Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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Two bags of props for Paper Bag Dramatics;
Noseh: Special Shabbatot
Topic: Shabbat Shira
Written By: Josh Skarf
Materials: Two bags of props for Paper Bag Dramatics;
Goals: Teach about the nature of Yam Suf, and a little about how song can reflects our religious nature.
This week we are starting a new series on some of the special Shabbatot throughout the year. Two weeks ago was Shabbat Shira, which is when we read Parshat BeShalach. Shabbat Shira is named after Az Yashir, the song Bnei Yisrael sang after they were saved from the Egyptian army at Yam Suf.
Game 1: Paper Bag Dramatics
Divide the chanichim into two groups. Give each group a bag filled with assorted random items. Tell them that they must write a short skit using all the objects, but that it must be in the style of a horror movie. Remind them that a cardinal rule of horror psycho-killer movies is that the killer always tries for one last attack when we all think he’s dead.
Discussion: Hopefully the kids will come up with good skits that illustrate our point. Bnei Yisrael was in Mitzraim for hundreds of years as slaves. After a frantic year of plagues they were freed and escaped. However, just when they thought they were free, the Egyptian army showed up for one last attack. Hashem saved them by splitting Yam Suf and drowning the army. Only when Bnei Yisrael saw that this had occurred could they finally relax, just like the end of a movie when the killer is finally dead for real (or at least until the sequel.)
Game 2: Human Xylophone
This game might be a little difficult for younger kids who can’t carry tunes, so you might want to try the variation at the end instead. Divide the group into two teams, each with a madrich. Assign each kid a musical note (do, re, mi…) Pick one person per team to be the conductor. Then give them a simple song to “play,” like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Whoever can do this first wins.
Variation: Another way to play this is by instead of giving musical notes, give out phonetic sounds (a b k s ch, kh d e f g j h I L m n o p q r t th u v w y z) and ask them simple questions which the conductor must “play” by getting each to say his/her syllable. If you want to do this, you might want to make phonetic signs to give each kid, so that the conductor knows who has which sound. Also, you can give each kid 2 sounds and make it vary based on left hand or right hand.
Discussion: Chazal tell us that there have only been 10 songs in history. How is this possible? Chazal view a “song” as a time when all the world is in harmony with Hashem’s will, when everyone realizes what Hashem’s will is and complies with it, a general kiddush Hashem that produces a harmony. Az Yashir was one such case – everyone realized Hashem was behind Yam Suf, and the song Am Yisrael sang was an indication of this.
Song: Another way to illustrate this point is by singing a song in rounds. A good song the kids will know is Row Your Boat, which is easy to do in rounds (the people in my class used to do this in Mr. Codish’s class in twelfth grade before class would start every day.) However, if you’re slightly more ambitious, there are a few Jewish songs which also can be done this way. The most widely known is Baruch HaGever. But another good one is the Eric Weisberg tune for Yismechu. (call me if you want me to sing for you.) And I’m pretty there are others.
Game 3: Streets and Alleys
Have the chanichim line up in a grid with their arms stretched out in one direction. This is the “street” position. When “allies” is yelled, they rotate 90 degrees:
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Chose one person to be It and the other to run away. The person who is It tries to catch the other by running through this grid (you can’t cut through ever.) When he succeeds, someone else is picked to be it, and he becomes the new person trying to run away. At various points, the madrich yells switch and the people must rotate from streets to alleys or vice versa.
One problem we have with this game is getting the chanichim lined up. Perhaps a way to deal with this is by setting up chairs in a grid and having the kids sit in them and only move their arms.
Discussion: This is sort of like Yam Suf. Am Yisrael was being chased by the Egyptians and Hashem protected them by making an alley for them and then closing it on the Egyptian army.
A final point I’d like to make is the nature of songs today. There are songs that we use in tefila (think of a particularly nice tune for kedusha or something.) This is the idea of a Carlebach Minyan – getting closer to Hashem through musical expression. There are also people who get strength from secular songs, by listening to the words and being inspired. I had a madrich from