Category Archives: PS Upper

Secondary Sources: Miracles – UPS

Download the secondary sources here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon


Secondary Sources: Miracles

Rabbinic notion of daily miracles: “Come and consider how many miracles the Holy One blessed be He, performs for people, and they are unaware of it. If a person was to swallow bread without chewing it, it would hurt them terribly, but God created people with mouths which lets them to chew and then swallow.” (Exodus Rabba 24:1).



Avraham Joshua Heschel talked about the mystery of the universe – how it came to be like it is and the rules that make it work – and how that makes us feel a great sense of wonder” (God in Search of Man).

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.






Albert Einstein: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Image source :



vayeira-miracle-ss-image-3Peggy Noonan: “I think miracles exist in part as gifts and in part as clues that there is something beyond the flat world we see.” Peggy Noonan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. She has written eight books on American politics and culture. Quote is from: What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (1990).

Image source:


China’s Miracle Man

Monday, July 9, 2007: He survived against all the odds; “now Peng Shulin has astounded doctors by learning to walk again. When his body was cut in two by a lorry in 1995, it was little short of a medical miracle that he lived.vayeira-miracle-ss-image-4

It took a team of more than 20 doctors to save his life.

Doctors at the China Rehabilitation Research Centre in Beijing found out about Mr Peng’s plight late last year and devised a plan to get him up walking again. They came up with an ingenious way to allow him to walk on his own, creating a sophisticated egg cup-like casing to hold his body with two bionic legs attached to it.
He has been taking his first steps around the centre with the aid of his specially adapted legs and a resized walking frame. Mr Peng, who has to learn how to walk again, is said to be delighted with the device.

In November 2009, the Australian Daily Telegraph reported that Peng had opened his own bargain supermarket, called the Half Man-Half Price Store.

What self-confidence… and optimism…

Source: &

Secondary Sources: Lying – Aaron, Lover and Pursuer of Peace – UPS

Download the secondary sources here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon


Secondary Sources: Lying

Aaron, Lover and Pursuer of Peace

vayeira-lying-ss-image-1 vayeira-lying-ss-image-2


Some Questions you might like to ask:

  • How do you think the friends would react if they found out Aaron had made this up?
  • How do you think Aaron would describe what he did?
  • Do you think Aaron should have done something different?
  • You might like to act out the story in light of these questions.

Discussion Plan: Miracles – UPS, MS, HS, A

Download the discussion plan here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon


Discussion Plan: Miracles

Discuss what the term ‘miracle’ means in each of these sentences:

1. “It was a miracle he survived the accident”
2. “At Hannukah we talk about the miracle of the oil”
3. “When my baby brother was born and I saw him for the first time I thought ‘this is a miracle’”
4. “The trapeze artist performed miraculous feats of daring”
5. “My biology teacher talks about the miracle of life on earth”
6. “It was a miracle that I got my homework done on time”
7. “The magician pulled a rabbit out of the hat – it was a miracle!’
8. I used to take butterflies for granted, but now we have studied them, I think each one is a tiny miracle!

Secondary Source: What’s in a name – UPS, MS, HS

Download the secondary sources here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon

Secondary Sources: What’s in a name

Excerpts from: Rabbi Michal Shekel: The Women’s Torah Commentary, Elyse Goldstein (ed.), (Jewish Lights, NY), 2000, pp.57-62
Parshat Lech lecha contains within it two journeys, each of which encompasses a spiritual and physical aspect. The first is the well known story of Abram (Bereshit 12). The second is subtler but still powerful. It is the journey undertaken by Sarai’s handmaiden Hagar….
One can discover three occurrences in this parashah that mirror Abram’s experience. First, Hagar leaves home, her personal Lechi lach, “go forth” (fem.)… Second, God makes a brit, a covenant, with her, in which she is promised that she will have numerous offspring… Third, she is told her son’s name before his birth. But here the parallel ends; for, most significantly, Hagar gives God a name. Abram has never done this, nor has anyone else.
What courage! In these early chapters of the Torah, the act of naming is highly significant. It is both empowering and embracing….
Hagar names God el ro’i “God who sees me.” This is in response to God’s naming of her child Yishma’el, which means “God hears”. In naming God, Hagar affirms that God sees as well as hears. Here too is a parallel with Abraham. After the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, Abraham calls the mountain where he offers his son “Adonai sees”…

Activity: Seeing – UPS

Download the activity here:  Word word-doc-icon  PDF  pdf-icon

Activity: Seeing

Sitting in the circle, one person begins by describing someone else in the circle very carefully – other’s in the circle need to figure out who it is. The first person in the circle to guess who it is correctly has the next turn in describing someone else in the circle. To make it more difficult, start with describing the more general features (that s everal others share) before describing more unique features of the person (eg, ‘brown hair’ before ‘red ribbons in their hair’)

Discussion Plan: Seeing and Hearing – UPS

Download the discussion plan here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon


Discussion Plan: Seeing and Hearing

In each case, make sure to explain your answers / responses.

