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The students will study texts related to Pesach, and think about how Pesach is a time to explore themes of compassion and empathy, and look for ways to connect the story of Pesach to the causes they are passionate (and compassionate) about today. I plan to teach six Chumash texts (laws) to the fifth graders that use the phrasing "because you were slaves in Egypt" or "because I took you out of Egypt." Pesach is all about learning compassion and empathy for others because we were slaves ourselves once. Our story also highlights the importance of our freedom, both physical and mental, and what we should do with our freedom. Therefore I am going to explore six laws: (1) Be nice to strangers; (2) Let slaves free to go back to their families; (3) Israelites serve G-d; (4) Do all the mitzvot; (5) Keep Shabbat; and (6) Let the needy take the fringes of your crops.

EUs & EQs

Enduring Understandings

  • Passover is a time to reflect on oppression and slavery, and compassion and empathy
  • The experience we had (story of) in slavery in Egypt informs our decisions as ethical Jews to embody compassion and empathy.
  • The experience we had in slavery in Egypt informs our views of how to value personal freedom.
  • The experience of slavery in Egypt informs how we treat workers with fairness and compassion.
  • The experience of slavery in Egypt informs how we treat the meek with compassion and help.
  • The experience of slavery in Egypt informs what we do with our freedom by honoring the fact that we are free.

Essential Questions

  • What is the big idea of the law re: workers?
  • What is the big idea of the law re: the meek?
  • What is the big idea of the law re: Shabbat?
  • What is the big idea of the law re: doing the Mitzvot?
  • Why are some laws given as: "As you were slaves in Egypt, you should..."
  • How should our experience as slaves in Egypt inform our decisions on the treatment of workers?
  • How should our experience as slaves in Egypt inform our decisions on the treatment of the meek?
  • What do these texts say about how to synthesize the experience in slavery to celebrate/honor personal freedom?
  • What do we do with freedom?
  • Why do we say "we" experienced slavery in Egypt?

Evidence of Understanding

Final Performance Assessment

You must choose a cause that you are passionate about. This could be anything from kind treatment of animals to mandatory free lunches at school every day. You must make a case for your cause, using our time in slavery as a connection. Because we were slaves in Egypt...


  • Goal: Students will learn, process and synthesize Jewish laws that we do "because we were slaves in Egypt" (throughout the year, the JS teacher and students use the "we" language when studying Chumash.
  • Role: Students will become Torah scholars, translating and interpreting important ancient texts, and deciphering what they mean
  • Audience: a modern audience--such as a Seder table, where they will present a "drash" about the law, and introduce their own law
  • Situation: Torah scholars will be presenting a drash to their seder tables to explain laws "because we were slaves in Egypt" and introduce a new law "because we were slaves in Egypt"
  • Product: A worksheet for the texts and translations of the laws they decipher; presentation to seder crowd; a synthesized law based on their own causes that they connect to "because we were slaves in Egypt"
  • Standards: Full and accurate translation of text, insightful and accurate interpretation of law (In their own words), campaign for their own law, connecting their own cause to being slaves in Egypt

Facets of Understanding

  • Explain the texts, the connections to Pesach
  • Interpret the texts, what are the big ideas behind the texts?
  • Empathize, using your knowledge of being a slave in Egypt, to workers, others, and the meek
  • Self-knowledge: What is MY cause? What do I want people to learn from the story of Passover? How does knowing about the story of Pesach change how I act and think?

Sequence of Lessons

5 laws: (1) Be nice to strangers; (2) Let slaves go back to their families; (3) Do all the mitzvot; (4) Keep Shabbat (5) Let the stranger, orphan and widow take some of your crops
Why do these laws say "because you were slaves/strangers in Egypt" ?
Look up texts, translate, interpret (groupwork) and share (this will take up another 2 lessons)
one 45-minute lesson
Presentations on Be nice to strangers, Let slaves go back to their families, and Let the stranger, orphan and widow take some of your crops.Share the big ideas of these laws; connect to Passover story of compassion and empathy;
Groups get 10 minutes to finish their discussion and prepare for presentations. Write info they will present onto transparencies.
Three groups share while the students copy the text, big ideas and connection to Pesach story onto their worksheets.
another 45-minute lesson (continuation of first lesson)
Presentations on Keep Shabbat and Do all the mitzvot:
How do mitzvot relate to learning from our time in slavery?
How does keeping Shabbat relate to our time in slavery?
Students present, with generous discussion on these topics.
one 45-minute lesson
What are your causes? How might we learn from our time in slavery?
What do you think we should learn from our time in slavery? Brainstorm "causes" something you firmly believe in. Examples: health for all, kindness to animals. Come up with a "law" and connect it to Passover.
one 45-minute lesson
Make up your own Passover law. Continue working on your campaign. Be ready to display your campaign for public viewing, and for explanation at your Seder.
Find text to support your cause, and make a poster for it, with illustrations and explanations. Students can present to one another in rotating groups of four/five.
one 45-minute lesson

