Standard 6

Grade: K–2 3–5 6–8 9–12

Students will develop an appreciation for the sacredness of Tanakh as the primary record of the meeting between God and the people of Israel and as an essential text through which Jews continue to grapple with theological, spiritual, and existential questions.

PREAMBLE

God and God's relationship with humanity and the people Israel is at the core of Torah study. Therefore, approaching the biblical text inherently includes approaching theological and spiritual concerns while engaging students in thinking about God: what it means to be created in "God's image," the sacredness of our biblical texts and the role of Torah study today as an avenue for "meeting with God," and the multiple ways to describe, know, and relate to God. Exploration of the theological, spiritual, and existential aspects of the Tanakh will help students to develop their own personal theologies.

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STANDARD

GRADE LEVEL K–2
STANDARD 6 BENCHMARKS
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6.1 Demonstrates and articulates the need for respectful behaviors toward the sefer Torah.

Suggested Examples: stands when the ark is open, kisses the Torah as it passes, gets ready to study Torah in a respectful way, understands that a humash and a Tanakh do not go directly on the floor

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Actively participate in teacher-generated, child-friendly Torah rituals.
  • Regularly demonstrate respect for the Torah and ritual objects that contain sections of the Torah, e.g., mezuzot, tefillin, humashim, siddurim.

6.2 Knows the appropriate berakhot and procedures for learning and reading the Torah.

Suggested Examples: La'asok bedivrei Torah; Ha'arev-na; berakhot for aliyah to the Torah

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Recite appropriate berakhot for reading Torah.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the procedures for taking the Torah from the ark, e.g., standing/kissing the Torah.

6.3 Understands that the Torah has always been central to Jewish life.

Suggested Curricular Activities: invite a Torah scribe/סופר to demonstrate and explain how a Torah is written and made and how verses from the Torah are found in mezuzot and tefillin, teach students to chant selected verses of Torah sections being taught, create a Torah bulletin board

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of everyday symbols of Torah.
    • Design a mezuzah for personal use.
    • Contribute to a Torah bulletin board.

6.4 Recognizes a variety of names for God.

Suggested Examples: Hashem; Adonai; Elohim/Eloheinu; El

Suggested Resource: Sandy Sasso, In God's Name

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Recognize the various biblical names of God and the different meanings they convey.

6.5 Summarizes and embellishes dialogues between God and a variety of Genesis and Exodus personalities.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 2, Adam and Eve; Genesis 4, Cain and Abel; Genesis 6-9, Noah; Genesis 12ff, Abraham; Genesis 18, Sarah; Genesis 28, Jacob; Exodus 1, Shifrah and Puah; Exodus 3ff, Moses, Zipporah

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Develop and participate in role-playing scenarios or similar performances that demonstrate an understanding of the relevant texts.
    • Role-play; dress up as a biblical figure.
    • Illustrate dialogues.

GO TO
STANDARD
GRADE LEVEL 3–5
STANDARD 6 BENCHMARKS
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6.6 Appreciates that all people are created betzelem Elohim, which informs the conviction of human sacredness.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 1:27, 9:6

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Identify the unique nature of each individual and self as a manifestation of God's image imprinted upon each person.
    • Create a collage of diverse images of people.
    • Ask students to write on the topic "what makes me unique."
    • Demonstrate kindnesses to others.

6.7 Understands that there is a range of mitzvot in the Torah that expands the concept of betzelem Elohim.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 2:1-3, Shabbat; Genesis 18, visiting the sick/ביקור חולים, welcoming guests/הכנסת אורחים; Leviticus 19, Holiness Code

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain the connection between betzelem Elohim and the performance of certain mitzvot.
  • Display respectful behaviors towards others.

