This week's investigation of Tefilah

from:Klugerman, Rabbi Tzvi

to:6th Grade Tefilah

Time Sept. 04, 2015

files: 9-4-2015.docx

In tefilah this week, the 6th graders worked through some ideas and themes that repeat themselves in the shacharit service. We first looked at the Ma tovu that sets the tone and atmosphere for a place of prayer. I asked the students if they knew who first said the words, “ma tovu ohalecha Ya’akov,” Many of the students were surprised that one of the first lines we say in davening was said by the evil Bil’am. We will return to this quandary later in the year.
On Monday, I asked the students, “Who are we praying to?” After they answered God or Hashem, I asked them “What does that mean?” “Who is God?”
After a little brainstorming, we looked at the opening lines of Adon Olam and Yigdal. Those poems help us define what God is and our relationship with Him. Throughout the week, we explored the ideas that God is melech, king; adon olam, Lord of the universe;  bterem kol yetzir nivra, that He comes before everything else that was created.
The theme of Creator and creation was the focus of our exploration of prayer this week I told the students to imagine shacharit as a mountain that we have to climb. At the pinnacle, the top of the mountain, is the goal of shacharit; praying the Amidah, the Shemoneh Esrei. Continuing the metaphor, since we are not superman, we can’t just leap to the top in a single jump, but we have to climb to the top. The berachot, blessings that begin shacharit, and more importantly the psukei d’zimra, the introductory psalms, are the different stations along the ascent that allows us to climb successfully.
We studied the structure of Baruch She’amar and found the following:
The origin of the refrain Baruch Hu u’Baruch Shemo, that we say in response to the beginning of a beracha is in the Baruch She’amar. Originally, the preamble of Baruch She’amar was recited responsively, each line triggering the response of baruch Hu, or baruch Shemo.
We also counted the Baruch statements and discovered that there were 9. Then we counted how many times the phrase Vayomer Elokim appears in the first chapter of Bereishit (of course we were left wondering why the Mishna in Pirkei Avot states that the phrase occurs 10 times). But the theme of Baruch Sheamar was apparent. We enter the next phase of the climb up the mountain by thinking very clearly of God as the creator.
As an aside we touched upon the bracha yotzer or u’borei choshech, forms light and creates darkness, that follows barchu in shacharit- and thought about the diference between yotzer and  borei.
If you feel up to it, ask your student what they are learning in tefilah and feel free to discuss it with them further when you bring them to shul on Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom.

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