Birkat Hamazon 8

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

by: Daniel Rose

In this lesson students will analyze Birkat Hamazon as a prayer and then as a blessing.

Introduction

In this lesson students will analyze Birkat Hamazon as a prayer and then as a blessing. The students will be introduced to the concept, role, purpose and value of prayer, and examine Birkat Hamazon as a prayer text. Blessings, their structure and purpose will also be examined, and Birkat Hamazon will be analyzed as such. Students will then compare these two approaches to Birkat Hamazon.

Lesson objectives

Content: Students will be able to…

1. Describe the reasons for praying in general.

2. Describe how those reasons apply to Birkat Hamazon.

3. Describe the three components of prayer (praise, petition, thanks), using the Amidah as an example of this.

4. Explain how Birkat Hamazon can be considered a prayer.

5. Differentiate between the three types of blessings (for benefit or pleasure/ Hanehenin, for mitzvoth/Hamitzvot, for gratitude/Hodaah) and give an example of each.

6. Explain how Birkat Hamazon can be considered a blessing.

Skills

Students will be able to…

1. Analyze Birkat Hamazon from different points of view.

Values

Students will be able to…

1. Appreciate the reasons why people pray.

2. Appreciate that there are multiple reasons why people pray.

Resources & Equipment needed

For each student: Copies of Birkat Hamazon, copies of the Amidah/Shemonah Esrei (18 Benedictions), worksheets.

Procedure

1. Write in large letters on the board “Why Pray?” and brainstorm with the students.

2. Give out worksheet “Why Pray?”. Ask students to consider each reason and write yes or no in the box. Point out that some of the reasons were included in their own “Birkat Hamazon” prayers from Lesson 1.

3. Briefly discuss their responses to each one.

4. Ask each student to consider if the reasons listed in the worksheet apply for Birkat Hamazon. They should use the text when considering this.

5. Discuss this with the class, looking at Birkat Hamazon as a prayer.

6. Introduce the idea of “Praise/Petition/Thanks” in Jewish prayer, and examine the Amidah as an example of this. In the Amidah, the first three blessings=praise, the next 13=petition, the final 3=thanks. See Amidah handout. Note: If the students have never studied the Amidah in depth, this exercise will be difficult for them to understand. It may be best to explain that the Amidah is a central prayer in Judaism and is therefore used as a model to determine the necessary components of a prayer.

7. Examine Birkat Hamazon to see if these three themes exist there as well. (blessing 1= praise, blessing 2= thanks, blessing 3= petition)

8. Ask the class to list all the blessings they can think of to determine the purpose of blessings and the different types. According to the Rambam (Maimonides), there are three types of blessings in Judaism: blessings for benefit/pleasure (berahot Hanehenin), blessings over Mitzvot (berahot Hamitzvot), and blessings of gratitude (berahot Hodaah). See Berahot handout. Discuss which category Birkat Hamazon falls into (a little of all three).

9. Conclude the lesson by saying that Birkat Hamazon can be considered both a prayer and a blessing. Homework: For homework, students should write a petition or prayer to anyone they wish (i.e. not necessarily God, e.g. Principal, parent, famous personality etc.) using the themes of “Praise”, “Petition”, and “Thanks”. Extra Classwork: If there is extra time in class, ask students to consider the term “Barukh Ata Hashem”. What does this mean? How is it usually translated? Blessed? What theological problems can this cause? (God is not in need of our blessings, so why does Judaism insist on blessing God everyday?) Can you think of any alternative translations to capture what we are trying to say when we say “Barukh Ata Hashem”?

Appendices