To teach the chanichim that being slaves made the Jews unified and also made them merciful people.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF SLAVERY???
By Sarah Gordon
Age: Grades 3-6
Goal: The Chanichim should understand that being slaves made the Jews more unified, as they were forced to work together and care for one another. It also helped them become “rachmanim”, merciful people, since once they knew what it was like to be slaves, and would pass this on through the generations, they were would never treat other people this way either.
Trigger Game #1:Everyone gets one of 5 different sounds. Then everyone scatters. When the call comes to find your group, you have to walk around only making your sound and try to find the rest of your group again.
Variation: Now do it again but each group decides on a secret handshake.
Variation #2: (If You can find animal crackers). Everyone gets one of 4 different shapes. You put it behind your back and don’t see it. Then you have to find out who the other members in your group are (who else has the same shape as you) by describing it. Remember, you can’t see it, so the descriptions would be: “it has 3 sides”, “2 legs”..etc.
Point of game: Each group has something about them that made them unique. Am Israel became a nation in Mitzrayim, by distinguishing themselves from the Mitzrayim (ex: they didn’t change their names, clothes or language). This forced all the different Jews to come together and become unified.
Trigger Game #2:For these next two games it would be a lot cooler for the chanichim if the madrichim could dress up like Egyptians)
The tablecloth game. You divide the kids into groups of 6-7 and have one table cloth for each of those kids (plastic disposable one) that they all have to stand on. Make sure the different groups on the tablecloths are close together. Tell the chanichim they have gone back to being slaves in Egypt (whohoo! I mean, d’oh!). They are standing on rafts in the nile and going to get more mortar to make bricks for the Egyptians. (It’s a hard life). But- they need to flip their tablecloth-raft over so that they don’t fall in the river. Each team must work together to flip over the tablecloth and they cannot at any point stand on anything that is not a table cloth or they will “drown”. (There are a few ways to do this- the point is all teams should work together instead of competing. One team will jump onto another team’s tablecloth, and then reach over and flip their tablecloth over which now has noone standing on it, and then they and that team will go to their tablecloth, and reach over and flip over the other one. Though there is always the one team who tries to flip it over by themselves when they are all standing on it and usually ends up falling down, which is always funny (though sometimes not for them). DO NOT tell your chanichim the solution, have them work it out. You can give them hints though- like telling them how they can be standing on any tablecloth… etc.
Trigger Game #3: The Human knot!!
To keep in the theme, tell the chanichim they are still slaves in Egypt and that they have been given a new task from Pharoah. Split up into a boys’ group and a girls’ group. Each group stands in a circle and grabs hands across the circle. This makes a huge human knot. Now they need to get untangled so that they are all simply standing in a regular circle holding hands, and they cannot ever let go of the persons’ hands who they are holding when they try to unravel. The first group to unknot themselves first (girls vs boys) wins.
Discuss with them the concept of Am Israel. How we are different from all other nations? Ask them to think of examples (kashrut, yayin nesach – can’t touch our food or wine…clothes…can’t marry them…). What do these halachot do? Why do we need to be separate? At the end of the day, these halachot of being different then other nations, remind us that we are one separate group that needs to stick together- one nation, , that needs to look out for each other.
Why did Bnei Israel become an Am in Mitzrayim? What is it about being in slavery that would make Bnei Israel become unified here? Ask them: “When you are put in a group (like in the peula) and made to work together do you feel more unified or less unified?” Probably more unified, and it was the same in Mitzrayim – they had to be slaves together – became one group. Anyone who has ever done Machal in a Bnei Akiva camp, or has done Gadna in the army knows this, when you need to work together, you become one group and start to care for each other more. You could ask the chanichim if they’ve ever been to camp, how they felt about their division, or how they feel about their class in school. Or if any of them ever played on a sports team. When you have to practice together, you become one group.
Finally, ask the chanichim, if they had to go through the experience of being slaves, do they think they would ever want to have a slave after that? How would they treat a slave? R’ Soloveitchik in “Reflections of the Rav” talks about how being slaves in Egypt made us grow from people who did acts of kindness to kind people. Being kind and merciful (rachmanim) became so much of who we are, because of the experience we went to. Ask the chanichim if they know what the Torah says about being mean to orphans or widows or ger (converts). Or why we need to be so carefull to free our slaves on time and treat them with respect. Every time the Torah talks about this it end with “because you were slaves in Egypt” or “because you were strangers in Egypt”. For the chanichim, you could says its why anyone who has been picked on, hopefully will never pick on someone else because they know what its like. Or, how anyone who has ever been the new kid in town, will be very friendly when they meet another new kid because they remember how hard it was for them.
Conclusion: Having to be slaves together in Egypt forced Bnei Israel to work together and become a unified nation that cared about each other. Also, having to be slaves and go through this terrible experience, made us a nation that would always understand how important it was to be kind to others, and always treat everyone, even slaves, with respect.