6.8 Examines the impact of divine interactions on biblical characters.

Suggested Examples: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Miriam

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Articulate, suggest, or embellish the emotional experience of various biblical personalities who interact with God.
  • Develop "continued" dialogues, speaking in the voice of biblical personalities.
  • Anticipate the actions of a biblical personality.
    • Given a dilemma, give a response in the voice of the biblical personality, e.g., "What would Sarah say or do?"
    • Examine how Joseph's "knowing" God is different.

6.9 Identifies Sinai as a significant experience of the Jewish people.

Suggested Examples: Exodus 19, Exodus 19:16, "all the people in the camp trembled…," Exodus 20:15, "seeing sounds," Deuteronomy 29, "those that are not with us today"

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Draw/paint an abstract picture of what the scene at Sinai may have been like.
  • Create a journal that records a "personal account" of being at Sinai.
  • Write before and after accounts of being at Sinai.
    • Share a journal with classmates .
    • Use watercolors to illustrate the experience of Sinai.

6.10 Develops an understanding of a variety of biblical metaphors for God.

Suggested Examples: El Shadai, El Elyon, judge, burning bush, warrior, cloud/fire, eagles' wings, creator, commander, master

Suggested Resources: Sandy Sasso, In God's Name and God's Paintbrush, Douglas Woods, Old Turtle

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Develop students' metaphors for God.
  • Explain the choice of the personal metaphor.
  • Compare the students' metaphors for God to those in the biblical narratives.

6.11 Understands and respects that people have differing and evolving concepts of God that are often connected to biblical texts.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 2, Adam's transitional view of God from creator to responsibility-giver; Genesis 18:25, Abraham's use of " judge"/שופט ; Genesis 16:13, Hagar's use of "God of seeing or seeing me"/אל ראי; Genesis 31:42, Jacob's use of "Fear of Isaac"/פחד יצחק in conversation with Laban; Exodus 3, God's conversation with Moses, "God of your ancestors..."/אל-הי אבותיכם... and " I will be what I will be"/אהיה אשר אהיה.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how biblical characters have evolving relationships with God.
  • Compare different biblical characters' experiences with God, e.g., Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Isaac and Jacob, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Jacob.
  • Engage in conversation about differing views of God.

6.12 Recognizes that names of God require special treatment.

Suggested Examples: Tetragrammaton, El, Elohim, Yud-Yud, Eheyeh-Asher-Eheyeh, Shaddai, Tzevaot

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Use appropriate names for Tetragrammaton.
  • Participate in designing and decorating a class genizah.
  • Use the genizah appropriately and respectfully.

GO TO
STANDARD
GRADE LEVEL 6–8
STANDARD 6 BENCHMARKS
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6.13 Explores why the text might have chosen to use particular metaphors for God and/or for God's presence in particular contexts.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 18:25 and Psalms 7:12, "judge"; Exodus 3:2, "burning bush"; Exodus 13:12, cloud/fire; Exodus 15:13, "warrior"; Exodus 19:4, "eagles' wings"; Joshua 3:11, "Master"; Isaiah 45:7, "Creator"; I Samuel 1:11, "hosts"

Sample Learning Activities:

  • List the attributes of a metaphor and interpret how the text uses the metaphor to understand God.
  • Select two or more texts with one or more metaphors of God and suggest why the metaphors differ.

6.14 Connects the obligations of bar/bat mitzvah with limmud Torah.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Recognize that the study of Torah deals with theological and spiritual issues.
  • Understand the parashiyot of Sh'ma in relationship to the mitzvah of limmud Torah.
  • Keep a journal responding to the impact of limmud Torah on the student's Jewish practice.

6.15 Grapples with the question of what it means that God "speaks."

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Write a short exploratory essay considering why the text says that God "speaks."
  • Share personal ideas of "God speaks."

