Rabbeinu Gershom - Rishonim
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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Teach about the Takanot of Rabbeinu Gershom
Envelope sealed with “B’Chadrag”
Rabbeinu Gershom was born in
Game 1: Israeli Postman Variation
Have the chanichim sit in a circle. Go around the circle and give each kid the name of a big European city (or
Explanation: One of the big takanot that Rabbeinu Gershom made was about mail. At the time in Europe, there was a big problem with people reading each other’s mail. This caused trouble because many letters were about business deals and needed to be confidential. Rabbeinu Gershom made a takana that mail could not be tampered with. Therefore, Jews used to seal their mail with the letters “b’chadrag”, meaning B’cherem d’Rabbeinu Gershom. In other words, whoever tampers with it will be put in cherem, or thrown out of the Jewish community.
Game 2: Red Rover
Divide the Chanichim into two groups. Each group lines up on one side of the room. One team goes first and says “red rover, red rover, send _____ over.” That person then has to try to break through the other team’s line. If s/he succeeds, s/he returns to his/her team. If not, s/he joins the other team. Game continues until one team has everyone, or until interest wanes.
Explanation: Another one of Rabbeinu Gershom’s famous takanot involved Jewish converts. At the time Christians occasionally forced Jews to convert to Christianity. Although we know that according to halacha you have to die instead of converting, many Jews converted anyways. Therefore, when they later wanted to return to their old communities, the people did not want to receive them. Rabbeinu Gershom made a takana that you MUST accept back people who were forcibly converted. So too with Red Rover, where even if someone switches teams, you still take them back. Two other famous takanot by Rabbeinu Gershom were: A.That you couldn’t have more than one wife. B.That you couldn’t divorce your wife without permission. (We won’t go in depth in these takanot, just in case there are some chanichim who’s parents are divorced.)
Game 3: Split of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews
Separate the kids into two or three groups. Have each group come up with rules for a game of tag. Encourage them to be creative in making up rules. After a couple minutes, let everyone start playing together. After five minutes or so, stop the game and bring everyone together. Ask them what different rules where going on. Explain that everyone started with the same basic game of tag, but evolved the rules differently.
Explanation: Judaism started off as a single religion in with one set of halachot. When Jews were scattered across Europe for hundreds of years, different communities developed different customs. Jews in Spain, Sephardim, were one group, and Jews in France and Germany, Ashkenazim, were another. Rashi was Ashkenaz, Ibn Ezra was Sephardi. This split began to a large extent with Rabbeinu Gershom. He was a big Ashkenazi leader, so his takanot were all accepted by the Ashkenazim. However, the Sephardim, who lived in a community where polygamy was more accepted, did not accept them. This was a major split, and shows one way in which separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities developed.
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