I was fiddling with a bunch of materials I’d collected—mostly recyclables—trying to come up with a craft my Sunday School classes could do in 25 minutes. Something connected to Rosh Hashanah, something meaningful, useful, decent-looking and 100% fun to make. I spent hours fine-tuning a “cute” craft we’ve all seen on Pinterest, but I just couldn’t make it kid-friendly enough so that even the Kindergarteners could do all the work themselves. And, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong.
I was. I was wasting time on a dumb craft that just converts trash into different trash. Not all scrap art is created equal. Not every repurposing project is worthy of your students’ precious Jewish time in class. And bottom line, if the kids haven’t explored the real object which they are trying to re-create, then why bother with the re-creation?
I didn’t want my students to make fake apples. I wanted them to eat real ones.
So, we had a Rosh Hashanah apples and honey blessings practice and taste test.
This is nothing new, but it is basic, foundational, absolutely real and worth repeating each year.
Every student got to work a two-handled apple cutter and slice one apple. Every student twisted the segments out of the blades and put the core aside for composting. Every student tasted different kinds of apples, different kinds of honey. I cut slices off a chunk of honeycomb and we nibbled that, too. We marveled at honey bees (and a Carpenter bee for contrast) preserved in a jar.
I told them that the Torah mentions two kinds of honey: bee honey and honey made from date fruit (some say grape, as well). We tasted whole dates and we licked date honey I’d made in the synagogue kitchen a few days before.
We said the first blessing and wondered if it was different from the ordinary blessing we say when we eat apples. (It wasn’t.) We said the “sweet” blessing. We did not say the Shehechianu, and they had to tell me why (“because this is not the first time we have eaten apples and honey this Jewish year”). This lead to discussion about the Jewish year, about traditional notions of time and creation, about what time of day Jewish holidays start and why. We had to consult the Tanakh, we looked at the Jewish calendar on the wall. Hebrew vocab, meanings of “sweet,” and so many other tasty tidbits presented themselves as topics.
We ate our way into the holiday and it was good. It was real.
At minimum, all this takes is a few apples, a jar or two of honey, and a blessings sheet. I’m giving you the sheet, which you can also print onto card stock and turn into a placemat or a Shana Tova card (see links below).
Shana Tova, everyone.
• Apple Print Blessings Placemat for Rosh Hashanah (printable sheet)
• Blessings Placemat for Rosh Hashanah (cut and glue version) (printable sheet)
• Cutting Apples with Kids for Rosh Hashanah (toddlers and older)
Love the thought behind this exercise, Joanna. Thanks for explaining what and why – and how, in this case, simple is the most powerful approach. Shana Tova!
Thanks for reading, Ellen. Shana tova to you and yours!