Beyond the Board: 21st Century Learning in Teaching Tanach – Azrieli Presentation

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Google Doc for the Class

Rabbi Dovid Fohrman- Types of Questions

Google Moderator

“Exit Ticket” Questions (Socrative)

Our Born Identity: Jewish Identity in Megillat Esther

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Jonah Hiller (’12) and Jonah Lesnick (’12)

An Open Letter from the Rabbi: Anti-Semitism

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Oren Strich (’13) and Akiva Marder (’13)

Dear Congregants,

The recent attacks on our community shock me as much they shock the rest of you. The acts of violence, rocks chucked through our synagogue windows, name calling on the street, and constant verbal abuse targeted to us throughout the day are unacceptable. Even worse is the government’s response to this mistreatment- or lack thereof. It’s a shirking of responsibility, a disgrace to their title; those who are supposed to be running our town and ensuring our safety and well being are instead pretending this avid anti-Semitism simply doesn’t exist.

Yes, a response is necessary. It would be foolish of us to sit by idly as this injustice is carried through. Yet, we can’t respond on the whim. We can’t respond without thinking through all the factors at hand. We can’t respond with the same harsh and aggressive tactics that our assailants have responded to us with. No. Violence is not the answer. Nor is name calling. Shouting out that the mayor of our town is a “modern day Haman,” whether he is or isn’t, is not going to help us. No. We must react within our boundaries. Jews have faced anti-Semitism in the past. How we reacted long ago must be our guide to how we react today.

In many ways, the Purim story and Megillat Esther is extremely analogous to the situation we have found ourselves in these past months and it can teach us exactly how we should be reacting. In the beginning of the Megillah the Jews found themselves in the same comfortable situation we found ourselves in just a few months ago. Just like we used to ride our bikes carefree in the parks and be invited to community events with both Jews and non Jews, the Jews of the Megillah were equally accepted, invited to the long party of Achashverosh along with the rest of the citizens. As we know from experience, however, it is often in our times of comfort when the most threatening things come about. Just a little while after Achashverosh’s party and the Jews were “one of the guys” the anti-Semitism began. After Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman, Haman became infuriated and wished to destroy all the Jews. He then convinced Achashverosh to give him permission to do so.

It is important to understand, however, that Achashverosh and Haman are not in the same boat. Haman is guilty of what Rabbi Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, calls cultural or secular anti-Semitism. Unlike a religious anti-Semitism we find today with Islam and used to face in the past by Christian Catholics who blamed us for killing Jesus, a cultural anti-Semitism is one where Jews are disliked for their success in running corporations, controlling the press, making money, or any other personal reason. Haman’s hatred of the Jews wasn’t based on religion or even logic really; he hated Mordechai for personal reasons of not respecting him, as a cultural anti-Semitism. As Michael Fox explains, for Haman, Mordechai represented a threat and questioning to his power and therefore Haman desired to kill all of the Jews to regain his confidence and secure his position. At the same time, for Haman it is a true hatred of the Jews and not just a concern for his own well being. He really hated Mordechai as it says וַיַּרְא הָמָן–כִּי-אֵין מָרְדֳּכַי, כֹּרֵעַ וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לוֹ; וַיִּמָּלֵא הָמָן, חֵמָה and consequently he hated the entire עַם מָרְדֳּכָי. Haman had an obsessive anti-Semitism based off of concerns for his own success and a true detesting of Mordechai’s brazenness not to bow down to him and consequently the entire Jewish people. Rabbi Weil pointed out that it is the obsessive secular anti-Semitism which is most dangerous as it has no boundaries. One doesn’t have to look too far back to see that; Hitler is a prime example of the dangers of an obsessive hatred towards Jews. He was willing to dedicate all of his efforts at the end of the war to killing of Jews instead of on the battlefield trying to win the war. Achashverosh, however, does not fall under the same category as Haman. In fact, he may not even be anti-Semitic at all. When Haman presents his plan to Achashverosh he says, יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם-אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד בֵּין הָעַמִּים, בְּכֹל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתֶךָ; וְדָתֵיהֶם שֹׁנוֹת מִכָּל-עָם, וְאֶת-דָּתֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵינָם עֹשִׂים, וְלַמֶּלֶךְ אֵין-שֹׁוֶה, לְהַנִּיחָם.” Never does Haman even mention to Achashverosh that the nation he desires to kill is the Jews. Yes, Achashverosh’s compliance with Haman may reflect a lack of basic initiative and leadership abilities, but his reasons for doing so are not anti-Semitic. As Achashverosh sees it, there’s a scattered nation threatening his kingdom. He doesn’t care whether they are Jews or not. If it’s a threat, it’s a threat. The fact that Shushan’s reaction is that they are perplexed with the decree “וְהָעִיר שׁוּשָׁן נָבוֹכָה” is testimony to the fact that, logically, the Jews did nothing to be decreed against as such. Haman perhaps was aware that there was no political or security reason to hate the Jews specifically and therefore referred to them as an “am echad” instead of “yehudim,” showing that they pose a threat logically, not from an anti-Semitic point of view. Apparently, Haman was driven by an uncontrolled anti-Semitism which he seems to know is illogical and personally based.