6.16 Analyzes how various human/divine dialogues influence the divine/human relationship.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 2, Adam and Eve; Genesis 4, Cain; Genesis 6-9, Noah; Genesis 12, Abraham; Genesis 18, Sarah; Genesis 28, Jacob; Exodus 3ff, Moses; Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Explain that human/divine interactions in the Torah impact on our understanding of God and the very nature of the human/divine relationship.
  • Compare episodes of a biblical personage before and after an encounter with God.
  • Keep a journal or chronicle a personal "life-changing" experience.

6.17 Explores the nature of revelation at Sinai as understood by traditional and contemporary sources.

Suggested Examples: Exodus 19, Deuteronomy 29

Suggested Commentaries: Rashi, Exodus 19:17, "Kofeh aleihem har kegigit," Midrash Rabbah Shmot, Exodus 24:7, "Na'aseh v'nishma"

Suggested Resources: Eliot N. Dorff, "Medieval and Modern Theories of Revelation," Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, pp. 1400-1405, Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed II:16, A. J. Heschel, God in Search of Man, meltonarts.org

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Articulate why revelation is central to an understanding of the Torah.
  • Compare Exodus 19 to Deuteronomy 29 and note the implications of differences.
    • Direct and act in a reenactment of ma'amad har Sinai based on Exodus 19.
    • Compare artworks, offering different conceptions of the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
    • Write a journal entry "I 'saw' the voices…"

6.18 Examines how biblical laws influence the theological and spiritual experiences of the Jewish people.

Suggested Examples: Exodus 20-24, Yitro, Mishpatim; Leviticus 1-6, cult law; Leviticus 19, Holiness Code; Deuteronomy 13ff

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify legal passages in the Tanakh and consider their spiritual impact on biblical Israel.
  • Understand the centrality of law in God's relationship to the Jewish people.
  • Analyze how legal passages serve as the basis for the later development of the Jewish legal system.

6.19 Explores the varying views of God in the books of the Early Prophets (Nevi'im Rishonim) and selected Megillot.

Suggested Examples: Early Prophets; Books of Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings; Megillat Esther; Megillat Ruth

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain the biblical text's view of God's relationship to the Israelites.
  • Compare varying views of God as presented in the texts.
  • Analyze the significance of the text when God is "absent."

6.20 Relates personal conceptions of God to conceptions of God in the Torah text.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify conceptions of God as portrayed in the Tanakh.
  • Articulate conceptions of God based on personal experiences.

6.21 Discusses kedushah in its various contexts.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 2:1-3, sacred time (Shabbat); Exodus 19, Holy People/ גוי קדוש; Leviticus 19:2, God/כי קדוש אני ; Exodus 25:8, Sacred space/משכן

Suggested Sample Activities: developing a class tzedakah or a community service project; planning an environmental project, e.g., "Adopt-a-Spot," helping students express awe and wonder, becoming the "class that cares," creating sacred space, creating sacred time, e.g., Shabbat, holidays

Curricular Suggestion: can be integrated with the study of human sexuality and/or a unit on drug education

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Generate a list of actions in the students' own lives and in the lives of those around them that reflect, "You shall be holy for I am holy"/קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני.
  • Reflect upon how the students' actions are rooted in mitzvot that are part of an understanding of kedushah.
  • Identify three biblical texts in which the concept of kedushah is central to the theme of the text.
  • Explain what is holy about Shabbat, the Land of Israel, the Jewish people, and God.
    • Illustrate activities for a week day and for Shabbat.
    • Write an essay on the topic "Making Saturday into Shabbat."


GO TO
STANDARD
GRADE LEVEL 9–12
STANDARD 6 BENCHMARKS
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6.22 Discusses different perspectives of Revelation.

Suggested Resources: Elliot N. Dorff, Conservative Judaism: Our Ancestors to Our Descendants and "Medieval and Modern Theories of Revelation," Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, pp. 1400-1405, and Emet Ve-Emunah, pp. 19-21; Merle Feld, "Standing at Sinai"; Neil Gilman, Sacred Fragments; A. J. Heschel, God in Search of Man; Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed II:16; Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Compare and contrast aspects of varying views of revelation.
  • Consider evidence for different experiences of revelation. based on an era, age, gender, etc.
  • Suggest a personal understanding of revelation.

