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Standard 8

Grade: K–2 3–5 6–8 9–12

Students will develop a love of Torah study for its own sake and embrace it as an inspiring resource, informing their values, moral commitments, and ways of experiencing the world.


תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם

"Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam": That the study of Torah ultimately leads to all other good endeavors is a fundamental principle of Jewish text study and represents a core value of the Jewish people. This standard provides teachers and students with a lens through which to explore the Tanakh as a dynamic text that can profoundly influence values and a sense of moral commitments as well as foster a love of Torah study for its own sake.



8.1 Displays excitement, respect, and anticipation for Torah study.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Anticipate teacher's instruction.
  • Assist teacher in getting classmates to prepare for Torah study.

8.2 Links specific value behaviors with biblical personalities in narrative settings.

Suggested Examples:
שומרי האדמה guardians of the earth, e.g., Adam and Eve
הכנסת אורחים welcoming guests, e.g., Abraham and Sarah
ביקור חולים visiting the sick, e.g., God and Abraham
צדק ומשפט righteousness and justice, e.g., Abraham, Moses, Shifra, and Puah.

8.3 Applies values into personal Jewish practice.

Suggested Example: Incorporate the above values as regular tasks on the job chart.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Acknowledge when a guest enters the classroom.
  • Participate in acts of kindness, e.g., helping in school, calling an absent student.
  • Identify school issues that can be improved.
  • Treat others as one would like to be treated by others/ ואהבת לרעך כמוך.
  • Respect one's own space and the space of others.
  • Include all in play activities and demonstrate "you can't say, 'you can't play'"/אל תלבין פני חברך.
    • Participate in a class toy drive.
    • Invite and host a special guest.
    • Care for the school garden.
    • Take part in the class's turn for school "cleanup."

8.4 Engages enthusiastically in the study of Torah.

Suggested Examples: Invite parents, the principal, or other guests for shared Torah study sessions. Create special time for challenging Torah-related questions. Have a Kabbalat HaTorah celebration.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Continue conversations about the Torah with the teacher outside of classroom time.
  • Share with the class a discussion from home.
  • Ask questions about the Torah lesson.
  • Choose a favorite Torah portion for circle time.


8.5 Expresses empathy for the biblical characters.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Respond to what you would do if you were, say, Abraham? Sarah? Hagar? Joseph?
  • Portray a biblical personage in a skit, dance, or pantomime.
  • Talk about how a biblical character might feel when…

8.6 Explores alternative outcomes to various biblical conflicts.

Suggested Examples: Why did Sarah laugh in Genesis 18? What might you have done differently if you were Joseph in the pit? In Parashat Toldot, what would you do to change the relationship between Jacob and Esau? What if you were Moshe and you decided not to hit the rock?

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Use personal experiences to suggest an alternative ending or resolution.
  • Raise questions about events or motivations of biblical figures.
    • Role-play, dramatize.

8.7 Demonstrates the ability to compare dilemmas in one's personal life with dilemmas explored in biblical narrative.

Suggested Examples: family relationships, sibling rivalry, jealousy, making choices

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Make links between events described in the biblical narrative and personal experience.
  • Respond to "What might this be like today?"
  • "Correspond" with a biblical figure, taking on both roles.

8.8 Participates in Torah lishmah activities.

Suggested Examples: Take part in a Kabbalat Shabbat activity with Parashat HaShavu'ot study. Invite parents to participate with students in a tikkun leil Shavu'ot.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Illustrate a favorite passage or verse.
  • Retell a bible story or parashah at home.


8.9 Explores various perspectives of modern moral issues in teacher-identified texts.

Suggested Examples: Genesis (integrity, justice, loyalty, fairness), Exodus (treatment of others, moral courage), Judges (charismatic leadership, morality in warfare), I Samuel (limitations of friendship, succession, and warfare), II Samuel, Kings (abuse of power and authority, moral corruption, and violence), Ruth (family loyalty and responsibility), Esther (women's issues, Jewish identity, standing up for what you believe, restoring social order, responsibility in victory), Jonah (self-righteousness, responsibility, attitudes of Jews toward Gentiles)

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Connect a current event to Tanakh study.
  • Articulate the conflicts and ambiguities in the biblical dilemma.
  • Find articles or pictures to caption with verses from Tanakh.
    • Participate in creating a class or group collage.