Today we don’t face a Haman or Achashverosh but rather almost an average of the two. Our enemies today who are actually attacking us represent a pure hatred of the Jews whether it is for religious or cultural reasons. But those in government who aren’t doing anything about the attacks are not seeking to be anti-Semitic but rather they are just looking out for their own backs. On the one hand, they are like Achasverosh and Haman in that they are concerned about their positions and they are afraid to get involved in anything controversial which would threaten their power. At the same time, they have not shown any signs of passionate anti-Semitism to the Jews like Haman did but, unlike Achashverosh, they are aware of what is really going on and letting it slide. What we really face today is a Pharoah. Like our leaders today who aren’t reacting at all to the anti-Semitism, Pharoah acted strictly by a means of protecting his position The Midrash/Rashi says the reason Pharoah threw the Jewish boys into the Nile was that he was afraid of them; he had a dream in which he saw himself being overthrown by a Jewish boy and that this boy would be the leader. Others are of the opinion that Pharoah just wanted slaves and had a personal interest in turning everybody against the Jews so he could use them to work for him. Regardless, Pharoah didn’t target the Jews because he hated them. He targeted the Jews because he loved himself. It’s the narcissist Pharoah who we’re really facing today.

The only thing we can really control at this point is how we react to the situation at hand. When the Jews in the Megillah were told of the decree to destroy the Jewish people, they reacted by ripping their clothes, mourning, and crying out- וּבְכָל-מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה, מְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דְּבַר-הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ מַגִּיעַ–אֵבֶל גָּדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, וְצוֹם וּבְכִי וּמִסְפֵּד; שַׂק וָאֵפֶר, יֻצַּע לָרַבִּים. (Interestingly, it never says that the Jews turned to Hashem although it may implied) The Jews were aware that there was no way to protest or fight back. The only thing in their power was to react.At the onset, it may have looked like the Jews giving up but in reality it was the Jews reacting in their full capacities. Their mourning was almost their sign of protest against what was being done and to express to the provinces what was being decreed against them and consequently earn their sympathies. After all, Achashverosh made sure to express his mourning “ בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר” where everybody could see him and question what was going on.

Once the Jews are in control however, it is “granted [to] the Jews that were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, and to slay, and to cause to perish, all the forces of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey”(  וַיִּכְתֹּב, בְּשֵׁם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ, וַיַּחְתֹּם, בְּטַבַּעַת הַמֶּלֶךְ; וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים בְּיַד הָרָצִים בַּסּוּסִים רֹכְבֵי הָרֶכֶשׁ, הָאֲחַשְׁתְּרָנִים–בְּנֵי, הָרַמָּכִים. אֲשֶׁר נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל-עִיר-וָעִיר, לְהִקָּהֵל וְלַעֲמֹד עַל-נַפְשָׁם–לְהַשְׁמִיד וְלַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶת-כָּל-חֵיל עַם וּמְדִינָה הַצָּרִים אֹתָם, טַף וְנָשִׁים; וּשְׁלָלָם, לָבוֹז.) Yet, despite the opportunity to do such, the Jews end upוּשְׁאָר הַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בִּמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ נִקְהֲלוּ וְעָמֹד עַל-נַפְשָׁם, וְנוֹחַ מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהָרוֹג בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶם, חֲמִשָּׁה וְשִׁבְעִים אָלֶף; וּבַבִּזָּה–לֹא שָׁלְחוּ, אֶת-יָדָם. They didn’t even take the enemies plunder despite that they were given permission to.

