Rashi - Rishonim
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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- 3 sets of cut out letters (provided) on flashcards.
[Note: The Rishonim were the great Jewish scholars and leaders from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries. Through them we will teach a little about the life of Jewish during the middle ages, and explain how Judaism spread from the
Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, was born in
Game 1: Rashi Script War/Slapjack Variation
Divide the chanichim into three teams. Give each team one set of cards, either regular Hebrew, Modern Hebrew script, or Rashi script. Each team huddles in order to pick one of the letters and sends a delegate to the middle of the room with that letter. On the count of three, the players flip over their card, revealing the letter. If none of the letters are the same, the cards are left in the middle. If, however, two or three of the letters match, then the first person to yell out the letter gets the whole pile. If anyone ever yells out a letter that is incorrect, or yells when no letters match up, then that team must forfeit a card to the pile. After a certain period of time, or when one team has lost all their cards, end the game, and the team with the most cards wins.
Make sure to put a full list of all matching letters in the middle for those who have not yet learnt the letters. Make sure a madrich is in each group to ensure that everyone gets a chance to play.
Explanation: Rashi wrote commentaries on a large number of Jewish books, most prominently the Chumash and Gemara. In almost all books Rashi is printed, not in regular Hebrew letters, but in a font called Rashi Script. Contrary to popular belief, Rashi did not write in Rashi script. Rather, it was invented by a publisher named Daniel Bomberg in 1517 - over 400 years after Rashi was born. The purpose of Rashi script is to distinguish between the actual text of the Gemara or Chumash and the commentary of Rashi.
Game 2: La’az
Rashi lived his whole life in France. As such, the community around him spoke French. In his commentary, he often resorts to a French word in order to capture the essence of what he feels the Torah means. For example, in one commentary in Sefer Devarim, he tries to explain what a certain type of flatbread the Torah is talking about, and so he says “AMJIYFI” (Tortilla) “in French.”
This game will be played as a game of “around the world” Before Shabbat, cut out the following words and place them on flashcards (it might be a good idea to make both a set in Rashi script and one in regular writing, in case it is too hard for young chanichim to read the Rashi script.) Have the chanichim sit in a circle, and choose one to begin with. S/he goes to the person on her/his right and the two of them stand up facing the madrich. Reveal a flashcard. (make sure that everyone can see the card so that they can try and figure it out also. This will keep them from getting bored.) Whichever of the two can decipher what the “Laa’z” word says moves on to the next person in the circle. The goal is to go completely around the circle. Make sure to show them at least one example before starting for real.
Game 3: Kuntrus/Find the Scroll
Before Shabbat make a small scroll out of paper. This game plays like Hot and Cold. Send one chanich out of the room, and then together hide the scroll somewhere. The chanich comes back in and begins to look, and everyone else tells him Hot or Cold. As a variation you can choose a song for them to sing, and depending on how close he is, you can sing louder or quieter. (Perhaps this could be a good rehearsal of “Yad Achim”.)
Explanation: When Rashi studied in Yeshiva as a young man, Yeshivot were different from how they are today. Because the printing press had not yet been invented, books were very expensive. Therefore, every student would spend time at the beginning of the year copying the gemara that they would be learning in school that year into a notebook. As the year went on, students would take notes from their teachers, and younger students would copy the notes of the more senior ones. As years went by, large compilations of notes would accumulate. Rashi combined and edited his own notes, as well as parts of the compiled notes, to develop his commentary. He then spread this commentary to his students, who spread it to the rest of Europe. It is for this reason that he is known in the gemara as “Kuntrus,” meaning either notebook or scroll.
Game 4: Interpretation – ‘Hodgie Podgie’ Rashi Variation
[This game might be a little difficult for younger kids to do, but it might be worthwhile to try it anyways.] Hodgie Podgie works as follows: Everyone sits in a circle. Pick one person to go first. You being clapping to make a rhythm, and chant “Hodgie, Podgie, Hodgie Podgie, 1,2,3, Hodgie Podgie, Hodgie Podgie, starts with me.” Then, along with the beat, you go around the circle, and each person must add one word to a sentence. Adding a period counts as a word. (For example: Once…I…Went…To…The …Store…period.)
Normally, when someone messes up by saying something incongruent, the game stops and that person is out. However, in this variation, instead of being out, that person must instead stand up and explain how their sentence was in fact logical.
Explanation: Many phrases and words in Tanach and Gemara are very complicated for us to understand. Rashi did his best to explain everything in clear, short explanations that help us understand when we’re learning. Use Torah as an example, because the kids have probably encountered Rashi in chumash. Ask them to tell you a midrash they’ve learnt in the past two weeks on either bereishit or noach. Odds are it comes straight from Rashi. (i.e. Og Melech HaBashan clinging onto the boat, what happened when people stopped speaking the same languages at Tower of Bavel, etc.)
Story: (The following is a brief description of the story. Use it as a starting point and embelish it to make it more descript and exciting. You could even act it out!)
Once there was a man named Rav Yitzchak. He was a jewler. It happened that a diamond of fantastic value came into his possession. The a rich man from far away heard of this diamond and summoned R. Yitzchak to come before him with the diamond, so that he could purchase it to use in a church. Because of the purpose the gem would serve, R. Yitzchak refused to sell. Finally, the man hired a ship, enticed R. Yitzchak aboard and set sail. When they were away from land, R. Yitzchak realized what was happening. Therefore, he came up with a plan. He went over to one of the sailors and began describing the beautiful diamond. The sailor demanded to see it. R. Yitzchak, however, said it was too precious to take out. The sailor insisted, and R. Yitzcak finally brought out the jewel. However, as he was walking with it, he pretended to stumble and it flew from his hands into the sea. R. Yitzchak pretended to cry over his loss, and the rich man let him go without any consequences. A heavenly voice then decreed, “You, who sacrificed a brilliant diamond for the glory of god will be blessed with a son who will illuminate the eyes of the entire Jewish people.” Soon after, he had a son who grew up to be Rashi.
As part of our learning about Rishonim, I think there is a good chance that we can get chanichim involved outside of snif, If you’d like, hand out copies of the following page of Gemara, and tell the kids that whoever can identify the authors of each of the numbered areas on the page will get a prize. (we have Bnei Akiva keychains to give out.)
For your own information:
1. Mishna is the first major transcription of the oral law. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi compiled the Mishna around the year 200.
2. Gemara, a written record of analytical discussions of the Mishna, compiled by Rabina and Rav Ashi
4. Tosefot, literally meaning “additions” were written by French and German rabbis between 1100 and 1300.
5. Rabienu Chananel, a 16th century North African
6. Ein Mishpat/Ner Mitzva written by Rabbi Yehoshua Boaz, also known as the Shiltei Giborim, references us to Rambam’s decisions in Mishna Torah, and the Shulchan Aruch.
7. Milchamot Hashem written by the Ramban, 13th century Spanish Rabbi
8. Rabbeinu Nissim, (Ran) 14th century Spanish Rabbi
9. HaGaot HaBach, corrections of the texts by 17th century Polish scholar, Rabbi Yoel Sirkes
10. HaGaot HaGra, notes by 18th century Lithuanian scholar the Vilna Gaon, (Gaon Rabbi Eliezer)
11. R. Yitzchak al-Fasi (Rif), 11th century Spanish Rabbi