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“I had the Best Day at Religious School” by Cantor Doug Cotler

Cantor Doug at Kesher 2

Cantor Doug Cotler kvells:

I just had the best day at Religious School!

One Monday afternoon, while Rabbi Julia Weisz was in Washington DC leading a delegation of Or Ami teens at the L’taken Social Justice Seminar, I subbed for her at our Kesher learning program.

My plan was to visit the 4th-6th grade classes. I began with a 30-minute session with the 6th grade. I handed out song sheets that included the song Listen. Before we began singing, I told the class that, even though many of them were very familiar with the song, did they know that there were secrets in the song?

Discovering Secrets in Prayer

We sang the song and I invited them to try to discover its secrets.

One 6th grader mentioned, “It’s hard to pray when there is a lot of noise. That’s why the song says, ‘Quiet yourself, there’s nothing to say.’”

Another student noticed that the thunder and wind have to disappear in order to hear God’s voice. I taught them the story of Elijah the Prophet, hiding in the cave (1 Kings 19:11-12). Elijah was looking for God and couldn’t find God in either the thunder or wind. But Elijah did find God in the still, small voice inside.

Cantor Doug with KesherI visited the 4th and 5th grade classes who also discovered interesting and previously hidden secrets in the song.

When Students Notice Anew

One student noticed that you cannot really learn anything if you’re talking. That’s why listening is so important.

Another young person noticed that part of the V’ahavta prayer is included in the song: “Thou shall love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

I was pretty impressed with the serious and profound way the students approached the song. We ended the afternoon session with all of us gathered together in the sanctuary and we sang Listen during the prayer service with new excitement over its deeper meanings.


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