Throughout the Megillah, the Jews responded to anti-Semitism within their full capacities but only as necessary. What was productive in their new position of power was to kill those that are our enemies, so obsessed in their hatred for Jews that there was no reason to try to convince them otherwise; but they didn’t plunder them as that would be a superfluous reaction. The ways we react to anti-Semitism should always be within the lines of what is necessary out of defense and never taking revenge or pushing things farther than necessary as this would cause a never ending cycle of hatred. In Megillat Esther, the line was only killing our enemies (those that hate us for the sake of hating us like Haman’s sons) and we made sure not to take their stuff as we didn’t need to. If we become the aggressors, no matter how we respond, it will be viewed as us taking revenge and therefore we have to try to minimize our “reaction” like the Jews did in the Megillah as much as possible.

I therefore plead with you; fellow congregants- stop the name calling. It does nothing but turn us into retaliators. How can we protest those saying slurs against us when we say slurs against those in high positions who aren’t giving us help? We can’t fight fire with fire- especially, when we are targeting those who don’t actually have any cruel intent against us and rather are just concerned with themselves. How should we react? Who should we be targeting? The true way we should be reacting is by sending letters to the government asking them to take a stand and having peaceful protests where we express our discontent without back lashing anybody else. Those already on our side will be on our side. Those that have chosen to hate us will hate us regardless. But, those who are undecided and are somewhere in between, they will see our peaceful protests and logical reactions. They will see what is being done to us and give us the support we need to be successful. Learn from Megillat Esther. Follow our guidelines. Then we’ll be alright.

A gchat between Esther and the Anshei Kneset HaGedolah

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J.J. Rosneberg (’12) and Nesanel Bechhofer (’13)

So…
Should Megillat Esther be included in the canon?
-You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!-
Pro: Hello.

Con: Hello.

Pro: So I’m Esther…

Con: We know, Mordechai told us we’d be hearing from you…

Pro: I wrote this book….

Con: Could you send it over

Pro: sent Megillat_Esther.doc

Con: Cool, get back to you whenever we decide to put together a book

-Many Years Later-

Pro: Hey there, I heard you guys were putting together a “Holy Scriptures, The Definitive Collection” and I got this copy of Megillat Esther here, I think you guys should include it.

Con: Let’s have a look… Are the events of the story true?

Pro: Yes.

Con: Well That’s a start… But I just saw a story about Moses being a prince in a faraway land, and that seems like it might be true. Also, a jokebook. Why should this one be included in Tanach.

Pro: For a number of reasons. It contains valuable lessons for the Jewish people of all generations and I believe fits well into the rest of this collection…

Con: Hmm… A couple of the guys here have a few objections…

Pro: Shoot

Con: 1st off- This book is obviously not nevuah…

Pro: But it was written with ruach hakodesh, for (Megilla 7a) it says that Haman thought to himself- s/t you need ruach hakodesh to know. (among other proofs, such as Esther finding favor in eyes of all who saw her…, and that none of the Jews plundered…)

Con: Alright, fine, written with ruach Hakodesh…  But that doesn’t make it a holy book… God’s name isn’t even mentioned once! This is a totally secular screenplay, not a testament to God!

Pro: Au contraire mon frère: though God’s name is seemingly absent from being directly mentioned, he is very much so an integral part of the story.

Con: Well God is an integral part of everything, but that isn’t seen in the story…

Pro: Well just the fact that it is completely absent, though God’s hand is obviously present, is enough to see that God must be behind the scenes (after all, since God isn’t mentioned even once in passing it shows it was deliberate, to portray that He is behind the scenes…) We read this every year on Purim, we all know the story- God is involved…

Con: Yet even so- God is not mentioned, you can’t just artificially insert Him in there… If you hide something to well it ceases to be there….

Pro: Well there’s allusions to God: “another place” (Mordechai tells Esther- if not you now, then salvation will arise from another place for the Jews)… The Jews cry out and fast! that serves no purpose but as prayer and appeal to God! The expression- Vinahafoch Hu, refers to a reversal- implying that there may have been s/t causing the reversal!! We made this a holiday after all…

Con: But even so, hints are hints, God isn’t mentioned…

Pro: Well how about the coincidences?? Vashti is kicked out just in time, Esther is randomly chosen, Mordechai discovers the plot of B&T (associates), Achashverosh accepting Esther when she comes uncalled, Achashverosh’s lack of sleep, Haman’s early arrival at palace, and Haman’s falling down crazily at Esther’s feet to beg for mercy- all just coincidences?!

