Continuity through Traditions, Symbols, Prayers, & Behaviors
18 Unit(s), 91 Resource(s), 1 Teaching Tool(s)
Purim: Customs and Values
Unit on values related to Purim and how they relate to the customs of this holiday
Purim: The Story of the Megillah
Unit on the story of Megillat Esther, the different subjects that appear in that story and the values we can learn from it: characters in the megillah and their development, features of the plot, etc.
What is Chanukah About?
What is the historical story of Chanukah? This unit addresses the different stories of Chanukah and how they have influenced the character of the holiday.
This unit is about Chanukah candles: how and why they are lit, the symbolic significance of lighting candles and the idea of spreading light and its cultural and personal significance.
The Book of Ruth
The Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue on the holiday of Shavuot. The story told in this book is linked to the holiday of Shavuot in terms of the time of year at which it takes place — the time of the wheat harvest. This is also the time of year at which we celebrate Shavuot. In addition to the timing, the content of this book is also related to the holiday of Shavuot.
The How of Shabbat
In this house the “how of shabbat observance” will be explored in all its complexity and diversity among the Jewish people today.
This unit on Shabbat focuses on the songs and melodies that accompany Shabbat – during rituals and prayers, as well as modern-day songs.
Passover: Story of the Holiday
This unit deals with the multifaceted story and diverse faces of the Passover holiday, and focuses on the idea of telling the exodus story and its significance.
Passover: Slavery and Freedom
This unit examines the theme of freedom on Passover and its implications for our lives even beyond the Passover seder.
Topics in Prayer
There are several aspects of traditional Jewish prayer that relate to the development of prayer as a fixed ritual, and some that are related to prayer as a ritual that takes place with others. This unit deals with the topic of praying in a minyan (a quorum of ten people), prayer formulas and the importance of intention in prayer.
Passover: Seder Night and the Haggadah
This unit discusses the various aspects of Seder night – the structure of the Haggadah, the Seder plate, and selected texts from the Maggid section.
Central Jewish Prayers
This unit focuses on some of the central prayers in the siddur (Jewish prayer book), including: Birchot ha-shachar (the morning blessings), the Shema, the Amidah and more.
A unit which deals with some basic underlying questions regarding prayer, including who prays, to whom one prays and the connection between prayer and faith. It also focuses on different types of prayer – shevach (prayers of praise), hodaya (prayers of thanks) and bakasha (prayers of request).
Just Remember: Symbols and Reminders in Judaism
All religions and cultures incorporate symbols and reminders into the norms of everyday life. In this unit, examples of these from Judaism will be presented, and the ideas and values they represent will be explored. Students will be encouraged to consider what their own connection and relationship can be in a 21st century context.
The Exodus from Egypt as a Jewish Calling
This unit explores the centrality of the Exodus from Egypt in Jewish life. It suggests several reasons for its importance, and discusses the moral lessons from it that have guided human behavior throughout history.
Chosen People, Chosen Purpose
This unit explores the concept of chosenness, and what it means when Jewish tradition says the Jewish people are a “Chosen People”.
Saying Sorry and Forgiving
A unit approaching Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur which focuses on saying sorry: the importance of saying sorry, the difficulty in saying sorry, and the command to forgive others.
“Until One Cannot Distinguish”: The Limits of Joy and Celebration
Celebration has an honored place on Purim. We will learn about the reasons for this celebration, become familiar with different ways of encouraging joy and celebration on the holiday and examine the limits of celebration.
Characters in Megillat Esther
In Megillat Esther, the plot of the story and the processes that the different characters undergo over the course of the story are both important. We will study the story of Megillat Esther by examining the experiences and characteristics of its main characters.
Vashti and Esther: Women in Action
The actions of Vashti and Esther in Megillat Eshter teach us about feminine activism. We will study the story of these two women from a feminist perspective.
Leadership and Responsibility in Megillat Esther
In Megillat Esther, Esther exhibits strength and leadership, acting out of a sense of responsibility that leads her to act to save her people. In this resource, we’ll learn about leadership and responsibility, inspired by Megillat Esther and by a Jewish figure from the modern era — Hannah Senesh.
