Judaism is a religion associated with a wealth of interesting artefacts. We've put together some key artefacts to explore various aspects of the Jewish faith and included comprehensive teachers' notes to help to get you started with your Jewish resources.
Set includes: Kippah (Yamulke skull cap), Hanukiah in brass, Dreidle for sweets, Torah Scrolls, Mezuzah facsimile, Mezuzah metal case, Seder Plate, teachers' notes.
At the heart of the religion is the Torah, the Word of G-d as revealed in the first five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). In our collection replica scrolls that have these books printed on them in Hebrew script represent the Torah. Real scrolls are very heavy and expensive (£20,000+) and would not be able to be kept within the classroom, so try to include a visit to the synagogue or use video clips showing the scrolls being used, as part of your study.
Original Torah scrolls are hand written on parchment by a specially trained religious man called a Sofer. They will be 'dressed' with a mantle and decorated with a breastplate and silver bells or a crown. Because they are so holy, they are never touched by hand and a special pointer called a Yad (Hebrew for hand) is used to follow the Hebrew. One activity idea is for children to make their own Torah scrolls. If you are doing this, they should not be decorated with pictures of people.
The Kippah (yamulke) is a skull cap which would be worn by Jewish men and boys as a mark of respect and to remind them that God is greater than they are. Some wear them all the time, whereas others wear them when entering the Synagogue (Jewish place of worship), praying or reading the Torah.
Also included in the collection is a mezuzah case with a facsimile mezuzah. The case would be placed diagonally on every door of a Jewish home (except the bathroom as that is considered an unclean place) and it contains a scroll with the words of the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One”, the basic statement of Jewish belief in the Oneness of God. The scroll should not be handled, as it contains God's name. Therefore, we have included a facsimile which is printed in reasonably large letters so that pupils can see how Hebrew letters are written. Underneath it is the actual size of the scroll that shows how small the writing has to be, a point worth pondering when one considers it is done by hand with a quill pen!
The spring festival of Pesach (Passover) is represented by the seder plate, which shows the symbolic foods that are displayed at the Pesach meal. It can be used as a visual aid when explaining about the festival and its meaning or as the centre piece of a seder demonstration at the end of the study of Passover in Judaism. The plate has six divisions to hold the symbolic Passover foods:
- The shank bone of a lamb - representing the Temple sacrifice and the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorposts so that the Angel of Death would 'pass over' the Hebrew homes
- A burnt egg - for the free will offering and new life. It is burnt as a reminder that nothing is perfect
- Parsley - represents new life and spring
- Bitter herbs (e.g. horseradish) - for the bitter times the Jewish people spent in slavery in Egypt.
- A second bitter herb such as lettuce, which is sweet at first but then turns bitter, just as at first the Jewish people enjoyed their stay in Egypt
- Charoseth - a mixture of apple, cinnamon, nuts and wine. A reminder of the mortar used in the building
- Salt water - for the tears of bitterness shed
- Matzot - pieces of unleavened bread are reminders of the haste in which the Jewish people left Egypt when there was no time for the bread to rise.
The hanukiah or Hanukkah menorah and dreidel (spinner) are both items associated with the Festival of Hanukkah. This celebrates the defeat of the Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BCE. Although not a major festival, it occurs in the winter months and is associated with lights and presents, so in that sense it is a popular festival and often taught in schools.
The Greeks had invaded Israel and desecrated the Jewish temple. Although the Jewish people fought back and defeated the Greeks, they needed to cleanse the temple before it could be used again. To do this, they needed to light the seven branched menorah which stood in the temple, but they only had enough oil for one day. It would take eight days to produce more oil. The story says that by a miracle the tiny amount of oil lasted the full eight days. That is why at this festival, the hanukiahs or Hanukkah menorahs have eight branches, plus an extra one called the servant, which is used to light the others.
During the time of the Greek invasion, Jewish people were forbidden to study the Torah. This did not stop them but they met together in secret and posted a lookout. If soldiers were spotted, the Torahs were quickly hidden and all the soldiers would find would be a group of Jewish people playing a gambling game with dreidles. This game is played during Hanukkah.
Each player puts a counter in the centre. The first player spins the dreidle and looks at the Hebrew letter on which it lands then carries out the instructions as follows:
Shin - put a counter in
Nun - get nothing
Gimmel - get all
Heh - take half
When there are no more counters in the centre each player adds one from his or her own pile and the game continues until the winner has all the counters.