8.10 Examines how various biblical conflicts are resolved.

Suggested Examples:

Genesis: Cain and Abel; punishment in the flood generation; Tower of Babel; Abraham and Lot; Sodom, Sarah, and Hagar; Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau; Jacob and Laban; Joseph and his brothers

Exodus: Bat-Pharaoh and the midwives, Moses and the Egyptian

Numbers: Miriam and Moses; Pinches, Omri, and Zimri

I Samuel: Samuel, Saul, and Agag

II Samuel: David and Bathsheba

I Kings: Ahab, Jezebel, and Navot

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explore the positive and negative aspects of situations.
  • Do a dramatic reading conveying a personal position.
  • Write a journal entry in the voice of a biblical character.
  • Evaluate the acts of biblical characters.
    • Create a "scruples" game.
    • Participate in a trial of a personality or a situation.
    • Debate various sides of a conflict or situation.

8.11 Recognizes the universality of specific themes and ideas in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: sibling rivalry (Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah); jealousy (Hagar and Sarah); compassion and friendship (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi); communal responsibility ( כי ימוך אחיך—taking care of the poor and disenfranchised); the need for law and precedents (Revelation, the Decalogue, Mishpatim, Zelophehad's daughters); rebellion (Israelites, Korach); human strengths and foibles; good and evil; free will (Adam); covenant and obligation; reward and punishment; feminism, moral courage (midwives, Pharoah's daughter)

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Share examples from the present in discussing the text.
  • Create a newspaper with articles reflecting a theme in the modern idiom.
  • Write or act in a parable based on a theme of the text.
  • Given a theme or verse from the text, design a collage reflecting the theme.

8.12 Replicates and authentically applies key phrases and quotes drawn from biblical texts related to morality.

Suggested Examples:

In the image of God (Gen. 1:27) בצלם אלוהים

Am I my brother's keeper? (Gen. 4:9) .השומר אחי אנכי

Honor your father and mother. (Exod. 20:12) .כבד את אביך ואת אמך

You shall not insult the deaf. (Lev. 19:14) .לא תקלל חרש

Do not stand upon your fellow's blood. (Lev. 19:15) .לא תעמוד על דם רעך

Love your fellow as yourself. (Lev. 19:17) .ואהבת לרעך כמוך

For you were strangers in a strange land. (Lev. 19:34) .כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים

Justice, justice you shall pursue. (Deut. 16:20) .צדק צדק תרדוף

Do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.... (Micah 6:8) .כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת עם אלהיך

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Write a parable or a devar Torah based on a phrase or verse.
  • Design a sign and/or illustration with a chosen phrase.
  • Write a song based on a phrase.
  • Design the ideal society in response to: What would a society, community, or our school look like if this phrase served as a cornerstone of its vision?

8.13 Examines legal passages in the Torah for their ethical and moral implications.

Suggested Examples: Exodus 21:1-14, the Decalogue; Exodus 21-25, Parashat Mishpatim; Leviticus 11, dietary laws; Deuteronomy 22:1-3, "returning of a lost object"; Deuteronomy 24:17-18, laws concerning the stranger, widow, and orphan; Deuteronomy 24:19-22, laws of leaving sheaves and corners of the field for the indigent and disenfranchised

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Analyze the rationale of a law when it was originally applied and both how and why its application may have evolved over time.
  • Explore how the law may appear in Judaism today.
  • Examine the rationale of a law when stated.

8.14 Participates in Torah lishmah activities.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Prepare a devar Torah for a Kabbalat Shabbat program or for a prayer service.
  • Present and teach a biblical passage in a parent/student bar and bat mitzvah program or an evening of learning.

8.15 Identifies and articulates various perspectives on modern moral issues using either teacher- or student-identified biblical texts.

Suggested Examples: equality of humankind; revenge and justice; war and the pursuit of peace; morality in warfare; abuse of power and moral corruption; family loyalty and conflicts; deceit, personal integrity, and honesty; attitudes of Jews toward others; justice and mercy; meaningful laws; verbal and physical violence; creating a just society; reward and punishment

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Abstract major moral themes from biblical contexts.
  • Raise questions about the "morality" of a narrative or a law in light of the Torah's own truths and/or in light of a personal ethical view.
    • Relate current news or a current topic to Torah study.
    • Argue dilemmas from a personal perspective.
    • Take and state a position in "four corners."
    • Do investigative reporting and an "interview."


8.16 Evaluates legal passages in the Torah within their historical/biblical context for their ethical and moral implications.

Suggested Examples: lex talionis (an eye for an eye), laws of slavery, levirate marriage, sacrifices, civil and criminal laws, courts and witnesses, laws of warfare

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain and analyze Pentateuchal law within its historical/biblical context.
  • Trace the development and changes in law (can be integrated within a rabbinics unit).
  • Compare a law to an ancient and Near Eastern law (see Standard 2).