Power in Megillat Esther
The story of Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) presents the various power relations that exist between the different characters. We will learn about the power that each character holds, and the importance of deciding how that power should be used.
Sitting in the sukkah (also referred to as “settling” or “dwelling” in the sukkah) is the main commandment on the holiday of Sukkot. In this resource, we will learn about the sukkah and will become familiar with its symbolism and the values learned from it.
Megillat Rut (The book of Ruth) – Being a Jew
Megillat Rut (The Book of Ruth) tells the story of Ruth’s choice to become part of the Jewish people. In this lesson, we will discuss the significance of Judaism for us and the choices we make surrounding this topic.
Kindness (Chessed) in the Book of Ruth
In the Book of Ruth (Megillat Rut), kindness (chessed) is expressed in several different ways. This unit discusses the meaning of kindness, how we can be kind, and the importance of kindness in society.
Tikkun Leil Shavuot – The Jewish Value of Learning
In this resource, we will learn about the Jewish value of study through familiarization with the custom of Tikkun Leil Shavuot (all-night Torah study on Shavuot).
Ve-Nahafokh Hu – Topsy-Turvy
One of the themes of the festival of Purim is the idea of a complete change in a situation. This resource discusses the difficulties we sometimes face in controlling changes in our lives and considers how we can cope with such changes despite the difficulties.
Contemporary approaches to divine providence and free will
This lesson looks at several contemporary thinkers’ approaches to the issues of divine providence, divine foreknowledge, and human free will.
Human Responsibility and Divine Providence
This lesson explores the tension between the concepts of divine providence and human free will and therefore responsibility to self well-being. If there is divine providence at an individual level, does this mean we can rely on God’s protection if we are worthy or do we still have a responsibility to look after ourselves?
Free Will and do we really have it?
This unit will explore Jewish perspectives on free will in light of the Jewish belief of hashgachah, divine providence. Belief in an all-knowing God that controls the universe complicates a belief in the existence of free will. Yet, free will is a critical component in determining sin or its opposite, the fulfillment of a mitzvah. If there is no free will, how can one be responsible for their actions?
Hashgacha – Divine Providence
This lesson explores the concept of divine providence. Texts will examine the role of God in the world following its creation, exploring themes including what hashgacha is, natural law, relying on divine intervention and does human behaviour matter.
Two accounts of the Creation of Humankind
In this unit we will look at a second version of the creation of Adam found in chapter 2 of Beresishit, and explore various approaches that reconcile this with the version in chapter 1.
In God’s Image
In this unit we will consider what it means that humans are created ‘in the image of God’, and what that tells us about the Torah’s approach to the nature and purpose of humankind.
Shabbat as a Taster of the World to Come (the afterlife)
In this block we will look at three sources that compare the experience of observing shabbat to the World to Come (the afterlife).
Shabbat and Creation
In this block we will consider the connections between Shabbat and the Creation of the world.
Shabbat is the heart of Jewish life
In this block we will look at the historical, cultural, and sociological impact of shabbat observance on the Jewish people.
Shabbat and the Exodus
In this block we will consider the connections between Shabbat and the Exodus.
Shabbat is being in the present
In this block we will look at several sources who all approach shabbat as a means to pause and take stock, be present in the moment, and focus on ourselves.
The Spirit of Shabbat
In this block we will explore the overall theme of “rest” on shabbat as a way to maintain the spirit of shabbat.
Contemporary Approaches to Shabbat
In this block we will explore contemporary approaches to shabbat observance from various streams of Judaism that differ in some way from Orthodox observance.
“There Is a Certain People” — To Live as a Minority
Life as a minority is challenging in any society. Jews have faced many challenges in the form of anti-semitic worldviews and in light of their unique customs, which make them stand out. In this resource, we will explore different approaches to coping with this challenge.
Megillat Esther: Story of the Holiday
In this resource, we will learn about Megillat Esther and the holiday of Purim. We will address the main themes that are found in Megillat Esther and reflected in the customs of the holiday, such as happiness, “Ve-Nahafokh Hu” (all upside down or topsy turvy), concealment and mutual responsibility.