  1. Are there times you can be heard but not seen? Describe come situations
  2. Are there times you are seen but are not heard? Describe some situtations
  3. Can you look at someone but not really see them?
  4. Can you see someone without looking at them?
  5. Can you hear what someone says but not listen to them?
  6. Do you expect friends to see you better than other people? In what ways?
  7. Is there a difference between the way parents see you and the way teachers see you?
  8. Is there a difference between the way parents see you and the way your friends see you?
  9. Do you think all your friends see you the same way?
  10. Could a stranger see you better than your friends do?
  11. Could someone who disagrees with you see your point better than people who agree with you?

image source: shutterstock


Return to the questions above – try re-asking them about seeing and hearing God. (e.g.; Are there times when God is heard but not seen? Could you hear what God says but not listen to God? Does it make a difference if you see God as a parent or as a friend? Do you expect God to see you better than other people? In what ways?)

Exercise: Recognizing Different Types of Laughter – UPS, MS, HS, A

Download the exercise here: PDF  pdf-icon

Exercise: Recognizing Different Types of Laughter

What kind of laughter do you think each of these pictures shows? What is the difference between them? After looking at the pictures, think about which kind(s) of laugh you think are closest to Sarah’s laugh? Try performing that laugh.

vayeira-laughter-e-image-1 vayeira-laughter-e-image-2
vayeira-laughter-e-image-3 vayeira-laughter-e-image-4
vayeira-laughter-e-image-5 vayeira-laughter-e-image-6

All images are open source from creative commons:

Intertextual Sources: Exploring the meaning of אות

Download the intertextual sources here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon


Intertextual Sources: Exploring the meaning of אות


Exploring the meaning of אות

Is there any difference between the meaning of אות in the following passage and the way it is used in Noah?

  • Read together Shemot 12:13 (God telling the Israelite to mark their door frames during the plagues)
  • Discuss the ways in which this is similar and different from the rainbow. (for example: What is the function of the אות (to show? tell? remind? something else?). Who is doing the actions? Is this to help the Israelites also remember that they will be safe from God’s actions – is this the same as the rainbow?)

Drama Activities: The meaning of אות

  1. Divide into small groups – half the groups will work with the Exodus text (Shemot 12:13) and half the groups with the in the rainbow text – they should create a skit that shows what they think putting the sign up (on the door, in the sky) is about in light of their discussion.
  1. Divide into small groups – create a skit that shows how you understand the rainbow text in light of some of the distinctions you explored in your community of inquiry / in these discussion plans

Leading Idea: Establishing (מֵקִים), remembering (לִזְכֹּר) and remembering in the future (זָכַרְתִּי)

Download the leading idea description here: PDF pdf-icon


Leading Idea: Establishing (מֵקִים), remembering (לִזְכֹּר) and remembering in the future (זָכַרְתִּי)

In Verses 9:8-17 God turns his attention from Noah to himself. “As for me…” Within this passage he reflects on the act of establishing a covenant and remembering it – that is maintaining a covenant (keeping it over time), and the intention to keep it in the future (I will remember). God also reflects on the ‘sign’ (אות) , or rainbow, as representing the covenant (as a sign of the covenant), as a way of showing us of his intentions (it stands as a sign between me and you), and as a way of reminding himself of his covenant. These exercises and discussion plans explore these subtle yet very powerful distinctions.

Lech L’cha (Bereshit 16: 1-13) בראשית טז א- יג

Download the text here:  Word word-doc-icon  PDF  pdf-icon


Bereshit 16: 1-13

   בראשית טז א יג

1. Sarai, Avram’s wife, had not borne [children] to him. She had an Egyptian maid, her name was Hagar.

א וְשָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם לֹא יָלְדָה לוֹ וְלָהּ שִׁפְחָה מִצְרִית וּשְׁמָהּ הָגָר:

2. And Sarai said to Avram, “Behold now, God has held me back from bearing; please come in to my maid; perhaps I will be built up [with sons] from her.” And Abram hearkened to Sarai’s voice.

