On Friday, May 19, 2023, the Grade One students marked their learning of tefillah with a Siddur Ceremony.
The Siddur Ceremony is scheduled at the end of Grade One intentionally; it is a significant and beautiful marker in the students’ journey as knowledgeable, skilled, and spiritual Jews. The ceremony was planned to coincide with the integrative unit: When I am a חכם לב (chacham lev) and a נדיב לב (nadiv lev) I help create a משכן (mishkan – tabernacle) where God dwells.
The concept of chacham lev/nadiv lev is found in the book of Exodus (35: 5,10). Bnei Yisrael were building the mishkan in the desert and Moshe asked whoever is of a willing heart (nadiv lev) to bring gold, silver or brass for the building of the mishkan. He also asked everyone who is wise hearted to also come and make the mishkan. In ancient times the word heart was synonymous with thought; in the ancient world people believed that all thinking occurred in the heart. Therefore, from Exodus we can understand that Moshe wanted Bnei Yisrael to bring their knowledge and skills (chacham lev), and to help and work together (nadiv lev) to build the mishkan.
The Torah idea of chacham lev/nadiv lev is rooted in the belief that, in order for communities to flourish, one needs its members to contribute both their skills, and to help one another. This is the big overarching idea that guided our planning of the Siddur Ceremony.
The Grade One students spent the year learning how to pray as a community. They also studied prayers, asked questions and engaged in deep and relevant learning experiences. They have learned how to read confidently in Hebrew, and how to follow a prayer service with intentionality, understanding, and meaning. Their knowledge and skills have been heightened and deepened over the course of the year. The Siddur Ceremony served as an opportunity for the children to solidify their learning and skills, and to share their ability to pray as a group with their families.
The Grade One students have also delved deeply into the idea of working together and helping one another. A focus of the Grade One curriculum is children learning how to interact as a group, how to share their feelings, frustrations, likes and dislikes in a respectful way. The Siddur Ceremony was an incredible opportunity for the children to celebrate their abilities to help their community members.
In planning for the Siddur Ceremony, it was incredibly important to us that it be authentic to the learning that has taken place in the class and to the big idea of chacham lev/nadiv lev. We therefore planned the entire ceremony intentionally to try and connect every aspect of the ceremony to our guiding principles of chacham lev/nadiv lev. Our goal was for the ceremony to provide an opportunity for the children to share both their knowledge, skill, and ability to recite prayer; with their ability to help others.
The Siddur Ceremony was a beautiful opportunity for family members to share in a prayer service together as a larger community. The Grade One students pray together every day, and the Siddur Ceremony was a special occasion where they get to pray with their family. In keeping with our guiding principle of chacham lev, the Siddur Ceremony was a shachrit (morning) prayer service. It included all the prayers that the children say daily in the same manner as they do in the classroom. The big difference is that they prayed with their families alongside them.
The children had the opportunity to express their ability to be nadiv lev by sitting next to their families during the ceremony and help their families follow along and say the prayers with them.
Prior to the communal prayer service, children were given their very own siddur by their teachers to mark the journey they have traveled. Receiving a siddur is a marker and milestone in the children’s lives. Weeks before the Siddur Ceremony, parents were asked to be nadivei lev (generous of heart) and share a bracha (blessing) that they wanted to give their child. They could be creative and use words, family pictures, and images.
Additionally, we asked that all guests be nadivei lev (generous of heart) and bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to a local food bank.