Zachor – the “dos” of Shabbat
In this resource we will consider the positive aspects of Shabbat observance, including the positive mitzvot involved in an active Shabbat observance.
Shamor – the “do nots” of shabbat
In this block we will consider the classic Biblical and Talmudic sources for the prohibitions involved in shabbat observance.
The Four “Memim”: Purim Customs and Traditions
This resource deals with the four main customs on Purim – mishteh (a feast), mikra megillah (reading Megillat Esther), matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the poor) and mishloach manot (gifts to friends) – and the values of mutual responsibility reflected in them.
The Sukkah – Permanence and Temporariness
On the holiday of Sukkot, we turn the sukkah, a temporary structure, into our permanent home for the duration of a week. This resource discusses the experience of permanence and ephemerality on the holiday of Sukkot and in our daily lives.
Chanukah – The Story of the Holiday
We will become familiar with the Chanukah story and the customs associated with the holiday. We will discuss what we can learn from the story and how it can serve as a source of inspiration in our lives today.
First Fruits (Bikurim)
The mitzvah of bringing bikurim (first fruits) to the Holy Temple is referred to in the Torah as an act of gratitude to God for bringing us to the land of Israel. In this resource, we will discuss the importance of being grateful for the good things in our lives, the various ways in which we can express our feelings of gratitude, and the connection between gratitude and the first fruits.
From Generation to Generation
In this resource, we will learn about the lineage of Torah transmission and how we can take part in this chain of transmission and innovate in it.
The Ten Commandments
This resource explores the Ten Commandments, which constitute a moral foundation for the Jewish people and have inspired other nations, as well. It also deals with the importance of rules for society and the individual.
At Mount Sinai
Receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai is a formative event in Jewish tradition and
culture. This resource discusses this event and considers in what ways its memory
has been meaningful for Jews throughout the generations and down to our own
Light in Art: Monet – The Painter of Light
Light influences and determines the way we see the world, particularly in terms of colors. This is evident in the art of the Impressionist school, including the works of the painter Claude Monet. We will examine how this perspective is connected to various ideas in Jewish tradition.
The Maccabees’ heroism brought an end to the religious decrees enacted against Jews in the Land of Israel and to the victory that we celebrate on Chanukah. In this resource, we will discuss the question of what is heroism and who is a hero.
The Different Faces of Chanukah
In this resource, we will draw a parallel between two descriptions of the Chanukah story: The historical description found in the Book of Maccabees versus the Talmudic account describing the miracle of the oil jug. We will deal with the question of how each narrative contributes to our understanding of the story as a whole, as well as our own personal connection to the holiday.
Chanukah is a story of an encounter between Hellenist culture and Jewish culture. It represents the traditional worldview of preserving Jewish identity in the face of foreign cultural influences. In this resource, we will address the tension between Jewish culture and local and global culture.
Light – A Symbol of Good
This unit discusses light as a symbol of good in the context of the Chanukah story.
Light and Darkness
This resource discusses the importance of light in our lives and in the world and the use of light as a metaphor for good versus darkness as a metaphor for evil, examining these assumptions.
This resource deals with the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanukah and its symbolic significance.
Kriyat Shema (for older children)
In this resource, we will learn about a text that expresses beliefs that have been central to Jewish tradition over the course of history and in Jewish communities around the world.
Avadim Hayinu – We Were Slaves
Avadim Hayinu – we were slaves. Based on this passage in the Haggadah, we will discuss the story of slavery in Egypt and the experience of freedom, noting the relevance of slavery throughout human history.
Rejoice in Your Festivals
On Sukkot, it is a mitzvah to be happy. In this resource, we will learn about reasons to be happy on Sukkot and Simchat Torah, and about happiness as a Jewish value.
Sukkah and Memory
In this unit, we’ll learn about the roles and importance of holiday symbols, including their significance on the personal and family level and their significance for the collective memory of the Jewish people, with an emphasis on the sukkah.
Sukkot / Eliahou Eric Bokobza
Eliahou Eric Bokobza’s piece entitled “Sukkot” evokes thoughts about the nature of permanence and ephemerality in Jewish life.
