23: Stand tall and still in one spot. Close your eyes and imagine your are a tree, rooted in the ground, stretching over the earth. How would it feel to stand in one pace for so long? What kinds of things would you see?
24: Imagine this tree in the winter, spring, summer and fall.
What are the changes/
25: This tree is a miracle. . . So are you!
26: “Eitz Chyim He. She is a tree of life.” How is the torah like a tree?
27: Recycling your newspaper for 1 year saves 17 trees. Count 17 trees.
28: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” Native American proverb
29: Think about where you live. How does what you do in your home affect this very spot?
30: If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
31: Make a wish for the Earth.
32: “It’s not up to you to finish the task, but neither are you free to walk away from it.”
33: What am I doing to make the world a better place? What can I be doing?
34: How does what you do in your home affect this very spot?
35: How would you perceive this place if you were 8 years old? 15 years old?
36: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
37: BE the change you want to see in the world
Israel themed additions:
Think of your favorite place in Israel. Recall the smell, air, texture of the soil, sounds, etc. How can we keep Eretz Yisrael in our hearts when we live in a different land?
Notice the signs of the season we are in – the weather, the cycles of the trees and plants, the activities of the animals. What is happening in Israel this time of year? Would we be expecting rain?
It is said in the world to come, all Israel will be Jerusalem, and the whole world will be Israel. What would it mean for this place to be Israel?
Hatikvah, the Hope! What is your hope for Israel? What is your hope for the Jewish people?
Chalutz, Pioneer - What does it mean to be a chalutz in 21st century?
Shabbat themed additions
Shabbat is a time to be zecher l’maasei breishit - a remembrance of the works of Creation. What do you see that is a work of Creation?
“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from God’s work, which God created to make.” (Genesis 2:3) Why is rest a holy thing?
Find one thing from each day of Creation
The word Shabbat is related to lashevet, to sit, and lishbot, to rest or stop. STOP. Take a seat. Enjoy a restful moment of Shabbat.
Created by the Teva Learning Center, updated 2007
Please give credit if using these materials
Blessing Activities Goals: To cultivate a sense of appreciation for natural phenomenon
To instill mindfulness
To foster a recognition that God is the source of everything
To show students how blessings can be used in ways unfamiliar to them
Activity #1: Brachot Ha'nehenin Exploration
There are a series of blessings called the Birkot HaNehenin, Blessings of Enjoyment. They are said upon experiencing natural phenomenon such as hearing thunder, glimpsing a shooting star, or seeing the ocean or mountains. You can find them in your siddur ( and in Appendix J of this curriculum.
We suggest writing the blessings out separately on note cards and giving each student their own card. Have each student read their blessing to the group. Then have them carry the cards with them over the four days. Challenge the students to find moments during the week when their blessing is appropriate. When that moment arrives, they should take out their blessing and share it with the rest of the group.
Activity #2: Create your own Bracha After facilitating a discussion about blessing and sharing the midrash on Moshe and the burning bush, have your students write their own personal blessings. One way to do this is to first have them find a makom kadosh, a holy space, in which to sit and observe their surroundings. (Let them know that after 15 minutes you will have them all return to the group to share their blessings.)
A word on language (no pun intended!). The traditional language of the blessings is in the masculine in part because Hebrew is a gender specific language. So the pronouns are always He and Him. The metaphors of God as King, Master, Ruler are also a dominant part of traditional Hebrew blessing structure and translation. Staff is encouraged to explore with the students different metaphors and language both for God and for structuring the opening ( Baruch Atah Adonai Blessed are You , Adonai) of a blessing. You will find a reading by Marcia Falk in this manual that goes into greater detail on issues surrounding creative blessing writing and rethinking.
Some alternative structures are: • Brucha At Yah/Baruch Atah Yah – this is the feminine and masculine form of the introduction to a blessing with the sound “Yah” for G-d or HaShem.
• Ruach Ha Olam, Makor HaChaim, Chei HaOlamim, Nefesh Chai – Spirit of the World, Source of Life, Creator of Life, Breath of Life; these are alternative forms for Melech HaOlam which translated as King of the Universe.
Putting it all together may look like this:
Brucha At Yah, Eloheinu Makor HaChaim, Oseh/Osah Ma’asah B’raishit
Blessed are You, Yah, Our God, Source of Life, the one who Creatse.
(This is the blessing on seeing beauties of nature; mountains, valleys, oceans, rivers, and wilderness.)
Food blessings In addition to the Brachot Hanehenin, there also exists a series of blessings we say over food, the Brachot Hahodaot. The act of stopping to say a blessing before we eat and in the case of bread, washing our hands and saying “al n’tilat yadaim”, lifts eating to a higher realm and allows us to take time to recognize the sanctity of food, the Creator who has provided it for us, and all the human labor and natural resources that were necessary for bringing it to our plates.
Often, food blessings can remind us of the specific relationship our food has to God and to the elements in nature that are the source of the food. For example, in the blessing over an apple --boreh pri haetz-- we recognize both that God creates the food, but also that the apple comes from a tree. Visualizing the tree as we say the blessing can connect us to the natural world in a way that simply saying a generic "thanks" may not.
