The aim of this activity is to examine the needs of the current Jewish community and compare them with the needs of the traditional Jewish community.

  • Present the class with the following piece of text from Massechet Sanhedrin of the Talmud.
  • A Talmid Chacham (a scholar) is not permitted to live in a city that does not have the following ten attributes:

    • A court empowered to punish the guilty
    • A communal tzedakah fund, monies for which are collected by two people and distributed by three
    • A synagogue
    • A mikveh
    • Sufficient bathroom facilities
    • A doctor
    • A blood letter [i.e. a popular healer]
    • A scribe
    • A butcher
    • A Torah teacher for children.
      Talmud Bavli:Masechet Sanhedrin 17b
  • Ask the students about the general message of the text. Why is a Talmid Chacham (a scholar) not permitted to live in a place without all of these things? Do they think that the text is only aimed at scholars, or does its message apply for other Jews as well?
  • In pairs, the students should examine the list of requirements for the community in which the sage (the Jew for whom it is important to live a full Jewish life) is allowed to live. Why is each element mentioned? After examining each element and explaining what they think its significance may be, they should try to define in no more than a couple of sentences what they think the piece is saying about the ideal Jewish community of the time that the piece was written (about fifteen-hundred years ago).
  • After comparing the answers with the whole group, the students should regroup in pairs and write an equivalent piece for today, starting with the words “A Jew who wants to live a Jewish life should not live in a place that does not have the following ten things…” They need to think carefully about the different needs that modern Jews have. Are all the institutions ‘religious’ institutions? Why? Why not?
  • The group should come back together and compare their different ideas, arguing out their positions and trying to persuade the rest of the group that ‘their’ institutions are the right ones for the modern Jewish community. Finally, the group should attain an ideal model for a modern Jewish community.

N.B. If you intend to integrate artwork into your program, this is an ideal opportunity for creating two large models of Jewish community, one representing the traditional idea of community suggested by the Talmud, and the other the modern Jewish community suggested by the students.





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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0