Examining Pesach with Early Rabbis

It’s been a busy week for Anafim v’Alonim (“branches” and “oak trees” for 4th and 5th grades)! We launched our Pesach unit with a review of שְׁמוׄת א-טו (Exodus 1-15) and had a ton of fun building the story during a Special Saturday Session.

Collaborative drawing of a scene from Shmot (Exodus)

Then, we read a line in the Mishnah that says we should tell the Pesach story “beginning with disgrace and ending in praise.” We looked at a portion of Talmud where two early rabbis disagree about what exactly that disgrace is. For Rav, the disgrace is that the Israelites worshiped idols. For Shmuel, the disgrace is that the Israelites were slaves. Such different perspectives! How might telling the story in different ways affect the way we understand this chag (holiday)?

Understanding the Mishnah in chavrutah

Through this process, children learned some of the history of the early rabbinic texts and the shared language Jews use to talk about these texts. They dove right in to more advanced text study and readily applied the chavrutah skills they’ve been practicing.

From there, they were off to projects! With only 5 sessions in our Pesach unit, we have no time to waste. This year, children are sewing pillows and adding patches to represent their ideas about Rav and Shmuel.

But of course, this is Anafim v’Alonim! We don’t just do one thing. We pride ourselves on the many different ways we think and express ourselves. Children who didn’t feel like the pillow project was the right fit for them instead chose to create short films or trailers using the iMovie app. This has added a unique challenge though, as they must independently find a way to juxtapose their ideas about Rav and Shmuel with this modality.

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