There are some traditional blessings that do not acurately reflect both the divine and natural source of the food to which they pertain. For example, the traditional blessing over water and all processed foods (including dairy items) ends with the words, "shehakol neheyey bidvaro (all that He creates with his word)". Feel free to create new blessings with your students that more specifically reflect the source of the food's Creation.
For water: borey mayim chayim --who creates living waters. (Rabbi Fred Dobb)
Birkat HaMazon is the blessing that is said after meals in which bread is eaten. One of the remarkable aspects of this prayer is that when saying it, we thank God not only for our food, but also for the food God provides all living things --who noten lechem lkol basar (he gives food to all flesh)--. Recognizing that God's gift of nourishment extends beyond humanity serves as yet another reminder from text that humanity is part of a much greater whole, the entirety of which is worthy of love from the Creator.
Pokeiakh Ivrim (The Camera Game) Procedure:
The name of this exercise is taken from Birchot HaShachar, a morning prayer in which we thank God for the restoration of our senses upon waking. These senses include bodily mobility as we wake, stretch, dress and begin our day. One bracha (blessing) ends in, Pokeiach Ivrim, which means, who opens our eyes, thanking God for the gift of sight. The full blessing reads:
Blessed are You, HaShem, Spirit of the World who gives sight to the blind.
Begin by asking students what this blessing means to them. How do we gain our sight each morning?
After discussing, divide students into pairs.
In each pair one person will be the camera and the other will be the photographer. The camera wears a blindfold (or keeps his or her eyes closed) and the photographer leads him/her to a location where they see something beautiful that they would like to “photograph.” The photographer sets up a shot, close up, panorama, etc., by adjusting the camera’s head so as to see the scene. When the photographer taps the camera’s shoulder, tugs on the ear (or takes the blindfold off), the camera then says the words “Pokeiakh Ivrim,” and opens his or her eyes to see what they have been sent to “photograph”.
What did it feel like to be led around blindly?
What was it like to have your sight restored?
Invite students to share some of the objects that they photographed.
Did you see something you would not have seen on your own?
Did you see something you have never seen before?
In what ways are we “blind” in life?
What can we do to become less “blind”?
Sh’ma Sound Maps
Begin by asking one student to recite the words of the Sh’ma. Then ask them what sense they associate with this prayer (answer should be Sound, Hearing).
Why do they think that God chose hearing as the sense to focus on for the most important prayer in Judaism?
(Optional) Have a student read a section of Perek Shira. Ask, " Do animals and plants really sing songs to God? If they do, how can we hear it?
Invite each student to sit somewhere in the woods alone with his or her journal and to create a map of the sounds he or she hears. Students should place themselves in the middle of the map, signified by a dot or an ‘x,’ and draw in the sounds from all around. Have students sit quietly for five to ten minutes. You may also want to do a brief guided imagery exercise with them before they begin. Challenge them to avoid using words for the sounds, but instead to draw lines, a bird, or another non-verbal representation of the sounds around them.
After regrouping, you may ask some students to share what they drew.
Did you hear anything that you didn’t expect to hear?
Were any of the sounds here in the forest similar to what you hear in your home environment?
What was it like to sit still silently for such a long time?
What are the ways in which listening can provide us with a way to live with more awareness in the world?
Could you hear the animals’ or plants’ prayers to God? Did you hear God’s reply?
Eitz Chayim He, She is a Tree of Life: Meet a TreeGoals: To develop tactile senses, to introduce the symbol of the tree as a Jewish metaphor, to foster the development of a personal relationship with a tree, and ability to see a tree’s uniqueness.
Answer: trees! (and much more) Trees are all over the place, but has anybody here ever really gotten to know a tree? Just like people, trees look alike, but are actually very different. In this activity, we’re going to get to know a tree so that you can tell it from all other trees in this forest.
Pair off the students. Give each pair a blindfold and have the sighted partner lead their "blind" friend to a tree. The sighted partner should try to disorient the friend by slowly turning them around, and leading them in a roundabout way to the tree. Please instruct students to lead their “blind” friends slowly and very carefully, telling them to look out for roots, rocks, holes in the ground, and other things their partner might trip on.
Instruct the "blind" campers to explore their trees as thoroughly as they can, so that they’ll be able to find it again. They can touch the tree, smell it, taste it, see if you can you put your arms around it, etc.
When the first person is finished exploring, the sighted partner should lead him or her back to where they began by taking an indirect route. Now, remove the blindfold and let the student find the tree with his or her eyes open. Suddenly, as the person searches for his or her tree, what was once a forest becomes a collection of very individual trees.
Switch partners, repeat Steps 2 - 4
Once the group is back together, ask the students
Who found their trees?
How many guesses did it take?
How did they recognize their tree from all the rest? Was it hard or easy? If you couldn’t find yours, why not?
Read the following line:
Eitz Haim He L’machazikim Bah, v’Tomhecha Meushar.
She is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to her and all of her supporters are happy.
Why do you think we compare the Torah with a tree?
(Some possible answers: trees are life-giving, they support a community [of animals, organisms], they have roots, history, seeds, generate rebirth, bear fruit, and trees are strong, stable. All of the materials that go into the making of a Torah scroll are natural. The wooden pieces upon which the Torah is rolled are called eitzim [trees].)