Con: Well still, coincidences can occur without miracles… This can be read as purely coincidental, and is still only hinting at God.

Pro: Well how about the Vinahafoch Hu reversals? everything is directly 180 degrees reverse, no more no less…

Con: Eh, bad argument- reversals show God’s justice when in a God story, but God isn’t mentioned, this is just the story of the underdog…

Pro: But still- saving of the Jews, that’s religious!

Con: Doesn’t have to be. Hints are just hints…

Pro: Well then- all the more reason to include it in Tanach! What better way to have everybody take the one more step and recognize that these hints actually do point to God than to include it within a larger context of Tanach- let all future generations know that this is God- הוא הוא ולא אחר

Con: Well then, I get that, but why then make it so crazy, why not just say it outright from the beginning- what’s the message to be gained from silence?

Pro: It allows people to relate. If God was explicitly mentioned, people would view it as fantasy. It illustrates specifically God’s BEHIND the scenes work. After all, this is perhaps the last work of your collection of Tanach chronologically- let all future people, those without the gift of Nevuah, know that real and actual salvation of Jews from their troubles can happen even when God is not as close to them- you owe it to future generations to give them that assurance…

Con: But this doesn’t fit in neatly with the narrative of Tanach.

Pro: Sure it does. The beginning and middle parts of tanach are more explicit about God’s presence while the latter part, including Esther, transitions away from that to both illustrate how God’s presence is still there and how the Jews have fallen (which we see in Esther at the beginning in that they deserved such a punishment of Haman, for they participated in Achashverosh’s meal and assimilated…). In this way, it connects with a larger theme of Tanach.

Con: Well what else can we get from this? What other messages or themes other than God’s hiddenness, which to be fair is present in other stories (such as God working behind the scenes and orchestrating Yosef’s sale to Mitzrayim…)

Pro: But by Yosef God is there directly, and Yosef himself attributes all this to God. People need to know that even when God isn’t talking to people and things may not be so obviously from God, He is still there…

Con: OK, but still- what other themes?

Pro: A lot of things! For instance: It connects with the larger narrative of the Jewish fight with Amalek.

Con: But we have that elsewhere.

Pro: Yes, but it adds to the narrative both by extending the time in which the war is perceived in being fought and clarifies that Amalek is an attitude. Yes Haman is descended from Amalek, but that’s only the link to the war, it’s what he and his followers try to do to the Jews which clarifies the fight against Amalek- it’s against evil.

Con: How does it elucidate and further show the themes of what Amalek represents?

Pro: Well- Amalek attacked the Jews as they left Mitzrayim though they were not threatened directly by them, merely because they were bugged by them and their God. So too- Haman has got a personal problem against Mordechai, yet he takes it out on all of the Jews- not because of the Jews’ fault but because he used them to rally the masses around him in amassing his own power- he does so after the masses tell him specifically that Mordechai is a Jew, revealing anti-Semitic tendencies, and will only kill Mordechai after his followers tell him to do so… So Esther is the story of that man’s downfall- it is recognized that the Jews won’t fall, they shall stand, but the ideals of Amalek will fall. This is an update to the Amalek story in that now Amalek is not merely attacking the Jewish religion, but the nation even as devoid of religion, since Haman’s anti-Semitism isn’t religious in nature but political…

Con: Go on…

Pro: Another idea is that of Tefillah being successful even at a time of non-nevuah and non-miracles. The holiday of Purim is written as being set up to commemorate and pass downדִּבְרֵי הַצּוֹמוֹת, וְזַעֲקָתָם The emphasis is on the tefillah- and that cannot be seen throught the other tefillot of Tanach where God Himself answers directly, but must be seen as successful in an era devoid of seemingly direct communication with God so that a school boy in a couple thousand years can know that his tefillot too can be successful.

Con: You make a good argument.

Pro: Why thank you, I’m a lawyer, it’s in the blood.

Con: “Lawyer”?

Pro: Eh, never mind.

Con: 😛

Pro: 😉

Con: I’ll present your suggestion your suggestion to my boss…

Pro: Godspeed

Con: Indeed, live long and prosper.