ב וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל אַבְרָם הִנֵּה נָא עֲצָרַנִי יְהֹוָה מִלֶּדֶת בֹּא נָא אֶל שִׁפְחָתִי אוּלַי אִבָּנֶה מִמֶּנָּה וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם לְקוֹל שָׂרָי:

3. Sarai, Avram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, at the end of ten years of Avram’s living [dwelling] in the land of Canaan, and she gave her to her husband Avram for a wife.

ג וַתִּקַּח שָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם אֶת הָגָר הַמִּצְרִית שִׁפְחָתָהּ מִקֵּץ עֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים לְשֶׁבֶת אַבְרָם בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וַתִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָם אִישָׁהּ לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה:

4. And he came in to Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became less important [lowered in esteem] in her eyes.

ד וַיָּבֹא אֶל הָגָר וַתַּהַר וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וַתֵּקַל גְּבִרְתָּהּ בְּעֵינֶיהָ:

5.  And Sarai said to Avram, “The wrong [injustice] done to me is upon you! I gave my maid into your bosom, but now she sees that she is pregnant, I have become unimportant [lowered in worth] in her eyes. May God judge [do justice] between me and you!”

ה וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל אַבְרָם חֲמָסִי עָלֶיךָ אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי בְּחֵיקֶךָ וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וָאֵקַל בְּעֵינֶיהָ יִשְׁפֹּט יְהֹוָה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיֹךָ:

6. And Avram said to Sarai, “Here – your maid is in your hand; do with her however it seems good in your eyes.” And Sarai afflicted her, and she fled from before her.

ו וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶל שָׂרַי הִנֵּה שִׁפְחָתֵךְ בְּיָדֵךְ עֲשִׂי לָהּ הַטּוֹב בְּעֵינָיִךְ וַתְּעַנֶּהָ שָׂרַי וַתִּבְרַח מִפָּנֶיהָ:

7. And an angel [messenger] of God found her by a spring of water in the desert, by the spring on the way to Shur.

ז וַיִּמְצָאָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה עַל עֵין הַמַּיִם בַּמִּדְבָּר עַל הָעַיִן בְּדֶרֶךְ שׁוּר:

8.  He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where are you coming from, and where are you going to?” And she said, “I am fleeing from Sarai my mistress.”

ח וַיֹּאמַר הָגָר שִׁפְחַת שָׂרַי אֵי מִזֶּה בָאת וְאָנָה תֵלֵכִי וַתֹּאמֶר מִפְּנֵי שָׂרַי גְּבִרְתִּי אָנֹכִי בֹּרַחַת:

9. And God’s angel [messenger] said to her, “Return to your mistress, and allow yourself to be afflicted under her hand.”

ט וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה שׁוּבִי אֶל גְּבִרְתֵּךְ וְהִתְעַנִּי תַּחַת יָדֶיהָ:

10. And Go’s angel [messenger] said to her, “I will greatly multiply your seed [children], and it will be too many to count.”

י וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶת זַרְעֵךְ וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר מֵרֹב:

11. And God’s angel; [messenger] said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and and will bear a son, and name him Ishmael [God hears], for God has heard your affliction.

יא וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה הִנָּךְ הָרָה וְיֹלַדְתְּ בֵּן וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ יִשְׁמָעֵאל כִּי שָׁמַע יְהֹוָה אֶל עָנְיֵךְ:

12. And he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be upon all, and everyone’s hand upon him, and yet in the presence of all his brothers he will dwell.”                              

יב וְהוּא יִהְיֶה פֶּרֶא אָדָם יָדוֹ בַכֹּל וְיַד כֹּל בּוֹ וְעַל פְּנֵי כָל אֶחָיו יִשְׁכֹּן:

13. And she called the name of God, the one who had spoken to her, “You are the God of seeing,” because she said: “Have I continued [gone on] seeing here after I have been seen?”

יג וַתִּקְרָא שֵׁם יְהֹוָה הַדֹּבֵר אֵלֶיהָ אַתָּה אֵל רֳאִי כִּי אָמְרָה הֲגַם הֲלֹם רָאִיתִי אַחֲרֵי רֹאִי:

14. Therefore the well was called Be’er Lachai Ro’i; [Well of the living-one who sees me], behold it is between Kadesh and Bered.

יד עַל כֵּן קָרָא לַבְּאֵר בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי הִנֵּה בֵין קָדֵשׁ וּבֵין בָּרֶד:

15. Hagar bore a son to Avram, and Avram named his son, whom Hagar had borne, Ishmael.

טו וַתֵּלֶד הָגָר לְאַבְרָם בֵּן וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָם שֶׁם בְּנוֹ אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה הָגָר יִשְׁמָעֵאל: