Monday, July 12, 2010

Devarim, the Book and the Parasha

If your students don't attend a Jewish summer camp that includes study, will they ever encounter the book of Devarim?  It may be that they will study certain portions that include well-known prayers, like the Shma in next week's parasha.  Or it may be that this book will remain unread and unstudied.  Too bad, because there's some good stuff in it.

Let's start with an overview of the book, and then use the close-up lens to focus on this week's parasha.

A helpful way to begin to think about the book as a whole is with this article from URJ, Destination: Devarim.  You may also want to look at the G-dcast video on Devarim.

  • What are the lenses through which you can look at the book of Devarim?
  • Which perspective is most comfortable for you?  Explain why.
  • Is it important to use more than one point of view when studying something?  Explain your answer.
Now let's use the magnifying lens and focus only on this week's parasha.
  • Moshe doesn't repeat the stories in this parasha exactly as they were related earlier.  Why do you think this is so?
  • Using the principles of Backward Design, we would imagine that Moshe had a Big Idea, an Enduring Understanding, something the people would remember long after they had forgotten the details of the story he is retelling.  What do you think his Big Idea was?
  • If you were introducing this book of the Torah, what would your big ideas be
    • If you were living in the time of Moshe?
    • If you were living in the land of Israel before the Babylonian exile?
    • If you were living in Israel today?
    • If you were living outside of the land of Israel?