Pro: Goodbye for now

Con: Adios

Pro: A Freilichin Purim

THREE DAYS LATER:

Con: Congrats! it made it

Pro: Thanks, I’ll tell my kids to pass it on for eternity…

Con: 😛

Pro: LOL

Project Based Learning and Megillat Esther

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Over the past year, I have been doing a lot of research and learning about Project Based Learning (PBL), one of the numerous “21st century learning” strategies that his been increasing in popularity in the general education world (See Edutopia’s PBL site). PBL proponents claim that students learn best when they are working to solve authentic, real life problems that are similar to the types of issues professionals might encounter in their work or general adult life. When material is framed in this context, the question of “Why do we need to know this?” is easily answered and learning becomes necessary for more than just acing the upcoming test. As students work to produce a solution to the problem, the teacher serves as a guide to facilitate their inquiry by providing resources, materials and lessons that they can use. While this model appears a natural fit for science and math classes, it has encouraged me to think more carefully about the “authentic problems” we would like students to be able to “solve” in limmudei kodesh.

With the help of some innovative teachers and Dr. Moshe Krakowski, a curriculum and PBL scholar at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School, I developed the following questions on Megillat Esther that students in my Nach classes were assigned a few weeks ago and presented on this week. As part of the assignment, students met with prominent professionals and interviewed them about the “real life” problems each question dealt with. Thank you to Rabbi Steven Weil of the OU, Mr. Michael Miller of the JCRC and Rabbi Yaakov Glasser of NJ NCSY for volunteering to meet with students!

In separate posts, I am sharing some of their exceptional work and – to make their work even more authentic- welcome everyone to comment ont it!

Here are the questions:

1. מגילת אסתר’s role in תנ”ך

You are an esteemed member of אנשי כנסת הגדולה who has received a request from אסתר to include her ספר in תנ”ך (as the גמ’ מגילה records- the request of “כתבוני לדורות”) and have been asked to present a summary of her arguments and those of your fellow “כנסת” members who claim that the מגילה should not be included. You may present your arguments as a written brief, series or correspondences or an oral debate. Consider both the substance of the מגילה and precedents in תנ”ך to support the arguments on either side.

(For this question, you will be required to do some research / interview a tanach scholar about issues that could determine what should/n’t be included in תנ”ך)

 

An alternative along these lines:

On your college campus, a non-religious Jewish friend of yours (who happens to be majoring in Bible) argues that מגילת אסתר is a completely secular book which was written to justify the development of the purim holiday which appears to be a glorified Jewish party day. Either re-enact the debate you had with him at the Hillel’s pre-purim event that year or share with us the e-mail correspondence you had with him about this question.

(For this question, you will interview college students who have confronted questions about the divine nature of תנ”ך and how they have responded.)

 

2. Jewish politicians?

A prominent Orthodox Jew, Senator Moe Bieberman has just been nominated as a member of the President’s cabinet. You have been asked by a local Jewish newspaper to write an op-ed piece arguing for or against Orthodox Jewish involvement in American politics and, since it is Purim time, you decide to look to מגילת אסתר as the basis for your argument. (Alternatively, you may write a letter to Mr. Bieberman arguing your position.)

Some more specific questions to consider: “כי מרדכי היהודי משנה למלך אחשורוש, גדול ליהודים ורצוי לרוב אחיו”- The גמ’ describes how מרדכי was “רצוי לרוב אחיו” and not “כל אחיו” because many leaders of the generation felt he should not be involved in Jewish politics. What can מגילת אסתר teach us about the value and pitfalls of Jewish involvement in politics? How are its messages similar or different from other paradigms in תנ”ך? What can we learn from the מגילה about what our role should be in contemporary American politics? In what ways are there similarities and differences between the מגילה and today?

(For this project, you will be required to interview at least one Orthodox Jew involved in politics at the local, state or national level. I can help you find people to contact.)

 

3. Standing Up for Jewish Identity

The NCSY/Aish HaTorah/Bnei Akiva leadership has asked you to prepare a special Purim session for teens entitled: “Standing up for Jewish Identity: Lessons of Leadership from מגילת אסתר”. Using the מגילה, prepare a session that will enable teens to discuss and learn how to inspire others to be proud of their Jewish identity.

Some more specific questions to consider: What drives an interest in hiding or ignoring Jewish identity in מגילת אסתר and what pushes or enables them t stand up for it? What can we learn from the מגילה about empowering Jews to be proud and stand up for their identity?

