Activity 1: Story - Moses and the Ten Commandments
Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Story, "Moses and the Ten Commandments"
- Handout 2, The Ten Commandments
- Pens or pencils
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Read the story "Moses and the Ten Commandments" so you will be comfortable presenting it.
- Write each of the Ten Commandments across the top of separate sheets of newsprint. Post along with five blank sheets.
Description of Activity
Remind the group that the covenant God made with Abraham, described in the Book of Genesis, is the reason Jews are called God's Chosen People. Point out that, according to the Hebrew Bible, direct communication between God and certain Jewish prophets continued over many generations. Explain that, in both biblical and historical tradition, Moses-"the Lawgiver"-was Judaism's most important prophet.
Share the following:
This is one biblical account of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai by God. Another appears in the Book of Deuteronomy.
Moses stayed on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights; God's instructions to Moses fill twelve chapters of the Hebrew Bible. At the end of the forty days and forty nights, in the last verse of Chapter 31 of Exodus, the Bible states: "And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God."
Tell or read aloud the story, "Moses and the Ten Commandments."
Invite initial responses to the story. Then ask:
- What do you think about the Ten Commandments?
- What do you think the purpose of the Ten Commandments might have been to the ancient Hebrews?
- Do you think we need such instructions?
Distribute Handout 2 and pens/pencils and invite youth to rank the Ten Commandments in their personal order of importance. Invite them to add rules to the Ten Commandments if they feel a necessary rule is missing. Allow a few minutes for the youth to complete this.
Ask volunteers for any rules they wish to add to the Ten Commandments. Write each addition on a new sheet of newsprint.
Then, invite the group to re-number the Ten Commandments and the additions, based on the importance of each rule. Tell them they need not agree on the ranking. Ask them to come to the newsprint sheets and write the number they assigned each rule.
With participants, discuss the rankings they assigned to the Ten Commandments. Ask:
- Where does there appear to be agreement in the ranking of the Ten Commandments?
- Where do you see differences of opinion?
Suggest that the rules which seemed necessary and important to the ancient Hebrews might be different than the most important rules needed in our society today. Ask:
- How is life in our society different from life in the ancient Hebrews' time and circumstances?
- How is life the same?
- Do you think your own cultural bias might have affected your ranking? If so, how?
Now invite the youth to examine the rules they added. Taking the rules one at a time, invite participants (whether they contributed a rule or not) to say why they feel the rule is needed. Encourage participants to respect one another's ideas. Remind them that a person's ideas about what rules we need express that person's values and concerns; everyone's ideas should be honored.
Prompt further discussion with these questions:
- What are some reasons we have rules? (Safety, health, to keep people from hurting one another, to keep order, so things can be fair.)
- Rules are generally made to benefit individuals and community. Which of the Ten Commandments and your new rules are geared toward benefiting individuals? Which are geared toward benefiting community? Why do you think so?
Including All Participants
If any youth are unable to easily move to the posted newsprint and write their rankings of the Ten Commandments, offer to do it for them or invite them to choose a peer to do it.