Two Lessons

Lesson One

Hook: (5 min) Make up your very own law: "Because we were slaves in Egypt, we should [ ].The students can share their laws. Can be completely made-up, can be a real law. Choose five students to share their laws.
Activities: (25 min) Looking up laws in Devarim, and translating.
  • Intro the lesson: "We are going to look at laws in the Torah, that the Torah says we do because we were slaves in Egypt. Let's see if any of the laws you came up with are there. Each group of two or three students will look up the law (sefer, perek and pasuk are listed) and write down the text, translation, interpretation, and lesson for their law."
  • Break students into groups of three and four (5 groups).
  • Give each group the ספר, פרק, פסוק to look up, write down and translate. Students will get a worksheet with the Sefer, Perek and Pasuk, and the text. They will need to find the text in the Chumash and translate it using a translation guide for the more difficult words.
  • They will need to put the law into their own words. (not interpretation, but their own words)
  • They will discuss and record what they think the big idea of the law is, and what is the connection between the Pesach story and the law. Why does it say "because you were slaves/strangers in Egypt..." ? What do you think this law tells us about our time in Egypt, and what we can learn from it?
  • When the groups are finished, they can start planning on how to present the law to the class. Who will read the text? Who will read the translation? Who will read the "in my own words" and who will read the "how this connects to Passover" part?

Student worksheet

Teacher's resource

Presenting: (10 min) If there is time, the first two or three groups will Present the law while other students record each law on their own worksheet
Wrap-up: (5 min) During the next Chumash class, we will continue to explore how laws given in the Torah relate and connect to our time leaving slavery. What characteristic helps us learn lessons by feeling what others feel? (Read definition if necessary: "a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering")
Sponge activity: Students can start planning their presentations if they finish early. If everyone finished early, they can start presenting.
Differentiation: Students will be paired in heterogenous groups so that if one student needs help in looking up text, the other student can help.

Lesson Two

This might be a bit tricky because I suspect that in lesson one, no groups will have presented. I will plan this lesson as if no groups had presented.
Hook: (7 min) Write "The {INSERT NAME} Law" on the board. Ask group A to name their law. Do the same for B, C, D, E, and F. This shouldn't be a big deal, just coming up with a way to name the laws so that students can refer quickly to them. Be ready to present. Each group will have 5 minutes to present. To make it easier, decide in the next two minutes who will read the text, translation, in my own words, and connection to Pesach. As each group is presenting, you will write on your worksheet. There is no need to write the actual text and translation on your worksheet. Instead, you will write the "name" of the law. (from the board). I will write as each group presents.
Activities: (30 minutes)
  • Student groups present, while students copy onto their own worksheets. This will be tricky because I will be writing their responses onto the board, and students will be asking me to move, the presenters to repeat, etc.
Wrap-up: (3 min) If we were to name these laws, what would we name them? "The {INSERT GROUP NAME} Laws." Take the last three minutes to fill out what you think the big idea behind these laws is. You will find a space on the bottom of your worksheet to write your response.
Sponge Activity: If students all finish early, we will discuss the big ideas as a whole class. My bigger concern is that we won't have time to present all of the groups in this lesson, in which case, it will have to spill over into lesson 3.


(20 minutes)
  • Description of unit (from above)
  • Gist of the enduring understandings you are hoping to achieve (from above)
  • Ways in which your unit meets the needs of multiple learning styles: I decided to make hevrutot of heterogenous students. This will help students who aren't as good at looking up text, and it will hopefully slow down the other student to actually stop and take the time to think about the text, and to have a chance to explain it to others. The final performance assessment allows for any format for the "campaign." They can just talk (with a written description to help their talking points), or they can draw something and explain their drawing, or write a song and sing it.
  • What makes my unit unique: Everyone knows the story of Passover. The students read the text in the Chumash. They read about how Moshe asked Pharaoh, the Plagues, the Sea of Reeds, etc... In this unique text study, students will read text in the Chumash from different places to piece them together to come up with the big ideas. That's what makes this unit unique. It's a new way to study text for the fifth graders. Then they get to play with the Chumash and make up their own laws! It's as if they are authors of the Torah and adding new laws to it.
  • Five years from now, I want my students to remember that it's not enough to get out of slavery. That is important, but it's also important that we use our unique human capability to feel compassion for others. I want them to draw on the story of Pesach to be able to place themselves in others' situations (empathy), which will inform how they treat others.