Recently I completed a residency at Heritage Academy, a Jewish day school in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I came to work at first with the Judaic staff on bringing movement into their curriculum. I ended up not only working with the staff, but also with the middle school students finding ways to embody (and thereby enhance and re-member) their tefillah, or prayer.


Three distinct modes of how movement and text, in this case the text of tefillah, were used with the middle school with varying levels of success. The three are: wordplay, the essence, and personalizing question. Full descriptions of these individual modes are in earlier blogs. In this lesson we mixed essence and personalizing.

Lesson 4:
Modes: Personalizing and Essence
Text/prayer: The sibling rivalry stories in Genesis
Players: middle school day students

1. Talk about the sets of siblings that are mentioned in Genesis most often.
a. Cain and Abel, Yitzhak and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers
2. What do these sets of brothers have in common? What is different?
3. Personalizing: What kinds of relationship do the students have with their siblings? Are they alike? Are they opposite? Take Jacob and Esau – how are they alike? How opposite? Do they ever reconcile? When?
4. Essence: the metaphor of opposites needing each other to grow, or to move to their rightful place in the Torah, how opposites “attract”.
5. The human puzzle game is a favorite among children of all ages. Have one student make a shape that is interesting. Here, we asked one of them to make a shape like he/she was Jacob. What would be some of the characteristics of his stance, his arm/hand gestures, etc.
6. Then, ask another student to put him/herself in the empty spaces, the negative spaces (art term) of the student being Jacob. They are to try to fill in at least two negative spaces. This will look like interlocking puzzle pieces.
7. Then ask the Jacob person to leave, and let the second person stay still.
8. See what the not-Jacob space looks like, the opposite of Jacob…. Or is it? Is our not-self a reflection of our self and therefore part of us? Are we also our opposites? Sometimes, the second person will look a lot like what Esau might have looked – bigger, rounder, more “earthy”.
9. Continue to find opposites in the human puzzle. You can keep working with the actual Torah characters, and try to learn something about them, or just keep on doing the puzzle game, and learn something about what it means to embrace your opposite, or to know that you and your opposite are related.
10. Ask the students how doing this game relates to their own siblings at home?
11. Heritage student answers: My brother completes me, We have more in common than I thought, when we are together – we are one…