Thursday, 14 August 2014

Eat. Full. Pray. Parashat Eikev.

Last time I blogged about Parashat Eikev, we looked at the meaning of consequences and we made birkonim [benchers].  The reason we made birkonim is, although this parasha is almost 9/10s of the way through the Torah, we now learn the mitzvah to thank Hashem after we eat. The passuk simply states "וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ". 'And you will eat. And you will be satiated. And you will bless'.

"If this mitzvah was not stated in the Torah, do you think people would have thanked Hashem on their own?" I asked my campers. The answer was almost unanimously 'no'. When I asked them to clarify why, the answers varied.
"Cuz, you just eat and are done and move on."
"If it isn't a mitzvah, you wouldn't do it."
"You'd forget food is from Hashem."

Their answers really surprised me. I guess it is a good thing we are commanded.

It was two years ago that I last blogged about this parasha. The text of birkat hamazon I used was Ashkenazi. This time around, text is not straightforward, as I, and 1/3 of the campers, use Sephardic birkat hamazon.  And everyone already owns MANY benchers.

Instead we made holders for the birkonim. Some campers argued they already have one of these too, but no one already owned one for weekday, Shabbat, and Pesach.

 The campers each received three blocks of wood of differing sizes, with a large pile of extra wood pieces in the middle. Scattered around were cups of wood glue with paint brushes. The project was meant to be 'non-cookie cutter' and open-ended.

(You'll note the kids made great projects but clearly never learned about wiping a brush!)

We left our work to dry before painting them.

The work was varied and very beautiful.
 Then we started painting and glittering!


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Vaetchanan- Two of the very most important!

Parashat Vaetchanan  is full of wonderful content. It makes up for those weeks were teachable content for children is hard. But teaching all of it at once is too much. I decided to focus on the recounting of the Aseret HaDibrot and the words of Shema, two of the cornerstone of our Torah lives.

Can you name all of the Ten Utterances [commandments] in order? I am not a big believer in rote memorization but this is one everyone should know since they are the direct words of Hashem to us. It isn't like naming the presidents or capitals, or even the seven dwarfs. But memorization is only going to happen if it is fun. 

I started by teaching the kids the 'calling counting game'. Sitting in a circle, the group must count to ten out loud. But only one person can say each number. If two people call out 'three', you have to return to one. Understand?

Once the children got the hang of the game, we swapped out the numbers for the Utterances. We shortened them, to make the game faster. 

1) One Hashem 2)No others 3) His Name 4) Shabbat 5) Mother & Father 6) Murder 7) Marriage (the boys group said adultery but thankfully there was no discussion of the meaning or implication of either) 8) No Stealing 9) No Lying 10) No Jealousy 

The boys group got the hang of it pretty quickly. The girls struggled because everyone wanted to call out all the answers. But everyone had fun and most kids learned the order. The content of what each really means and all of the commentary on it was well beyond the scope of this lesson. They have plenty of time to learn all the details, but now they know the Ten in order. 

Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Happy, Sneezy, Bashful & Doc

Then onto Shema. I think most of the children have a solid knowledge of the words of Shema and their significance. But I was uncertain how many knew the words are from this week's Parasha. 
"Oh, is that the only part of davening that comes from the Torah?" one girl asked after I explained the origin. 

But everyone knew that the words of Shema are in the mezuzah. So we made mezuza cases. 

Because this was science week at camp, the cases were made out of test tubes. 
 With lots of glitter and glue and stickers, and stuff.

 Everyone enjoyed the creative time. 

 And the results were beautiful! We hot glue gunned the tubes to tongue depressors so they can easily stick to the walls. 
 "Hey, where are klafs? I need to fill mine," one camper asked. Sorry, that is the parents' responsibility.