Note: Chai Five posts describe experiences and activities in my Fifth Grade religious school class. The information shared in these posts may be modified for use with students in higher or lower grades and of differing skill levels.
Our Rabbi pointed out in his comments this past Shabbat that while Hanukkah is absolutely not the “Jewish Christmas,” there are valid similarities between Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. Both holidays have evolved from their rather mythical origins to become family-centered celebrations of religious freedom, tolerance, and gratitude for living in a land of opportunity, not oppression.
The once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah has produced Thanksgivukkah, menurkeys, and sweet potato-cranberry latkes. – all adding to the light-hearted fun.
Speaking of “light,” while Thanksgivukkah won’t come around for another 78,000 years, the Festival of Lights will always be a joyful part of the Jewish Holiday cycle.
“Light” as a theme suggests a variety of learning activities which can both precede and extend beyond Hanukkah.
In Grade 5, we first encountered light in studying the Portion, Bereishit. Students acted out the Seven Days of Creation using the narrative from the book, Being Torah by Jane Golub, Joel Lurie Grishaver, and Alan Rowe. www.torahaura.com
At the same time as we explored the meaning of the Creation Story in Judaic Studies, we studied the Yotzeir Or prayer in the Hebrew portion of the class. Another Torah Aura book, S’fatai Tiftach vol.1, provided exercises for introducing the root aleph-vav-reish meaning light. This book also presents a beautiful midrash about Adam and Eve anxiously awaiting the first Shabbat sunrise before their departure from Eden.
As we continued to study the weekly Torah Portions, students responded to a Class Question about the saying in Proverbs, “The Torah is Light.” This led to a visit to the sanctuary to look at the Ner Tamid and to discuss the symbolism of the Everlasting Light.
A possible topic for our next class which will meet after Hanukkah, is “Jewish Lights.” In addition to Hanukkah, candles are, of course, lit for Shabbat, Havdalah, birthdays, and as a memorial (Yahrzeit). These occasions, in turn, have Blessings and prayers associated with them.
Taking a cue from Hanukkah, there are plenty of ways for Grade 5 to become “enlightened” in the coming weeks.
At the close of his comments, our Rabbi said that he hoped that in 78,000 years we could look down upon an enlightened world which would reflect the freedom and harmony among peoples which Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have come to represent.
May our efforts as Jewish educators light the way. Chag Sameach!
Latest posts by Ronni Sims (see all)
- Home From Camp & Back to School - August 6, 2014
- May Their Memory… - July 2, 2014
- Starting Over, Starting Up, Reviewing and Re-thinking….Again! - June 6, 2014