8.17 Discerns legal practices from various narratives.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 23:10, Abraham and Ephron, land purchase; Genesis 32:33, Jacob's struggle, ban on eating the thigh tendon; Genesis 38, Judah and Tamar, levirate marriage; Jeremiah 32:10-17, Jeremiah and Hanamiel, deed of purchase

Suggested Resource: Ed Greenstein, "Dietary Laws," Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary; Norman Lamm, Jewish Ethics and Practice

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Present possible interpretations of the symbolism of the law.
  • Adduce the meaning of the significance of the law from its narrative.

8.18 Uses a variety of methods for responding to narratives and laws that challenge ethical understandings of the Torah.

Suggested Examples: Genesis 27, Jacob's deception of Isaac; Genesis 34, rape of Dina and revenge of Simon and Levi; Numbers 5:11-29, laws of the Sotah; Deuteronomy 20:17, laws of herem (destroying the inhabitants of the land)

Suggested Resources: Moshe Greenberg, "Moral Issues in the Bible," lecture on video, JTS; Barry Holtz, Textual Knowledge: Teaching the Bible in Theory and Practice, pp. 129-149

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Evaluate a selection for its timelessness or its place within an historical context.
  • Refer to commentaries to compare various interpretations.
  • Recognize that the Torah presents unanswered and unanswerable questions.

8.19 Shows how traditional and modern biblical commentators develop biblical issues of morality.

Suggested Examples: Moshe Greenberg, "On Teaching the Bible in Religious Schools," Jewish Education, 29, no.3 (1959): 45-33; Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in the Book of Genesis, pp. 53-59

Sample Learning Activity

  • Research commentaries on an issue of morality.
  • Write an editorial on a biblical issue.

8.20 Identifies issues of social justice in the Tanakh and applies its messages.

Suggested Examples: Exodus, slavery; Leviticus 19, Parashat Kedoshim; Deuteronomy 16:1-12, tithing and caring for the poor; Isaiah 2:1-4, call for peace; Isaiah 58:2-7, call to correct societal ills; Jeremiah 8:10-12, acting falsely; Jeremiah 9:23, call for kindness, justice, and equity; Amos 4:1-3 and 5:12-13, corrupt courts and human disregard; Amos 5:21-25, call for righteousness and justice

Curricular Suggestion: can be integrated with a social-studies elective, e.g., poverty in America, emerging nations

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Analyze current-events issue through the lens of a Torah text.
  • Create a collage on the theme of social justice.
  • Debate the role of ritual in fostering moral and ethical behavior.
  • Identify the theme of the religious imperative and the theme of the need for freedom, law, land, and self-governance throughout the biblical narrative.
  • Compare and contrast other cultures and societies' self-definitions to emergent Israelite society.
    • Interviews a social activist on a particular social agenda
    • Initiates or joins a social-action committee
    • Develops a special tzedakah project

8.21 Analyzes the potential inspirational impact of biblical poems, psalms, and proverbs on the reader.

Suggested Examples: Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 28-32, Judges 4, Psalms 14, 23, 34, 117, 150, 126

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Analyze a biblical poem using modern literary techniques.
  • Based on the student's knowledge of Tehillim, write a personal psalm.
  • Write poetic interpretations of biblical events in the voice of biblical characters in a particular setting.

8.22 Identifies biblical influences and themes in music, literature, and art.

Suggested Example: integrate art into a text study

Sample Resources:

http://www.ou.edu/cls/bible/resources.html; http://www.ratnermuseum.com/
http://virtualart.admin.tomsk.ru/corot/p-corot17.htm, Hagar in the wilderness
http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Choir/4792/michel.html, Moses

Salamone Rossi, Songs of Solomon: Musical and Technical Quintessence, New York Baroque, Eric Milenes, Director; Handel, Shaul, Alessandro Scarlatti, Ishmael, Newport Classic, Providence, Rudolph Palmer, Conductor; Arnold Schoenberg, Moses and Aron; Carl Nielsen, Symphony No.3: Order and Chaos; 2001: A Space Odyssey Soundtrack (creation)

"To The Mother," by Yehuda Amichai

Sample lesson:
http://www.meltonarts.org/artedu_plan0039.php, King Solomon

8.23 Articulates own personal value and application of Torah lishmah.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Write a journal response to Deuteronomy 30:11-14 ("It is not in the heavens…") .
  • Participate and teach at a tikkun leil Shavu'ot.