last Tuesday, many of the students shared stories about trying to stay awake and viewing, and others actually seeing, the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse. I pointed out that through satellites, telescopes both on Earth and in space, and computers, astronomers are able to plot a definitive time for a Lunar Eclipse, orbits of planets and stars, asteroids close to our planet and millions of light years away. I asked them to think about the Creation stories in Genesis and asked if the laws of physics, like gravity were also created. One of my 6th graders then challenged me, "If the Universe is still expanding, did God finish on the sixth day?" I quickly put them into small groups to brainstorm some answers--which in the end were not that different--Creation is still going on was the popular conclusion.

We talked about constellations being in the same general area in the sky depending on the season. Even the Sun entered the discussion, and all the time I kept saying, "Wow."  People all over are trying to understand the working of the universe, but it is very regular--and very orderly. We then read that paragraph again, and emphasized "and arranged the stars according to Your will..."

Attempting to find moments of spirituality during a service on a Tuesday afternoon with kids who have just come from their respective schools is challenging at best. But at home, relaxed with parents, siblings and others, gives us the opportunity to point out the amazing "order" of the universe while star-gazing or looking at the planets and/or moon with a telescope. It may only last a moment, but it could be a lasting moment.

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