Here are a few suggestions for reading and viewing that can inform our conversation on Tuesday morning:
First read chapters 21 and 22 of B'reisheet here or in your Humash. [note: in traditional synagogues both chapters are read - 21 on the first day and 22 on the second day. In Reform synagogues that celebrate only one day chapter 22 is read. In Reform synagogues that celebrate two days the story of creation is usually read on the second day]
- What is the content of chapter 21?
- What is the content of chapter 22?
A shorter version which includes much of the above appears at My Jewish Learning, in an article by Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs. You may find it easier reading, and you will still get most of the ideas that are in the JVL version, though not in as much detail.
One of the issues often discussed by Jewish educators is the issue of the suitability of this story for children. An excerpt from an article about this appears here. Although just an excerpt, it can easily serve as a jumping-off point for our conversation.
Tablet Magazine, a wonderful online resource for interesting and often controversial articles and Jewish news, has posted a podcast (you can listen here) of an interview with a Christian author who has written about the akedah from the perspective of its influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, particularly in the attitudes of each of these religions toward martyrdom. The podcast is long, nearly 20 minutes, but if you have the patience to listen to the whole thing I think you will find it adds to our understanding of the impact of this story.
This article in Jewcy Magazine - Son Sacrifice: Humility and the Significance of the Akedah is a good presentation of the difference between the way Americans look at this story and the way Israelis see it.
Finally, as a sort of comic relief, watch this video. I'm really curious as to your reaction.
I'd like you to think about the following questions for our conversation tomorrow. As always, I welcome your comments directly on the blog as well as in person.
- In your opinion, why do you think the rabbis chose these two chapters to be read on Rosh HaShanah?
- In those synagogues in which Rosh HaShanah is celebrated for one day, why do you think chapter 22 was selected?
- What do you think about teaching this story to children? Does the age of the children affect how you will tell the story? Or if you will tell it at all?
- Telling this story in Israel is very different from telling it in our context. Why? Do you think the way it is understood in Israel should be shared with our students here? What can our students learn about Israel and Israeli culture from this conversation? What can Israelis learn about American Jews from this conversation?
- If you think about teaching these two chapters year after year, before every Rosh HaShanah, how do you think the teaching and learning might change from year to year?
- Remembering that our guiding principle is that the Big Ideas in what we learn are those elements we want our students to remember after they have forgotten everything else, what do you believe is (or are) the Big Idea(s) of this Torah reading?