How might understanding a word or concept in one place in the Torah help us understand a different story elsewhere in the Torah?
What is a brit, and how is it relevant to my life as a Jew today?
How might being able to find my way around the Torah on Sefaria help me learn more Torah?
Learners will understand how the concept of brit functions in each of these stories that they have studied (Noach and Abraham), and will appreciate the ways in which the stories are thematically connected.
Learners will be able to articulate ways in which the concept of brit informs the relationship with God described in the Bible.
Learners will be able to name a few different ways in which brit is relevant in their own Jewish lives.
Skills and Abilities:
Learners will practice building connections across stories so that they can apply what they have learned in one part of the Torah to their understanding of a new section of the text.
Learners will review the structure of the Torah and strengthen their ability to find stories and chapters within the Torah.
Learners will develop the ability to use Sefaria’s connections feature to find other instances of a key word or term.
Learners will build their confidence in navigating and reading Torah, even without Hebrew fluency.
Review what we have learned: Ask the students to review the relevant sections of the two stories they have studied (Noach and the rainbow, and the covenant between God and Avraham in which brit milah is commanded), and synthesize the connections between the two stories. Divide them into groups, and give them questions to ask one another. Here is one possible set of questions, with a protocol for discussion.
2. Discuss the idea of brit: Reconvene as a class, and ask: What is a brit? Who makes a brit? What is the meaning of each brit? Can people make a brit with one another? Ask the students if they have textual proof to support their answers. If each student has a device or book, they may be able to cite chapter and verse. Alternatively, the teacher invites the students who answer up to the board to help scroll through texts on Sefaria and find proof.
Go on a brit scavenger hunt: Show the class how to click on a line of text in Sefaria and see the connected sources. First, demonstrate how to open the text on Sefaria. Some students may already be familiar with the process (these students learned it in third grade). Click on “Tanakh,” then “Torah,” then “Genesis,” and then “Chapter 9.” This process may also be done in Hebrew.
Then, show the students how clicking on a verse produces connections on the side. Click on Genesis 9:13, and show the students how to open the connected text in Genesis 17:10.
(Note: The word brit occurs many times in this section, and this is one of the places where the link appears. The students should be able to find it by scrolling through the verses and seeing where there is a “Tanakh” connection, but you can also guide them towards the specific verse. Alternatively, teacher/ students can simply click on the verses from Noach on the sheet itself, and the connections panel will open. Because the connections to all the verses in that section will appear, they will find the connection to Genesis 17 right away, as shown below).
Explain that connected verses could be listed on Sefaria for a number of different reasons, but we are looking specifically for other verses that contain the word “brit.” Demonstrate for students how to click through to open the verse that is connected.
Note: Be sure to guide them - the connections will be attached to Genesis 9:13 (or again, to the entire block from Genesis 9 on the sheet) and to Genesis 17:10 (or to the entire block of Genesis 17 on the sheet). For the teacher’s convenience, here is a list of the connections as they currently exist (you can add more!)
Genesis 9:13 is connected to Genesis 17:10 (ברית מילה) as well as to Exodus 31:17 (Shabbat, which is also referred to as an אות).
Genesis 17:10 is connected to Deuteronomy 5 (which introduces the second time the ten commandments are given, and see also the following verse, which, like Genesis 17, refers to the brit lasting forever), and also to Genesis 31:44, which is a very different kind of covenant, made between Jacob and Lavan to indicate that they will not fight (and though there is no אות in this case, there is a pile of rocks as an עד, which is interesting).
4) Build a “brit sheet:” Now that you’ve demonstrated this process, let the students work in pairs or groups to click through these links and discover more cases. Ask students to build a list of times when “brit” is used. Ask them to list two instances of brit beyond the stories that you studied together, and answer the same questions about those stories as they did about the first two stories (on this sheet). They can build a sheet on Sefaria, or on a piece of paper depending on access to devices and teacher/student preference.
5) Reflect on relevance: The final question that the students will answer on their “brit sheet,” and then discuss in class, is: How is brit relevant in our lives as Jews today? Are there things that we do to remember any of the “brit” cases in the Torah? Do we have a “brit” with anyone? Why might it be important to remember some of these “brit” stories?
(Note: Depending on the student and the ethos of the school, you and your students might discuss Shabbat, following laws in the Torah, circumcision, making blessings over rainbows, making "covenants" or treaties with other people, etc.)
“Brit sheet:” Use a rubric to assess the quality of the sheets or posters that the students create. A more mature group of students (second semester of third grade) could do some peer review of the sheets, and the teacher can factor peer feedback into the rubric as well.
Journal reflections: In a class where students are invited to write periodic journal entries after a unit or assignment, ask the students to write about the experience of doing this assignment. What did they learn? What questions do they have?
Teaching younger children: These students typically gather with grades 1-3 for Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday morning. Ask the students (or a delegation of the students) to teach the younger children about the idea of brit in a way that they think will make sense to these children. This may be timed to coincide with one of the parshiyot that contain this concept. Then, the school music teacher, who leads the singing at Kabbalat Shabbat, will teach the song “V’Shamru” (there is a Debbie Friedman version, and other tunes as well). The teacher can assess the students based on this experience as well.