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Curriculum Cycle

Our school operates on a four-year curriculum cycle, with the entire school focusing on one theme for the entire year. This model allows us to dive deeply into a theme and explore it in all of our programming throughout the year. Every week that Beit Midrash meets, each class will study the same topic at the appropriate level for their age group.

The four years of our cycle are:

Avodah עֲבוֹדָה (Jewish practice) 

Torah תּוֹרָה (our central Jewish text)  <----  We are here!

Derekh Eretz דֶרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (Jewish values)

L'dor vador לְדוֹר וָדוֹר (Jewish history)


Torah: Exploring New and Ancient Texts

The Hebrew word תּוֹרָה is a flexible and nuanced word that can describe a broad range of texts and ideas. At the most essential level, torah, The Torah, is the canonical content of the books of Bereshit (Genesis), Shemot (Exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and Devarim (Deuteronomy), also variously referred as the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch. It’s what’s written in the scroll that’s kept in the ark in our sanctuary. 

But the word torah comes from a Hebrew root that means “to instruct, to indicate, to point out.” As such, we also use it in a more expansive sense to refer to any and all aspects of Jewish intellectual tradition. When we talk about “torah,” and especially when we talk about talmud torah (Torah Study), we might plausibly be referring to:

  • The books of the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim), which together with Torah make up the TaNaKh – the full canon of Jewish sacred text.

  • Midrash – Ancient interpretive compositions. “Stories about stories in the Bible.”

  • Mishnah and Talmud – The classical rabbinic texts recording received oral traditions.

  • Halachah – Jewish legal literature establishing normative Jewish ritual and ethical practice.

  • The process of Torah interpretation itself, as done over thousands of years by different Jews from rabbis to b’nei mitzvah students and everyone in between at all levels of education and experience. 

This year, our focus will be on the former, but with an eye toward the latter. We will explore a curated collection of the most important and influential content of The Torah – stories, laws, and passages of all kinds that contribute meaningfully to what it means to be Jewish and to practice Judaism. We’ll seek to teach each passage in its context – building, over the course of the year, a broad sense of what’s inside the eclectic collection we call the Torah. And we’ll engage with the process of Torah interpretation – learning about the meaning that other Jews past and present have made from the text of Torah, and participating ourselves in the ongoing process of meaning-making through Torah interpretation.


Enduring Understandings

  1. Torah is the core of Judaism. It is the story of who we are as the Jewish people and where we came from. And it is the foundation of our values and traditions.

  2. Talmud Torah (Torah study) is the work we do to find sacred connections to God, family, community, and self through study of our sacred texts. These connections extend across time and space.

  3. "Torah" refers to both the content of the Torah scroll itself and "torah" (with a lowercase "t") to the ongoing interpretation and understanding of the meaning of the Torah text, which has take place over thousands of years of Jewish history, through midrash, Talmud, and halachah, and it continues today through us.

  4. At Beit Am, we embrace a diversity of Jewish approaches to reading Torah and understandings of its origins and significance.

  5. Understanding Jewish Torah interpretation is a central part of knowing my identity. The more I know about how Jews read and make meaning from Torah, the more I know about who I am. I am an important part of the ongoing story of the Jewish people.

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