Deuteronomy 6: 1-9.
The Great Commandment ~ Hear O Israel! ~ Love the Lord your God
This lesson is part of my four-lesson set that introduces children and younger youth to the stories found in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are important but not well-known books. They COMPLETE the story of the Exodus and have many of the stories, verses, metaphors, and characters our children will later learn more about in their faith journey. This art lesson focuses on the Great Commandment in Deuteronomy, which in many ways is a summary of the entire book and Old Testament! <>< Neil MacQueen, www.sundaysoftware.com
Art Lesson Overview:
- Deuteronomy is Moses’ speech to the Israelites on the verge of the Promised Land.
- In his speech, Moses recounts their journey and IMPLORES THEM TO REMEMBER God’s faithfulness, and God’s Commandments.
- After Bible study, your kids will be making Tefillin bracelets to remind them of the Great Commandment. Tefillin is the leather scripture box worn on the wrist and forehead. We’ll be making a modern version. See description of Tefillin and verse below.
Verse 7 -9 conclude with Moses’ commandment to “keep these words…bind them on your hand, wear them on your forehead, write them on your doorpost.” That’s why this art lesson creates a memory bracelet, a Tefillin. Adults may know them by their Greek word, “phylactery”.
The Art Project:
Students will create “TEFILLIN” –memory bracelets that help them remember and reflect on the Great Commandment. They’ll be making their bracelets for the ENTIRE Sunday School or congregation by hand-printing the verse on generic “slap bracelets” and further decorating them. Slap bracelets are easily and inexpensively available in quantity online from places such as Oriental Trading Company. “Slap” bracelets are coated pieces of springy metal which form around the wrist when you “slap” them on the wrist.
Oriental Trading Company has them in many colors and covered with fabric at very low cost. The price and project makes the bracelets a great give-a-way to church members and friends of the children. Imagine your adults all wearing The Great Commandment as they walk out the door on Sunday.
I suggest writing the memory verse on the fabric using fine paint pens. The result will be brighter than using permanent markers. Depending on your age range and supplies, you might also write the verse on the bracelet in permanent marker, and decorate with colorful paint pens. You do not want to apply too much paint because they need to dry and you don’t want the paint to crack when the bracelets are ‘slapped’ and curl.
Alternately for the More Ambitious:
Instead of Deuteronomy 6 “Slap” Bracelets, let me suggest you seriously explore making LEATHER bracelets. Go to Tandy Leather online and look at their bracelet “kits”. http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com. Look also at their demonstration video for an idea of how easy it is to ‘stamp’ or cut into leather to form shapes and letters. A couple of wooden mallets and simple leather stamps and you’re on your way to a cool lesson.
Background on Tefillin
A Tefillin is the leather strap and leather box containing scripture that one wears as a sign of devotion, and in keeping with Moses’ command to do so found in Deut 6: 7-8. In our art project we are leaving out the box.
“Tefillin” is the Hebrew word for what are often called “Phylacteries” in English. (Phyl-lac-ter-ies is a Greek
word). The plural of Tefillin is Tefillah.
Suggestion: Google and print images for Tefillin or Phylactery which some orthodox Jews still wear today around their foreheads during special occasions and prayer times. For demonstration purposes, have a leather strap to wrap around your wrist and forearm with the words of Deuteronomy 6 written on them.
The leather boxes of the Tefillin would contain scrolls of Torah passages. Certain Jewish groups, including probably the Sadducees, understood the command to be figurative: that one should always be preoccupied with words of Torah, “as if” they were in front of one’s eyes. The Pharisees, however, took the text literally: the words of the Torah are to be inscribed on a scroll and placed directly between one’s eyes and on one’s arm.
You might ask your students which is the better idea! Sadducees or Pharisees when it comes to remembering the scriptures.
In Hebrew, the word Tefillin means “a prayer”. A Tefillah on the arm or wrist is called a “shel yad”. The Tefillah worn on the head is called the “shel rosh”.
The Bible Study
Deuteronomy 6: 1-9 (NRSV)
Note: Verse 4 is known in Hebrew as “The Shema”… “Hear O Israel”, and is considered one of the most famous verses in the Bible, if not one of the most important. When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he quoted Deut 6, The Shema, and then added, “and love your neighbor as yourself.” The following exercise will highlight this idea.
1. PRINT OUT and READ Deuteronomy 6: 1-9 together (students will be marking the text)
Deuteronomy 6:1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long.
Pause to ask: What land is Moses referring to? How are a person’s days “long” if they keep the commandments?
3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Pause to ask: Why would milk and honey sound good to these desert wanderers? Who are their ancestors?
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on
the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Pause to ask: Do you think Moses meant that the people should ACTUALLY bind his words to their hands and foreheads? The Pharisees of Jesus days thought so! They wore leather straps that held a small leather box with scriptures in it. These leather straps and boxes were called “TEFILLIN”, which is the Hebrew word for “prayer”. In a few minutes you’re going to be making TEFILLIN.
2. NEXT: IDENTIFY the KEY VERSES and PHRASES
1. Give each student a yellow marker and ask them to highlight THREE key phrases/verses and share why they highlighted them. Write down everyone’s ‘key verses’ on the board and keep track of how many ‘votes’ each verse is getting.
2. Now ask them to delete ONE of the THREE in order to get down to the TWO MOST KEY VERSES. Share and score on the board.
3. Now ask them to delete one of their two remaining verses leaving THE MOST IMPORTANT VERSE. See which verse everyone came up with. It is PROBABLY THE SHEMA!
Share with your students the story of Jesus being asked a similar question, to name the greatest commandment, and he quoted Deuteronomy 6: 4-5.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Note that Jesus said “mind” instead of strength. They can mean the same thing in Hebrew.
3. List on the Board “Things We Do with our HEART, SOUL, MIGHT (Mind).
Heart = Be compassionate, loving, warm.
Soul = Pray to God. Be passionate about coming to worship.
Might = Keep our faith strong during tough times, Give money(strength) to mission.
Mind = Solve problems, work that helps others.
POINT: We love God when we do all these things.
QUESTION: How do we Love God with our Heart in Sunday School? With our Mind?
After discussing the passage, move on to the Art Project.
Deuteronomy 6 Art Lesson by Neil MacQueen, www.sundaysoftware.com. Permission granted to copy.