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Spiral Curriculum and Torah

10/09/2020 11:17:14 AM


When I was a young boy I would go every Saturday with my parents and siblings to our local synagogue.  My friends and I would attend Junior Congregation while our parents were in the main sanctuary.  We would pile into the small library and sit in our chairs and open the prayer books made especially for us.  Every week the leader would ask us questions about the prayers.  It seemed to my young mind that the questions being asked were always the same, and the prayers, all the same.  What I did not realize is that with each pass our teacher would be exposing us to deeper and more complex understandings of the familiar prayers. 

What I came to discover years later is that this approach by our teacher had a name.  It was called a spiral curriculum.

 “A spiral curriculum can be defined as a course of study in which students will see the same topics throughout their school career, with each encounter increasing in complexity and reinforcing previous learning” (

Whether intentional or not, the original spiral curriculum was invented by the rabbis in their creation of an annual reading cycle of the Torah. Jews started reading the Torah in around the 4th century B.C.E. according to the book of Ezra, and have been doing so every week of every year since.  It always amazes me that every Shabbat Jews around the world are reading not only the same Torah portion, but reading it for the 2,500th time. 

Simchat Torah, which we celebrate tonight, is the commemoration of the value of the type of curriculum that repeats and grows.  We end the Torah and then start over again with the story of creation.  The amazing spiral curriculum that is the Torah is so rich and deep that it continues to allow us to expand and explore our lives today.  The sage Ben Bag Bag said about the Torah, “Turn it over and over, for everything is found within it”.  This weekend we celebrate the amazing curriculum of our people by observing Simchat Torah.  I wish you all a Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

Thu, October 29 2020 11 Cheshvan 5781