Tfilat Haderech (The Traveler’s Prayer)
Prior to embarking upon intercity travel, it is customary in Jewish tradition to recite Tfilat Haderech (the traveler’s prayer) and bless ourselves that we will reach our destination in peace and joy.
The ushpizin are special guests we invite into our sukkah. In this resource, we will learn about the custom of ushpizin, as well as the value of welcoming guests into our home and how it’s connected to the holiday of Sukkot.
Vehi She’amda – God’s promise to Abraham
This resource discusses God’s promise to Abraham to redeem the Jewish people and to help Jews throughout the generations to cope with difficulties and to maintain their hope and faith.
The Ten Plagues
We will learn about a symbolic action performed on Seder night as we recite the list of the Ten Plagues – the spotting of our plates with drops of wine and suggest the meaning that can be attributed to this custom.
The Four Sons
The four sons represent four ways of thinking and the importance of education that is tailored to the personality of the learner. This resource will address the importance of being inclusive of different types of people, as well as the different parts of ourselves, and the importance of communicating with individuals in a manner that acknowledges and takes into consideration ‘where they are at’.
Ha Lachma Anya – The Bread of Affliction/Poverty
“This is the bread of affliction/poverty.” It is with these words that the Haggadah begins the main part of Seder night – the telling of the exodus story. What does matzah symbolize and why does the Haggadah begin specifically with a discussion of it?
Ma Nishtana – the Four Questions
In this resource, we will learn about the Four Questions section of the Haggadah. We will become familiar with the examples that appear in the text and explore the significance of asking questions on Seder night.
From Slavery to Freedom – for younger students
The song Avadim hayinu, ata bnei chorin – “We were slaves, now we’re free humans” is based on a passage in the Haggadah that describes the dramatic change the Children of Israel underwent from slavery to freedom. This resource discusses these themes and connects both conditions to experiences in our own lives.
Telling the Story
One of the main goals of Seder night is to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. This is done not only by reading the Haggadah, but rather through a variety of methods – which we will learn about here.
The Seder Plate
In this resource we will get to know the Seder plate and the role it plays in telling the story of Passover on Seder Night.
The Seder Simanim
The Haggadah is divided into a fixed series of distinct sections. To help those holding the Seder to remember the order, “simanim” – signs or mnemonics – were devised to indicate the order of proceedings.
This resource discusses the relationship between music and prayer that enables a full range of emotions, feelings and the body to be more completely expressed during prayer.
Jewish tradition requires a minimum of a minyan (10 Jews) for certain prayers and ceremonies. In this resource we will learn about the significance of this custom.
When the Sages formalized the Jewish prayers, they used fixed turns of phrase that we may call “prayer formulas” (or prayer coinages). In this resource we will study some of these formulas and understand their importance.
The Shema is a central prayer in Judaism. In this resource, we will learn about how this prayer has been a symbol of Jewish identity throughout the generations.
The Amidah Prayer (part two)
Diving into the Amidah
In this resource, we will focus on three of the blessings found in the Amidah prayer: one that is national in nature (the blessing for Jerusalem) and two that are personal in nature (the blessing for healing and “hear our voice”). We will explore the significance of each of these blessings in the life of a Jew – as a human and as a Jew, as an individual and as a member of a community.
The Amidah Prayer (part one)
In this resource, we will learn about the Amidah prayer, including its characteristics and structure and why it is the central prayer in Judaism.
Blessing for Peace
The Blessing for peace is about peace between people. In this resource, we will discuss the importance of the value of peace.
Types of Prayer: Praise, Supplication, and Thanks
In this resource we will become familiar with the three main types of prayers: praise, supplication, and thanks, with their distinctive characteristics.
The prayer Modeh Ani (I am thankful), which is said upon waking up, teaches us about the importance of gratitude and acknowledging the good in our lives. Gratitude is so important that the tradition taught that this prayer should be the first thing Jews say as they begin the day.
