Birkat Hamazon 1
This lesson introduces students to the unit and encourages them to consider the purpose of Birkat Hamazon. They will then compose their own version of the prayer.
Welcome to this Birkat Hamazon unit for junior high school students. The unit briefly addresses the prayer text and then uses the text as a springboard to deal with the major themes of the prayer (e.g. the centrality of Jerusalem in Judaism, the sanctification of eating, etc.). The curriculum is based on a Master’s Thesis entitled “Teaching Birkat Hamazon : The Grace After Meals” by Saul Kaiserman.
The lesson plans are designed to provide guidance and ideas for teachers who are planning lessons on Birkat Hamazon. They have been written with grades 7-8 in mind although many are also appropriate for older students. They are based on a 50 minutes lesson length, although some teachers will find there to be too much content for that lesson length, and may wish to turn them into longer lessons or skip various components. Alternatively, an extra class work section has been added which can be used either for advanced students, students who have finished activities early, or for those teachers who wish to extend the length of the lesson.
This curricular unit makes certain assumptions about the students’ background. They are presumed to be students in the mainstream Jewish education system, and therefore have a basic background to Judaism. Although they probably have sung Birhat Hamazon by rote, it is assumed that they have never studied it in depth before. It is also assumed that they have basic Hebrew reading skills, and few translation skills. It is important to realize however, that these assumptions do not disqualify these lesson plans for the teacher who is teaching other levels. It is up to the individual teacher to decide whether his/her students will benefit from these lessons and this study unit.
Introduction to the first lesson: This lesson introduces students to the unit and encourages them to consider the purpose of Birhat Hamazon by determining the ideas and concepts they think are fundamental to the prayer and would include if they were the authors. They will then compose their own version of the prayer.
|Content: Students will be able to…
1. Describe the main objective of the course.
2. Explain the concept of Birkat Hamazon and the ideas contained therein.
3. Describe the themes that they feel belong to Birkat Hamazon.
Skills: Students will be able to…
1. Express their own ideas on this topic through creative writing.
Values: Students will be able to…
1. Appreciate the concept of thanking God.
Resources & Equipment needed
|Each student should have a writing utensil and paper.|
|1. Introduction – Ask student what they think is the most commonly-said prayer. Some possible answers are Shema, Shemone Esrei, Birkhat HaMazon.
2. Brainstorm what we know about Birkat Hamazon. Explain that since Birkat Hamazon is such a central text in Judaism, it will be the focus of this unit. In it, students will study Birkat Hamazon and many of its themes.
3. Ask the students to write down five ideas that they would put into Birkat Hamazon if they were to write a version themselves. Students may suggest the following: thanking God for food, thanking God for the ability to eat and other bodily functions, etc.
4. Ask for volunteers to share their ideas and discuss.
5. Instruct the class to write their own text of Birkat Hamazon. This could be a prayer, poem or dialogue. Those who do not finish this in class will be able to complete it for homework.
6. Conclude the lesson by explaining that some themes of Birkat Hamazon (for example, the centrality of Jerusalem in Judaism, the sanctification of eating, etc.) will be studied more in-depth next class.
7.Extra Classwork: If the teacher feels that there was sufficient time within class to complete the work, the students should read through the text of Birkat Hamazon in the siddur to familiarize themselves with the text in preparation for the next lesson in which it will be analyzed.
8.Homework: For homework, students should complete their versions of Birkat Hamazon, and re-write it in a well-presented form for classroom display.
Additional Notes: The ideas that the students raise in both the class discussion as well as their creative writing can be used for the “Why Pray” worksheet for lesson 8. The teacher may wish to note those ideas discussed in class and presented in the creative writing and add them to the table listing reasons for praying. It should be brought to the attention of the students during lesson 8 that some of their own ideas were included in the table.