(For this question, you will interview local outreach professionals)


4. Invoking a Name

As the Rabbi of a generally comfortable and safe Jewish community your community has been shocked by recent Anti-Semitic attacks against the shul and individual members of the community. Members of your community are upset by the lackadaisical approach local politicians and the police department have taken towards the episode and start referring to them as “Hamans”, “Hitlers”, “Jew-haters” or “Anti-Semites”. You decide that you must give a shiur to the community (or write an article for the shul’s monthly bulletin) relating to the recent episode and the name calling.

Some more specific questions to consider: What makes someone an Anti-Semite and how do you combat their attitudes, power and influence? How is the enemy of the Jews in מגילת אסתר similar or different from other stories of Jewish persecution in תנ”ך? Similar or different from the anti-Semitism of today?
What can we learn from the מגילה about the way/s we should relate to and deal with those who hate/attack us?

(For this question you will have to interview people who have experienced anti-Semitism or work with organizations that attempt to fight it)

The Big Picture of Megillat Eicha

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In Nach this week, students in Y13 and Y14A examined the big picture of Megillat Eicha by preparing presentations on one of the three topics below:

THE HISTORY OF EICHA

Though written as poetry and not a story of events that took place in the time of the Churban HaBayit still manages to present numerous facts tidbits of information that help us understand what was happening before and afterwards. What is some of the historical evidence latent in the descriptions of the Eicha? What does the Eicha teach us about the political, social and personal tragedies that took place? Who suffered? How did they suffer? What was the enemies attitude? Besides bringing at least 5 pieces of evidence that relate to any or all of these questions, you should also discuss the problems with learning about history from a book like אEicha. In what way/s is the Megillah a valid source of history and in what way/s is it not?

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF EICHA

Especially after 9/11 and the continuing “War on Terror”, the psychology of trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) have been popular discussions in countless contexts throughout the U.S. A google search of the psychological symptoms of experiencing trauma and methods to cope with it produces many fascinating results. Find a site that describe these symptoms and coping strategies, and: (1) Find at lest four examples of the symptoms described by psychologists expressed in Eicha. (2) Compare and contrast the website’s coping strategies with what you find in Megillat Eicha. Does the megillah present ways to cope? In what way/s does it refuse to cope and move on? Why?

THE THEOLOGY OF EICHA

Where is G-d when people are suffering? This question has bothered millions of believers across various faiths for generations. While not directly answering the question, Megillat Eicha presents different perspectives on how G-d is involved and should/is asked to be involved in the experience of individuals and a nation that is suffering. What are the different ways in which the Megillah relates to Hashem? How is Hashem involved in tragedy and bringing suffering to people? How does the sufferer use his relationship with Hashem as a means of coping with his tragedy?

Here are just a few examples of the great work students’ submitted:

Making Shemone Esrei Meaningful: Tefillah Projects and Presentations

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After spending the entire semester discussing the halachot and lomdus of tefillah, I felt it would be a shame for us to leave our tefillah discussions without actually getting a better understanding of the words of Shemone Esrei. Following our discussions about how and what one can add to each beracha in the middle section of Shemone Esrei, students were assigned a beracha and asked to consider different aspects of it.

Their final product was explaining: (1) What teens can think about to make the beracha more meaningful and (2) how they would rephrase the beracha in their own words taking into account their new understanding of it. Here’s the class’ final product- Y14A Class Shemone Esrei with Comments. Feel free to jump in and add your own comments – I’m sure the boys would appreciate it.

For anyone who uses twitter, you can follow the “back channel” conversations during the presentations by searching for #tabctefillah.

I was very impressed by their work and inspired to spend more time on my own learning about and researching this critical element of our daily avodat hashem that I never seriously looked into before.

Here are the links to each group’s individual work:

Atah Chonein – Hillel Hochsztein and Nachum Fisch
Hashiveinu – Etan Bardash and Jonathan Packer
Slach Lanu – Ari Teppler and Shmuel Garber
Re’eh – Adam Haimowitz and Ariel Reiner
Refaenu – Noah Lerner, Yonatan Kaplan and Joel Krim
Barech Aleinu – Gabi Stone and Shmuel KnollerT’ka B’Shofar- Reuven Blackstein and Gavi Sragow
T’ka – Reuven Blackstein and Gavi Sragow
HaShiva – Zach Feinberg and Tzvi Wertenteil
V’lamalshinim – Ben Notis and Avi Strauss
Al HaTzadikim – Ari Schiff
Vliyrushalayim – Jared Mayer and Marty Spiewak
Et Tzemach – ET Lustiger and Etan Zecher 

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