Creative Grade Shabbat Services 2015-2016
Seventh Grade: Parashat: Chayay Sarah, Genesis 23:1 – 25:18
Service Date: November 6, 2015
In this Torah portion, Sarah dies at the age of 127 and Abraham goes in search of an appropriate burial place for her and his family. He speaks to the people of Heth: who own property in the area, and inquires about purchasing the Cave of Machpelah. Although the man who owns it, offers it to Abraham free of charge, Abraham insists on paying him for the full value of the land, giving him rights to the Cave of Machpelah and to the field and trees around it.
After Sarah’s death, Abraham sends his trusted servant back to Haran; Abrahams native land, to find a wife for his son Isaac. When the servant arrives at his destination, he rests his camels near a well and prays “O God of my master Abraham, grant me good luck today. As I wait here and the women of the city are coming out to draw water from this well, let the woman You have chosen to be Isaac’s future wife answer me when I say ‘please lower your jar that I may drink from it.’ Let her tell me, “Drink, and I will water your camels.’” As soon as the servant finishes his prayer Rebekah comes out with a jar on her shoulder, he asks her for a drink and she replies “Drink, and I will also water your camels.” Rebekah runs home and tells her brother Laban about the man and Laban goes out to welcome him as his guest. The servant tells Laban of his prayer and explains that this was a sign that Rebekah is the woman destined to become Isaac’s wife. Rebekah agrees to return to the Land of Israel with the servant to marry Isaac. As they reach their destination, Rebekah sees Isaac out walking and asks the servant, “Who is that man?” “That is my master”. After the servant tells Isaac all that had happened to him, Isaac takes Rebekah home, and they marry.
Abraham gives his servant a difficult task. What criteria would you use to find a suitable marriage partner?
When the servant meets Rebekah at the well, the Torah describes her as tovat mareh, “very beautiful”, however, there is no description of what she is wearing, or about her physical attributes. We are only told about how she treats a stranger in her land. We are shown that she is generous and giving and that is what defines her as tovat mareh for the servant. So what is the Jewish definition of beauty?
How do the views of “beauty” in Jewish tradition compare with those of society today?
Based on the Jewish definition, what are the characteristics of “beautiful” people you know? What is beautiful about you?
Sixth Grade: Parashat Va’era, Exodus 6:2-9:35
Service Date: January 8, 2016
In this Torah portion, God tells Moses and Aaron to go to Pharaoh to demand freedom for the Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh refuses to free the Israelite slaves and God unleashes plagues on the Egyptians.
Pharaoh continually promises to free the Israelites and asks Moses to stop each plague, but each time, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. As this portion comes to a close, the hail has stopped falling, and Pharaoh has changed his mind once again.
Interpreters point out that the Torah mentions the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart a total of twenty times. The first 10 have to do with the first five plagues, and in each case we are told that “Pharaoh hardened his heart”. However, the remaining references, that occur in plagues six through ten, state that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. How would you explain this difference?
Do outside sources make us incapable of making good and appropriate decisions or are we responsible for our own stubbornness?
When we make bad choices are we committed to them or can we change course?
Fifth Grade: Parashat: Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1-24:18
Service Date: February 5, 2016
In this Torah portion, Moses presents the Israelites with the mitzvot or commandments that will govern the Jewish community. These laws outline how we are to treat each other, our enemies and even the livestock, while also listing the penalties for breaking these laws. We are specifically reminded to show kindness to the stranger because we were once strangers in Egypt. The rules also provide for the people to celebrate before God three times a year; Passover, Shavout and Sukkot.
Rabbi Simlai; who taught during the fourth century C.E., divided the 613 commandments that Moses received at Sinai into two categories. Positive commandments, that start with “you shall”, and negative commandments, that start with “you shall not”. He believed that the 248 positive commandments corresponded with the 248 parts of the human body and that the 365 negative commandments corresponded with the number of days in the solar year. Meaning that the commandments would guide human beings in the use of all their physical powers during each day of the year.
What is the difference between ethical and ritual mitzvot? What is the purpose of mitzvot in your life?
The commandment to show kindness towards the stranger is mentioned twice in Mishpatim, but commandments requiring sensitivity and justice for the stranger are found in thirty-six different places in the Torah, more than the mention of any other Mitzvah. It is mentioned in both the list of positive commandments and the list of negative commandments.
Do you think that this emphasis on the treatment of strangers and the reminder that we were once strangers in Egypt, promotes greater sensitivity and awareness to the plight of those who are different from us?
How do we create situations where those who are different from us are treated justly and with kindness?
Fourth Grade: Parashat: Pekude, Exodus 38:21 - 40:38
Service Date: March 11, 2016
In this Torah portion, we see how Moses has kept meticulous records of all the work and materials used for the Tabernacle, as well as all of the donations given by the Israelites. Aaron and the priests are given their clothing for work in the Sanctuary, marking the completion of the Tabernacle construction. Moses anoints Aaron and his sons to make their priestly positions official. A cloud descends upon the Tent of Meeting and God's presence fills the Tabernacle.
“When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out, on their various journeys; but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys.” Exodus 40:33 - 38
Third Grade: Parashat: Metzora, Leviticus 14:1-15:33
Service Date: April 15, 2016
In this Torah portion, God describes the purification ritual for people and homes afflicted with skin diseases; God also instructs Moses and Aaron regarding the laws of the emission of bodily fluids.
God spoke to Moses, saying, “This is the instruction on how to purify a leper who is healed.”
What do we do when we are sick? How do we know when we are well? Do we have purification rituals?
K, 1st, and 2nd Grades: Parashat: Acharei Mot, Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Service Date: May 6, 2016
In this Torah portion, God describes to Moses the way in which Aaron is to make a sin offering for himself, his household, and for all the people of Israel. The parsha also mentions Yom Kippur, a “Day of Atonement”, which is described as a day of fasting and complete rest, where no work is done and where the people ask forgiveness for all their sins.
Why is it important, to take the time to ask for forgiveness?