Faith and Fear

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Written by:
Rabbi Yehuda Chanales
Access editable doc with student handouts:

ברכה ראשונה of choice - some ideas:

(5 minutes)
  • The word that comes to mind when I think about סליחות/ראש השנה is…
  • One feeling I usually have over ראש השנה is…
  • I’m here tonight to..
  • Tonight I’m hoping to walk away feeling..

לימוד ועבודה פנימית

(15 minutes)

Personal Reflection and Sharing  

Ask student to write on a piece of paper: 

Option A:

What or whom are you most afraid of? Why? (Advanced: Consider pushing students to ask themselves “why” or “what am I REALLY afraid of?” a couple of times till they feel like they have reached a root issue)

Either swap papers with someone else or partner with them and share. Second person should write or respond with suggestions for how to alleviate the other person’s fears. 

Ask the group for a few examples of people willing to share with the group (they can share what they wrote or what they heard from the other person but should not identify which it is.)

Option B:

Recall a time when you were scared. What or whom were you afraid of? Why? 

How did you deal with your fear? Did you avoid it? Confront it? Overcome it?

Partner with someone else and share reponses.

(They can share what they wrote or what they heard from the other person but should not identify which it is.)

Group Discussion: 

Choose any or all of the questions below to discuss. The goal is to bring up the questions and not necessarily provide specific solutions. 

a) How many of your answers involved Hashem?
b) Why do you think everyone didn’t write/include bittachon/reliance on Hashem?
c) What can strengthen or weaken our bittachon/reliance on Hashem when we face challenges?

Transition: Let’s look at the perek of Tehillim that we say twice a day during אלול and the ימים נוראים period to see how דוד dealt with his fears by bringing Hashem into the experience…

Learning and Discussion of תהילים כז 

Can be done in chavrutot or all together. Text and guided questions on the student handout page (we will make copies for everyone). If learning together, consider having different students read each Hebrew and English פסוק and discuss the questions.

Some potential ideas to highlight: [Please consider adding ideas here!]

  1. ביטחון/Confidence
    • Role of self-talk and our ability to gain confidence by talking and feeling confident
  2. מחסה/ Shelter
    • Consider how powerful it can be to just have a break from powerful negative emotions. 
    • What would it be like if I knew that there was somewhere safe I could go (not necessarily physically) and be totally relieved of my fears, anxieties, etc.?
  3. קרבה/ Closeness
    • Sometimes just feeling closeness to someone (Hashem or someone important to us) can alleviate a lot of the stress, insecurity, fears, that we’re feeling 
  4. הדרכה/Guidance
    • How is asking Hashem for guidance different than asking a person? 

Moving Forward

Students can  write individually or you can ask them to reflect silently. You may also choose whether to have people share or not and which questions to focus on. Questions will not be included on the handout but space will be provided. Based on timing, you can choose to either skip this section or the next one. (Section 5 may work better for younger grades)

What fears do I have for the upcoming year?

How can דוד’s strategies help me?

What do I need to daven/ask ה’ for to allow me to use those strategies and succeed in having the confidence to overcome my fears?

ראש השנה

Rosh Hashana, on one hand, is clearly a day of fear. According to the famous piyut ונתנה תוקף what should we be scared of on Rosh Hashana?

On the other hand, the midrash explains that we are supposed to eat and drink on Rosh Hashana because we have confidence that Hashem will “take care of us”.

Which emotional approach to Rosh Hashana do you think will make the day and your tefillot more meaningful? Why?

ברכה אחרונה

What’s one idea or reflection you would like to take from our discussion tonight to think more about over the kumsitz and longer tefillot of the next few weeks?

Notes to the teacher

  • This is the place to make suggestions to the teacher of different ways they may choose to facilitate this limmud
  • Or particular grade levels or sensitivities to take into account
  • Or anything else you think is important for the teacher to know

עבודת המורה

  • This is the place to raise some questions that make sure the teacher tests the limmud on themselves or others
  • Could be a general question like - which part of the limmud resonated most for you? Which question was the hardest for you to answer?
  • Or questions anticipating students’ responses- What do you think students will say for X or Y? To what extent are you open to being surprised?
Download with student handouts:
Please help others by sharing how you used the resource, how you adapted it (link to your own version!) and what worked more or less well. You can also post questions that Lifnai Vlifnim staff or community members will try to respond to.

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