Teaching Torah, God, and Spirituality

Resources from Dr. Jeffrey Kress: Parshat HaShavuah Problem Solving Diary and Footsteps (standing in the shoes of a Torah character)

Click here for techniques in Teaching Torah by Shira Horowitz.  You can incorporate Sasso's guiding questions below in Shira's Torah Talk time.

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso workshop on Spirituality of Children
RENA Conference Nov.2014

When teaching Torah stories, Rabbi Sasso advocates for letting the students figure out what the story means to them, instead of telling them the lesson.  We want the students to think critically about the story in its context, to relate personally to the characters and events, and to internalize the lessons that are relevant to them.

Rabbi Sasso guides the students in processing Torah stories with these questions:

  • What did you like best about the story?
  • What part of the story is most important to you?
  • What part of the story is about you or where are you in the story?
  • What part of the story can we do without, without losing the meaning of the story?  (For ex. A child responded to the Noah story saying we don't need the part when Noah makes an altar to God after the flood. The teacher responded that was the way Noah showed gratitude.  This last question can check for understanding.)

Ask Abby to show you Sasso books in her office that are great springboards for discussing God with students.  For example, with the book In God's Name you can ask the students before you read: What's your favorite name for God.  After the story ask them the same question again.  Children often say friend or mother.  They don't relate to the terms "king" and "Lord" but often say they like the terms "friend" or "mother."

Sasso shared that children can process abstract concepts, if we communicate these ideas with age appropriate language.  Her book God in Between explains to children Buber's "I/Thou" relationship.  We can help our students have a deep understanding of their religion with which they can grow.  Our conversations with chidlren about religion should be clear to their age level, meaningful, concrete for them, critical--open for discussion.

Our Torah stories are filled with "truths" about life, even if they aren't "true."  They are our sacred myths.  Click here for Rabbi Bronstein's writing on the Reconstructionist approach to Torah.

We can use yoga, meditation, and nature walks to help children connect to their spiritual side.

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