6.23 Understands the difference between theological and historical/scientific truths.

Suggested Example: the teachings of Torah and theories of history/science will sometimes appear to be in conflict.

Suggested Resource: Stephen J. Gould, Rock of Ages, "Non-Overlapping Magesteria"

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Compare and contrast various concepts found in both the Tanakh and history/science.

6.24 Develops an awareness of the sacredness of Torah through an understanding that the Torah deals with "issues of ultimate concern."

Suggested Examples: origins of the basic rules of society, insights into human behavior, issues of faith, hope, and despair, life and death, radical amazement, treatment of the other

Suggested Resource: Michael Rosenak, Commandments and Concerns, chapter 6

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Consider an issue of ultimate concern and demonstrate how the Tanakh gives us insights and helps us think in a more sophisticated way about the issue.

6.25 Explores the anthropomorphizing of God in the Tanakh.

Suggested Examples: God's hand, God's voice, outstretched arm, divine speech, see my back not My face

Suggested Resource: Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed, I:50-60

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify anthropomorphisms in the text and reflect on their purpose.
  • Explore why the Tanakh uses anthropomorphic images to convey divinity to humankind.

6.26 Explains the development of prophecy as a channel for the divine word.

Suggested Examples: Abraham, Genesis 18:17; Moses, Exodus 32:7-13, Numbers 11:1-2; 12:13, Deuteronomy 5:5; 9:12; I Samuel 28:6; Isaiah 42,1,8; Jeremiah 15:91; Ezekiel 3:14, 13:4-5

Suggested Resource: Yochanan Muffs, Love and Joy: Law, Language and Religion in Ancient Israel

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine the prophet's role in the divine/human equation.
  • Explain the role of the prophet as "intercessor."
  • Trace changes in the role of the prophet.
  • Examine the role of interpretation in seeking an understanding of the divine voice today.

6.27 Extrapolates personal meaning from a variety of human/divine dialogues.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how a variety of human/divine dialogues in the Tanakh have come to influence the student's understanding of God and humanity.
  • Connect personal theological struggles with those of biblical characters.
  • Develop and articulate a personal theology using biblical sources and rabbinic understandings.
    • Create a journal to record a personal understanding of "It is not in the heavens" (Deuteronomy 29:11-15).

6.28 Explores the multiple facets of being a "chosen people."

Suggested Examples: Exodus 19:4-5, 24:7-8, Deuteronomy 26:17, the relationship of election to covenant

Suggested Resource: Rebecca Eugene Borowitz, Liberal Judaism

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine the relationship of election to covenant.
  • Consider an issue in regard to all created "in God's image."
  • Explore issues of "chosen-ness," e.g., Borowitz's "chosen for superiority, chosen for responsibility, chosen to suffer."
  • Debate the concept of "chosen-ness" in today's world.

6.29 Considers how different genres of literature in the Tanakh influence thinking about divine/human and human/human relationships.

Suggested Examples: narrative, poetic, legal, and prophetic sections as well as wisdom literature offer various understandings of the divine/human relationship.

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Analyze the variety of theological, spiritual, and existential modes that are found in various genres of biblical literature.

6.30 Views the Tanakh as a source for developing and articulating a personal theology.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify elements of Tanakh that are critical to developing a personal philosophy.
  • Develop and articulate a personal theology using biblical, rabbinic, and modern sources.

6.31 Understands the unique facets of Torah study.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Engage in text study using the Hebrew Tanakh, rabbinic commentaries, and modern commentaries.
  • Examine multiple interpretations of a given text.
  • Note changes in the development of central themes of the biblical text, e.g., the changing relationships of God throughout the Tanakh.
  • Recognize the biblical text as a place to encounter God and as ongoing revelation.