Birkat Hamazon 4

  • 50 minutes
  • Grades: 7-8
  • Lesson Plan

by: Daniel Rose

In this lesson, students will study Judaism’s sanctification of day-to-day material objects and actions, specifically the sanctification of eating that is reflected in Birkat Hamazon.

Lesson objectives

Content: Students will be able to…

1. Explain how material objects can be used for non-holy and holy purposes.
2. Explain how day-to-day activities can be sanctified.
3. Explain how Judaism seeks to sanctify day-to-day activities and material
4. Provide general examples of this from their general knowledge about Judaism.
5. Provide specific examples of this by using a Siddur or Tanakh.
6. Explain how Birkat Hamazon sanctifies eating and food.

Skills

Students will be able to…

1. Navigate through a Siddur or Tanakh.

Values

Students will be able to…
1. Appreciate that Judaism maintains that there is a potential for holiness in every action and material object.
2. Appreciate that rituals and ceremonies provide the opportunities to transform and ordinary action/object into a sacred action/object.
3. Appreciate the importance of the sanctification of material things and day-to-day actions, specifically regarding eating and food.

Resources & Equipment needed

Matches and bottle of wine Prayerbooks (Siddurim) and Bibles (Tanakhim) for students. 

Procedure

1. Trigger: Take a match, and ask the class what can be achieved with the match. Answers will vary from constructive to destructive (e.g. can heat food, can light a fireplace, can burn a house down, can light a cigarette). Note: If the students do not suggest answers like this, you may wish to demonstrate by heating a piece of food and burning a piece of paper. Tell the class that all material things can be used for constructive or destructive purposes. Discuss this and have them suggest objects that fall into this category (e.g. using a gun defense or offense, using mass media for dissemination of news or propaganda, etc.). Ask the class if there are there any material things that do not fall into this category. Discuss. Ask for other examples of material objects that can be used for good and bad. Use wine as an example (hopefully suggested by students). Produce a bottle of wine. Explain that wine is used for many Jewish rituals (e.g. Shabbat, marriage, brit mila, etc.) which teach us that objects can be used for both ordinary and sacred purposes. The rituals and ceremonies provide opportunities to transform an ordinary action (i.e. drinking wine) into a sacred action (i.e. a mitzvah).

2. Hand out Tnakhim to half the class and Siddurim to the other half. Ask them to search for rituals/ceremonies/ideas in Jewish texts. Examples that they may come up with are Shmitta, Korbanot, Brakhot, Kashrut, Tzedakah and the laws of marriage and sex. All are examples of Mitzvot that regulate our consumption of material things, ensuring our awareness of their potential holiness and divine source. In the siddur, it is easy to search the table of contents and find the pages that deal with marriage blessings (sheva berakhot), remembrance prayers (yitzkor), blessings on food (berakhot hanehanin), and blessings on special sights (berakhot hariyah). Yotzer Or, a prayer that proceeds shema, thanks God for creating light and darkness and other things that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis. In the Tanakh, there are many examples of laws which regulate and sanctify our daily practice, but it will be more challenging for students to find them since there is no table of contents to guide them.

3. Discuss whether Birkat Hamazon is one of those rituals that ensures our awareness of the potential holiness of food and its divine source.

4. Conclude by explaining to the class that Judaism maintains that in every action there is a potential for holiness and therefore, Jewish life is structured around the attempt to realize this potential in every deed.

5. Homework: Students should take a closer look at Birkat Hamazon and think about the following questions: What components specifically remind us of the potential for holiness from material things? Why are there so many laws and rituals surrounding food consumption? Why is food a good example of material resources being used for constructive and destructive purposes?

Appendices