A Special Book - The Torah
To introduce the Torah as the special book for Jews and to explore the idea of a sacred book for people to reflect upon and live their lives by
by Lucy Fletcher
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To introduce the Torah as the special book for Jews and to explore the idea of a sacred book for people to reflect upon and live their lives by.
Preparation and materials
- A Torah replica or image (not essential but useful if you can get one).
- The pointer called a ‘yad’ or a picture of one (not essential but useful).
- Large scroll (optional) – two large tubes, attached with coffee-stained paper.
- Examples of calligraphy, board and pen (optional).
- You could have the key words (see 6. below) written in large letters for a volunteer to hold up when each one is mentioned.
- The Ten Commandments written out – optional.
Remind pupils of the assemblies on the Bible/Holy Qur’an if you have used them. Ask which group of people have the Bible and which the Qur’an as their special book? Explain that another word for ‘special’ is ‘sacred’.
- Introduce another special book called the Torah. This book is special for Jews, who follow the religion of Judaism. The word ‘Torah’ can mean different things at different times, but the main meaning is ‘a teaching’. It is a Hebrew word, which is the language the Torah is written in.
- Show a Torah replica (they are often very small, so you may want to make a larger scroll to demonstrate how they work). Explain that the Torah does not look like a normal book; instead, it is in the form of a scroll and is always hand-written in Hebrew. The writing is very detailed and decorative – this type of writing is called calligraphy. (At this point you could demonstrate some calligraphy and get a couple of volunteers to have a go at writing their names in this way, demonstrating how hard it is and how long it would take to write a whole book.) Torahs are still hand-written in this way.
The Torah is kept in a special cabinet in the synagogue called an ‘Ark’, which is a Hebrew word that means ‘holy cabinet’. A special cloth is usually put on top of the Torah. There is also a desk nearby on which to read the Torah.
- Go on to explain that the Torah is so special (sacred) to Jewish people that there are many rules relating to it. For example, people are not allowed to touch the scroll with their hands. Some say this is because it is sacred and some say it is because they do not want to damage the ‘parchment’, which is a paper-like material made from animal-skin. There is also a pointer called a ‘Yad’, which is used to read the Torah (show the yad if you have one). ‘Yad’ means ‘hand’ in Hebrew and it is silver. It has a hand shape on the end of it, with an index finger pointing.
The Torah is mainly made up of five different books. In the Christian Bible, the first part is called the Old Testament, and this is also what is in the Torah. According to Jews, God spoke to Moses and these words are written in the Torah. It contains many stories – some of them you may already know, such as how the world began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the story of Noah and the flood.
- As well as stories, the Torah contains rules that Jews use to live their lives by. For example, Moses talked about The Ten Commandments. You may have already heard about these. Here they are: (Optional – you could go through them depending on time. You could then brainstorm any other ideas the children have for rules to live by. Do they think these rules are suitable today? Which would they change? This could even be done as a subsequent assembly as it could be an assembly in itself – just depends on time.)
The Ten Commandments
I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.
You shall have no other gods but me.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
Respect your father and mother.
You must not kill.
You must not commit adultery.
You must not steal.
You must not give false evidence against your neighbour.
You must not be envious of your neighbour’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour.
- Finally summarize by revisiting key words to see who can remember their meaning: Jew, Judaism, Torah, Hebrew, calligraphy, Ark and Yad.
Time for reflection
The word ‘sacred’ means ‘very special’.
Think of all the people, places and things which are special to you.
Picture these special people and things in your head.
Look at how lovely they are and how happy they make you feel.
Quietly, in your head, you could say thank you for everything that is special in your life – including books!
Thank you for everything that we think of as special.
Thank you for sacred writings that help us think about the important things in life.
‘Shalom’ (Come and Praise, 141)
‘Who built the Ark?’ from Someone’s Singing Lord – Book and CD
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