Yehuda Eisenberg

A Curriculum in Tefilah

Correct organization of the tefilah aids in creating an atmosphere of seriousness and devotion. Improper conditions can provoke disturbances in conducting tefilah and cause the hour of tefilah to be one of noise, disorder and unnecessary struggle between the teacher and his students.

1. Directing the Tefilah

The teacher may appoint a group of children to deal with all matters concerning tefilah. The "Tefilah Committee" will be responsible for arranging the room before the tefilah, distributing siddurim at the beginning and collection them at the end, and deciding who will lead the tefilah and who will read from the Torah.

In kindergarten, the teacher will appoint a child each day to be responsible for leading the tefilah. This student should wear a sign "I am the Chazan" and head the class in morning prayers, and in tefilot before and following the meal.

2. The "Chazan"

Either the "Tefilah Committee" or the teacher should appoint the Chazan who will go before the ark. The tefilah can be improved by taking advantage of the fact that children like being the chazan. A child can be chosen if he prays well, or on his birthday as a "gift" from the class. However, it is necessary to take care not to arouse jealousy and competition among the children as this would cause the loss of all benefit which might have been gained originally.

Included with this syllabus is a cassette intended for use in preparing the children for tefilah. The cassette may be given to the chazan on the day before he is to go up before the ark. It would be his responsibility to listen to the cassette and ready himself. This preparation is important in two ways: firstly, it demonstrates to the student the fact that one must prepare to be a chazan, that the role of chazan on the cassette is a simple mode of preparation for tefilah without disturbances.

For detailed instructions on learning the nusach of the tefilah using the cassette, see the special chapter in the continuation of part III of this curriculum.

3. The Cassette

The aforementioned cassette can aid the teacher in additional ways: By occasionally playing the cassette in class, he can accustom the students to the correct tunes for the tefilot; while listening, the students will learn what the chazan says out loud and when the congregation must wait for him. Quietly following the voice of the chazan on the cassette is a simple mode of preparation for tefilah without disturbances.

For detailed instructions on learning the nusach of the tefilah using the cassette, see the special chapter in the continuation of Part III of this curriculum.

4. The Tefilah Corner

One of the corners of the classroom may be made into a small synagogue. This corner should contain a small ark, a scroll (an inexpensive photographic copy of a Torah in scroll form is available), a decorative curtain for the ark (the parents can be involved in the embroidery of the curtain.), a stand and a prayer shawl for the chazan, a charity box, suddurim, a sign or picture of Yerushalayim indicating the direction of prayer and posters listing the additions to tefialh on special days (Rosh Chodesh, ya'ale v'yavo, s'firat ha'omer, mashiv haru'ach u'morid hageshem).

5. Exhibits in the Tefilah Corner

The "Tefilah Committee" or individual students can be encouraged, in the course of preparing projects for their various othr school subjects, to prepare an exhibit on a topic related to tefilah. The exhibit may be put on display for all students in the tefilah corner for a period of a week or two (not more!). Suggested topics for exhibits follow.

a. A siddur Exhibit. Each student can be asked to bring a siddur or two from home - especially any old or extraordinary siddur his family possesses. As part of the display, a note which lists the owner of the siddur, its nusach and where and when it was published (or in younger classes, where a date has little meaning - "how old the siddur is") should be placed near each siddur.

b. Photographs of Synagogues. The students can be asked to photograph and collect pictures of various synagogues for a display. Needless to say, photographs of neighborhood synagogues should be put in a prominent spot. (The Torah Department of the World Zionist Federation has published a folder of pictures of Aronot Kodesh.)

c. Models of Synagogues. Building this display is difficult and should be undertaken only in the higher grades. The models may be constructed according to pictures and/or the structure of neighborhood synagogues.

d. Recording of nus'chaot and Tunes from Congregations of various origins. The children can tape cantors from the various edot and put the tapes on display to be listened to by each child (with or without earphones, according to the teacher's discretion).

e. At the approach of special holidays, an exhibit of machzorim or hagada shel Pesach may be put on display according to the details given in item a.

f. An interview with a rabbi about matters concerning the synagogue, the laws of tefilah, and proper conduct during tefilah may be held.

6. A Trip to the Synagogue

The teacher may take the class on a trip to a synagogue in the vicinity of the school. Once there, the children are given explanation of the function of various articles - the raised platform, the holy ark, the stand, the rabbi's seat, the men's and women's sections, the Torah scroll, the decorative curtain, and the place for washing the hands. During the trip, the children should say one tefilah in the synagogue.

7. Special Days

At the approach of special days, the execution of special activities can be used to give a new dimension to the tefilah. For example, a "Kabbalat Shabbat," including candle-lighting, kidush, and a Shabbat party, may occasionally be held on Fridays. A special exhibit of goblets (G'vi'im) or spice boxes can be displayed. (It is advisable that these not be displayed for an extended period of time but rather that they be set up at the beginning of the kabbalat Shabbat and returned to the owners at the end of the day.)

On Rosh Chodesh the special tefilot of Rosh Chodesh may be used to append one of the new tefilot that are to be introduced at this grade level, thus making Rosh Chodesh special in two ways - in the efilot peculiar to it, and as a time when new tefilot are added to the children's everyday tefilot.

The tefilah for peace in the state of Israel may be added to the tefilah on Yom ha'atzma'ut as it is not said on regular weekdays and the students thus have no other opportunity to recite it in school.

8. The Student's Praying Customs

It is important that the teacher become acquainted with the customs of his students in order that he should be able to instruct them on how to act in accordance with their customs. If the teacher instructs students from many different origins, it is worthwhile for him to make a trip to their various synagogues to acquire himself with the customs of each eda.

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