I have gained so much this year from the engaging and creative teaching style of Mrs. Riesel’s Chumash class at the Berman Hebrew Academy. We recently learned about korbanot (sacrifices or offerings) in the book of Vayikra through the different views of the mefarshim (commentators). In order to test our knowledge, Mrs. Riesel had the exciting idea of holding a mock court case.
This was the scenario: In the days of Mashiach (the Messiah), an animal rights group sues the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple). We had to argue in support of korbanot in 2017 based on the arguments of the mefarshim; separated into groups, each “legal team” presented the views of a mefaresh we learned in class.
We prepared opening statements, the testimony of our group’s expert witness (who was going to be cross-examined by Mrs. Riesel, the opposing counsel), and closing arguments. It was fascinating to look through our notes and find that everything we needed to make clear and strong cases was already there.
My group represented Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman, who teaches that every time we give a korban we are only strengthening our connection and relationship with Hashem. On the day of the actual trial (there was a judge presiding and everything!) we argued that, according to Rabbi Hoffman, giving korbanot helps us realize that everything we own and care about belongs to Hashem. They allow us to understand that all living things, including us, exist by G-d’s will alone. Bringing korbanot lets us see that our entire personal life and all of our experiences lie in G-d’s hands. Finally, by giving an animal, we can truly recognize Hashem’s direct involvement in our success and our continued survival, particularly after close brushes with danger and death.
We closed with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which expressly grants U.S. citizens the freedom of religion. Thus, we argued, we should be allowed to bring korbanot in 2017 because we are practicing an important aspect of our religion.
Although we still don’t know which side won, prosecution or defense, Mrs. Riesel was wildly impressed with what we were able to put together and present. We had to create powerful arguments and make our final cases at the end. It was the perfect project and I think that everyone in my class executed their parts expertly. This really gave us the chance to prove what we knew in an exciting way, and I can’t wait to see what else we will do in Mrs. Riesel’s Chumash class this year.
By Elizabeth Guberman
Elizabeth Guberman is a junior at Berman Hebrew Academy.