This week, fifth and sixth graders wrestled with a text about the Israelites bringing materials to make a מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan). What’s a מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan)? According to the children, it’s “a fancy portable temple on poles,” or “God’s home, …so they could carry Adonai with them.”
It’s astounding to watch these children wrestle with Torah text like old pros. On Sunday, we divided into three groups and read the text aloud. Children asked so many questions about the text. Then, each group built their questions and ideas, and we ended up with three completely different questions (and conversations!) based on what caught children’s attention in the text.
One group filled in a hole in the text: What did the Israelites do in order to use the gold earrings and bracelets and precious metals donated to build the מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan)?
Another group grappled with questions of where the Israelites got the gold from (a question about which the ancient rabbis had a lot to say!), and what “clean” for use in a מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan) might mean. Children asked, Wouldn’t the gold be dirty from being (in the wilderness) with the Israelites? Would they have to clean it first? And even after it was clean, would it be holy for use? If the gold originally belonged to the Israelites, but the Egyptians took it while the Israelites were slaves, and then the Israelites took? stole? it back, it is holy to use for building a מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan)?
A third group asked: If the Israelites brought “more than enough” precious materials to build the מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan), so much that Moshe (Moses) had to tell them to stop, what could that mean? How could “more than enough” be bad?
How do you understand the text? How would you answer the children’s questions?