Birchot Ha-Shachar – The Morning Blessings
Birchot ha-Shachar – the Morning Blessings – are a series of blessings that accompany the various actions we perform on waking in the morning. They express gratitude and encourage awareness and mindfulness during our daily routine.
Intention in Prayer
Traditional Jewish prayer involves set language and is recited at set times. Alongside this, Judaism also values intention and feeling in prayer. In this resource, we will explore the tension between routine and intention/feeling, as well as how routine and intention can complement one another.
What is Prayer?
In this resource, we’ll explore prayer: what is said, to whom it is directed, what we pray for and when we pray. We’ll broaden our view of prayer through the study of the prayer-poem “A Walk to Caesarea” by Hannah Senesh.
Lighting Shabbat Candles
Lighting Shabbat candles is a ceremony that takes place at the beginning of Shabbat and is effectively how we bring in Shabbat.
We will use the song “Little Gifts” to discuss the special time on Friday as Shabbat approaches and the gifts these hours can give us.
The Shabbat Queen
We will read the poem “The Shabbat Queen” by Chaim Nachman Bialik to learn about the main aspects of Shabbat and the ceremonies and customs of the day, in the order of their occurrence from Friday evening through sunset on Saturday.
We will learn the song that is traditionally sung on Friday night. The song blesses the angels which, according to Jewish legend, accompany us on Shabbat.
Shabbat Rest for Everyone
In the book of Shemot (Exodus) the commandment to keep Shabbat is set in a social and moral context. Shabbat rest is intended to apply equally to every person, regardless of class or socioeconomic status. This lesson will discuss the moral aspect of Shabbat as an inspiration to a more just society.
Welcoming Shabbat – Kiddush
We will examine the Kiddush ritual, said over wine and Challah. We will discuss the blessings and the actions they accompany.
Spice of Shabbat
We will read a rabbinic story to discuss the various elements that create a special atmosphere on Shabbat.
Oneg Shabbat — Delighting in Shabbat
We will learn about what it means to delight in Shabbat, in light of the traditional commentary on the verse “and you call Shabbat a delight.”
Shabbat – Time To Contemplate Anew
Shabbat offers an opportunity to rest from the hectic pace of the week and to take a fresh look at our lives. We will study a text by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan regarding this aspect of Shabbat.
Shabbat – A Palace in Time
Abraham Joshua Heschel compares Shabbat to a “palace in time” – a superior and special place we come to once a week.
Feeling Shabbat – People Creating Holiness
We will use a Hassidic story to discuss the power of symbols and human actions to create an atmosphere of Shabbat.
Kiddush and Kedusha
We’ll become familiar with the Kiddush blessing that is said on Friday evening. We’ll look at the concept of kedusha (holiness), in general, and the kedusha of Shabbat, in particular.
The Blessing for Sons and Daughters
We’ll learn about the blessing for sons and daughters that is said in many families on Friday evenings.
Shabbat – An Island in a Tumultuous Ocean
With the help of a text written by Abraham Joshua Heschel, we will touch upon Shabbat’s essence as a moment in time in which we take a break from the hustle and bustle of the week, rest and connect to ourselves and to the sublime.
The First Shabbat
On the seventh day, God rested from the work of Creation.
The seventh day of Creation was designated as a day of rest — Shabbat. From the description of Shabbat in the Creation story, we will learn about how God rested and we will explore how we rest from our weekday routines.
It’s Hard to Forgive
A selection from Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen”, which deals with the difficulty that forgiving sometimes poses for us.
Maimonides’ words deal with the command to forgive a person who has asked for forgiveness.
We will learn the Viduy prayer, in which we confess to our sins using the plural – together with Am Yisrael.
Asking for Forgiveness
A selection from the Mishnah which teaches the importance of asking forgiveness before Yom Kippur
A Happy and Sweet Year – The Signs for Rosh Hashanah
We will learn the blessings said for the special foods (the simanim, or signs) eaten on Rosh Hashanah, and their meanings.
Tashlich – An External Act Symbolizing an Internal Process
On the custom of Tashlich carried out on Rosh Hashana, in which we symbolically cast off our negative behaviors and actions.
Blowing the Shofar
On the origins and meanings of the mitzva of hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.