Imagining the Heavens with Garinim

Imagining the Heavens with Garinim

In the final week of Jewish Enrichment before Winter Break, Garinim (PreK-1st grade) took a closer look at the text of Nehemiah which recounts the first time Torah was ever read in public. The kids began the unit by dissecting the importance of Bnei Yisrael being able to hear and understand the Torah for the first time in community with each other. Finally, we arrived at the words spoken to Bnei Yisrael by Ezra the Scribe, who’s credited with writing down the Torah, as well as reading it aloud with the help of many to translate and ensure understanding.

“You alone are God. You made the shamayim (heavens), the highest heavens, and everything in them, the aretz (earth) and everything on it, the yamim (seas) and everything in them. You keep them all alive, and the whole big population of heaven bows down before You. – Nehemiah 9

The Garinim kids spent several weeks exploring the Creation story at the beginning of the school year; considering all of the things on Earth God created. The text of that first unit invited an opportunity for the kids to imagine the heavens. As a kvutzah (group), we shared what each of us individually envisioned the heavens to look like. To begin this process, all the kids drew what they imagined Heaven to look like on the same giant piece of paper. Everyone had an opportunity to share what they noticed in other’s drawings. No two learners imagined heaven in the same way. One drew a list of what they imagined heaven to be, another drew a massive gray line, one drew stars and planets and another drew parallels to what they’ve heard of heaven in Greek mythology. After we dissected this, I showed the Garinim some inspirational pictures of what others have imagined Heaven to look like sourced from the internet. These images ranged from beautiful landscapes, to vast nothingness, and dystopian cities. 

At the end of our time together, each learner, drew from the textploration brainstorm and visual inspiration to create a depiction of how they imagine Heaven. With oil pastels and markets, each kid drew a rendering that was unique and specific to their perspective. There was no wrong answer. This exercise enabled us to engage artistically and critically with Jewish text similar to how Bnei Yisrael was given the same opportunity at the first public Torah reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *