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Rabbeinu Gershom -

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 6-12
Group Size: 10-50
Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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Resource Goal

Goal: Teach about the Takanot of Rabbeinu Gershom


Required Props & Materials

Materials: Envelope sealed with BChadrag


Resource Contents

Theme: Rishonim

Topic: Rabbeinu Gershom

Written By: Josh Skarf

Goal: Teach about the Takanot of Rabbeinu Gershom

Materials: Envelope sealed with BChadrag

Background:

Rabbeinu Gershom was born in Metz, France in 960 and died in Mainz, Germany in 1040. He is not generally classified as a Rishon, rather as the last Gaon (which is the name of Jewish leaders before Rishonim.) However, because of his proximity to the Rishonim and his overall importance, we will be studying him this week. Unlike Rashi and Ibn Ezra, who we learnt about the last two weeks, Rabbeinu Gershom is not known mainly for his commentaries, but rather for his takanot, enactments in Jewish law. Nonetheless, he did write a commentary on parts of the Gemara.

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 Israel, if you cant think of more). One person is chosen to be in the middle. He says Im sending a letter from _____ to ______. Those two people then have to switch seats, while the person in the middle tries to take one of their seats first. Another possibility for this game is to bring in an envelope, and in the same format, have someone in the middle call out the name of two cities and throw the empty envelope into the air. Both people whos cities were called try and catch the envelope before it hits the ground, and whoever catches it calls out the next two cities. (or three...)

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 others 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 bchadrag, meaning Bcherem dRabbeinu 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 teams 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 Gershoms 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 couldnt have more than one wife. B.That you couldnt divorce your wife without permission. (We wont go in depth in these takanot, just in case there are some chanichim whos 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.


Resource Comments

Suitable for Shabbat



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