This house focuses on the nature and purpose of humankind as understood from early and modern sources examining the creation narrative in Sefer Beresishit.

Unit Ages: 15-18 | 4 lessons


Humans, being formed at the end of the creation process, are understood to be the pinnacle of Creation, at least according to one literal reading of Bereshit chapter 1.1 If everything created before humankind was for the benefit of humans, what purpose does the creation of humans serve? And if humans are not the pinnacle of Creation, what purpose does the creation of humans serve? What does it mean to be created in “God’s image”? How can anyone think humankind is the pinnacle of Creation, or that the human is formed in God’s image, if the first human being is created from “the dust of the earth”? What are human beings meant to achieve in their lifetime, if anything?

Desired Outcomes

Big Ideas
  • Humankind is created in the image of God which suggests equality,  individual worth, dignity, and uniqueness.
  • There is meaning and purpose to the creation of humanity and each human has a unique contribution to make
  • Being created in the image of God can mean equality and unity on the one hand, as well as uniqueness and diversity on the other
Essential Questions
  • What factors shape our values and beliefs?
  • What is the relationship between freedom and responsibility?
  • How can I experience moments of connection to God?
  • What is morality and what are the factors that have an impact on the development of our morality?
  • How is the Torah story my story?
  • How do Jewish texts help me grapple with questions of life, the universe and everything?
  • How is Jewish text a vehicle to help us access connections to God?
  • How am I an important part of my community?
  • Biblical sources, talmudic and modern interpretations on the creation of humanity.
  • The difference between the two creation of humankind stories found in the first two chapters of Bereishit, and several approaches to what we can learn from them.
  • Jewish approaches to gender from biblical sources.
  • Texts that explore the uniqueness of the human being and what that means for Judaism’s approach to diversity.
  • Students will be able to analyze biblical and talmudic texts in order to ascertain Judaism’s approach to what it means to be human.
  • Students will be able to apply these ideas to a contemporary context, including modern issues of diversity and inclusivism.
  • Students will be able to evaluate these ideas and their meaning in a direct and personal way.

Assessment Evidence

What evidence will students provide to demonstrate that they:
Know the knowledge; Can do the skills; Can respond thoughtfully to the EQs and BIs

Teacher creates authentic assessments before beginning the unit

Learning Experiences

Possible Unit Plan

Possible Unit Opener: 

In this unit we will be exploring the Torah’s approach to what it means to be human. You could start the unit by brainstorming with your students what they think the defining characteristics of humans are (what is it that makes humans unique as compared to the rest of creation). A creative way to do this is to draw a lifesize outline of a human form, and ask your students to label the diagram with physical and spiritual elements that define us as human beings (make sure they include negatives as well as positives).

Content Study: 

Each of the four lessons in this House stands alone, and can be taught independently.

Unit Closing/ Assessment: 

Revisit the lifesize outline that your students created at the start of the unit. Create a second one to hang next to it, and this time ask your students to label it with all they have learned from the Torah’s approach to what it means to be human, including using the texts they have seen.