Teaching Texts Resources

Try the Text to Text, Text to Self, Text to World strategy.  Click here for a description of this strategy from Facing History and Ourselves.

The Brandeis Beit Midrash Research Project provides students with the support they need to study texts in hevruta, including giving cards as prompts to guide their discussion.  Click here for a handout from our December, 2015 staff meeting.

The following is from a RENA Conference Workshop by Rabbi Ariann Weitzman and Abby Reiken in November 2014

Why incorporate texts?

  • Show our learners that Judaism has something to say about everything.
  • When we teach texts through critical thinking, students learn that questioning the Torah is welcome.  If they come across a troubling text in the future, they know that they can discuss it with others instead of feeling they need to reject the Torah or Judaism.
  • It's a way into our tradition.
  • To increase students' comfort level - so they become Jewish adults who are not hesitant to engage with text.
  • It's an opportunity for a blessing.
  • Texts through time are an opportunity to teach about the evolution of Jewish ideas.

What are our challenges to incorporating text in meetings with adults and with students of all ages?

  • People are afraid of looking at text.  I don't know anything!  It's scary!
  • "This doesn't feel like business - let's get to the point!"
  • How can we have time to do this?
  • How do you find a text that is relevant and important?

Resources for Texts


Examples of Great Texts to Use

  • Coming in and going out of the classroom kavvanot: http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/aggada/24aggada.htm

  • Talmud texts in Kol Haneshamah-- The personal meditation after each Amidah is from a single page of Talmud where a series of rabbis’ personal prayers are quoted.  See pages 106-7, 322-3, and 510-11 in the Shabbat prayer book for examples.  There are additional examples in the daily prayer book and machzor.  

  • Every tefillah that quotes Tanakh is a rabbinic commentary on that text.  Great examples can be found in the Amidah (ha’el hagadol hagibor v’hanorah in Avot v’Imot, the three quotes in Kedushah, the Priestly Blessing in Birkat Shalom).  Learning those tefillot are a good excuse to study those texts in their original contexts and talk about what knowledge of the context adds to understanding of the tefillah.  The Introduction to the Siddur series is a good teacher resource for uncovering these texts and planning conversations around them.

Multimedia and Book Resources to Compliment the Texts

  • Babaganewz music CDs

  • Disney movies for teaching texts with Jewish values

  • g-dcast.com videos for Tanakh and Chagim, they sell curriculum too

  • Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens Edited by Salkin--each chapter is written by a different scholar and explores a parashah by focusing on one verse.  Bet Am Shalom uses this book for a weekly parashah class with teens.

  • A Torah Commentary for our Times, by Fields.  Includes a “targum” (short synopsis) of each parsha, breaks each parsha down into major themes, introduces reader to a small collection of classic and modern commentators.​

Teaching God:

Teaching Chagim

  • Where Are You Going song by Dave Matthews Band (click here for lyrics) to teach concept of being there for each other in the story of Ruth and Naomi and the verse: “...For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” --Ruth 1:16

Structure for teaching texts with movie clips by Steve Bayar from Ikkar Publishing:

  1. Teach the text.

  2. Show movie clip that relates to the text.

  3. Discuss text in light of the movie clip.

  4. Relate the concept in the text and movie to today.

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