The activities below were adapted and extended from a monthly series on Teaching Israel, produced and edited by Mr. Yitzhak Zucker at the Pedagogic Center of the former Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora, WZO.
(C) Department for Jewish Zionist Education, JAFI.
Simchat Torah is a festival which impacts with involvement: if your students know the popular songs and take part in the Hakafot with the Sefer Torah [encircling the synagogue interior with the Holy Scrolls of the Law], then they will be participants in the festivities. It is not a spectator sport!
To help the students make the most of this opportunity, prepare song sheets and teach as many songs as you can; also make sure they all have somewhere to go for the event. If at all possible, have the students lead one of the hakafot at the synagogue or community centre.
For older students:
The 24th of Tishrei - Simchat Torah - is the date when the poet, Naftali Zvi Imber, passed away. He is remembered most for the Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem.
- Explore the meaning of Hatikvah and its sources [incl. Yehudah HaLevi].
- Now compare how it is written with the somewhat longer [!] Ma'oz Tzur. To whom is each written? Is there any similarity of message or style?
- Review how relevant - or otherwise - the messages seem today, both in Israel and the Diaspora.
- Would you change or supplement the wording of HATIKVAH - and how -, in view of:
- - any particular event in modern Jewish or Israeli history;
- - the existence of ethnic minorities [large and small] in the modern State of Israel?
For older and intermediate students:
School Bible Quiz
The period allotted for the initial to the final rounds of the International Bible Quiz can run from the Rejoicing of the Law [Simchat Torah] to the Giving of the Law [Shavuot].
Make the run-up to Simchat Torah the time for contests to form school teams for the different levels of the quiz and hold your school quiz during the month of Heshvan.
For older teenagers and students:
Flags, Food and Fun
Older children can make Simchat Torah for younger children; competitions can be held for interesting and elaborate flags; "treat" packets can be made up for children under bar/bat mitzvah age; small, individual scrolls can be made as presents for younger children. Make sure no-one misses the children's Aliya [call-up to the Torah] in the morning service!
As it is difficult to keep children interested throughout seven hakafot and the Torah readings, organize a separate programme for part of the time, with team games to finish off [Simchat Torah flag relay race, pass the apple from the flag, break the circle, fastest song, fastest run round the "bima" (a small chair or table), food tasting blindfold...]: ensure all other furniture is removed so that no-one can fall or knock themselves inadvertently.