Torah Aura has a particular view of the role of Torah Study in Religious School life. We have created materials so students can study Torah almost every year, learning new skills and a new aspect of the text each year. The materials present no theology of the text other than one which states that the Torah is personal, valuable, and significant. They invite discussions of God but provide no opinions on the Divine. Rather, while the lenses used are diverse, all of the methodology presented is phenomenological. My Weekly Sidrah and The Bible from Alef to Tav are both primary approaches to Torah. My Weekly Sidrah tells the story in the style of HighLights Magazine. It provides both a summary for every portion as well as comprehension activities that are developmentally appropriate for K-3, as well as climaxing in an interpretation question that is rooted in the language experience method. The Bible from Alef to Tav is designed to partner with the introduction of the Hebrew Alef-Bet and tells one Bible story a week that connects to the mastery of the Alef-Bet. The focus here is narrative. This book is appropriate for K-3 and has a family learning component. See J.P. Fokkelman.
Robert Alter in his Art of Jewish Narrative makes it clear that the narrative sections of the Torah consist of two things: actions and dialogue. What is almost absent is feelings. We never see inside the people; we only get external descriptions. E.g. “his nose burned” for “he got angry.” Upon extrapolation, we learn that much of the art of biblical study is the art of empathy. A Child’s Garden of Torah is the third Bible book for primary students. This one is told story-by-story and focuses on empathy. It consistently asks the learner to verbalize the feelings of the characters of the story. It builds empathy as a Jewish skill. As with the two other books in the K-3 range, there is a retelling of the biblical story, but this one emphasizes structure. See J.P. Fokkelman. There are two parts to the Child’s Garden of Torah Curriculum. One is a read-aloud family and teacher’s book that is designed for classroom presentation and family follow-up (based on the work of The Cooney Center and CTW research. And the other is a set of 28 student folders with stickers that focus on comprehension skills and narrative elements.
Next developmentally is Being Torah. The Documentary Hypothesis is a theory that the Torah was a human creation, written in layers by diverse groups with diverse experiences and then redacted together into the complete document we now have. We have produced no materials that teach the documentary hypothesis because it involves a fixed theology of the text. But, because of the Documentary hypothesis, Umberto Cassutto wrote his books as a rejection of mosaic authorship (fragmentary authorship of the Torah) in favor of Mosaic (authorship by Moses). Buber and Rosenzweig followed Cassutto into a German translation of the bible that is sensitive to Hebrew nuances. Everett Fox began a process of creating an English translation of the Bible that is likewise sensitive to the nuances of the Hebrew, including root repetition, careful attention to almost-repeated passages, and so on. Being Torah continues this movement. It uses a colored text to point out repetitions, guiding learners to count root usages. It is an English translation of the text that is age-appropriate and is edited into story/language groupings. The Student Commentary (workbook) provides a foundation of exercises that both clarifies the inquiry and allows for the interpretation of found phenomena as student commentaries. Appreciation of the interpretations of other students is built into the exercises. Research: The Technology of Making Meaning.
Experiencing the Torah offers an experiential approach to education. For Grades 4-5, this book presents a translation of the biblical text as a script for experiential reading aloud, offers individual verse-via-historical commentaries, leading to an intrapsychic experience. And then provides a series of experiential projects for exploring the narrative, in a project-based learning model. Here are learning content moves from P’shat to Drash.
Make a Midrash Out of Me (Grades 5-7) moves into studying the Torah text via Midrash. Torah-Toons matches a problem in the biblical text to Midrashim that answers the problem. Students learn about a parashah, breakdown the Torah text, and amass tools for reading and interpreting Midrash. Torah Toons 1 comes with a set of animated features that can be found onYouTube.