Unit 1 Yamim Noraim

Yamim Noraim Overview


This unit explores the familiar topic of the Yamim Noraim with a new lens, providing students with a deepened perspective on the celebrations that mark the Jewish new year. Students reflect upon their experiences at the beginning of the school year to help them understand the mix of emotions with which they are expected to approach the beginning of the Jewish year. They study various customs that surround the Yamim Noraim as an introduction to the diversity of Jewish life and learn that these customs are reason for celebration and blessing. In exploring the custom of blowing the shofar in greater detail, students learn that the Yamim Noraim are about more than happy celebration; they are also a time for reflection, remembering, reconnecting, and a revitalizing call to action.

Learning Experiences

At the start of this unit, students reenact a fictional story about the first day of school as segue into discussion about the first days of the Jewish year. Through brainstorming, reading, dialogue, and activities, students explore the unique and meaningful customs that Jewish people use to mark the beginning of the year and are introduced to the sheheheyanu blessing as a way of thanking God for enabling them to experience these customs – along with other milestones – on a yearly basis. They then focus upon the symbolism, ceremony, and blessings behind one particular tradition, the blowing of the shofar. Students complete the unit by using the shofar as a tool for gemilut hasadim as they perform a shofar blowing ceremony for those who are not able to attend synagogue on the Yamim Noraim.

Core Concepts

Individuals use many different traditions to mark the beginning of the Jewish year; blowing the shofar is one example of traditions that are commonly done.

Enduring Understandings

On the Yamim Noraim, the Jewish people mark time through celebration, tradition and prayer.

Through the sheheheyanu blessing we express our gratitude toward God for allowing us to reach milestones in our year and in our lives.

The shofar announces the Yamim Noraim and reminds us to actively make the year a good one for ourselves, our families and others.

Essential Questions

What are the Jewish rituals, traditions and blessings that remind me that I am beginning a new year?

How does the shofar remind me to mark the Jewish new year in meaningful ways?

What has the shofar meant to the Jewish people?

What does the shofar symbolize to me?

Unit Framework and Core Concepts

Lesson 1: Experiencing beginnings

Students will understand that individuals approach new beginnings with a mixture of feelings; they will reflect upon how they prepare for and mark their own new beginnings.

Lesson 2: Jewish customs and traditions - New beginnings

Students will explore a variety of customs and traditions that Jewish people use to mark the Yamim Noraim as a new beginning. They will learn that the sheheheyanu blessing expresses gratitude toward God for being able to experience new milestones.

Lesson 3: The mitzvah of blowing and hearing the shofar

We use the sheheheyanu blessing to express gratitude for the opportunity to blow shofar for the new year. The Torah tells us to blow shofar on the Yamim Noraim, and we follow the instructions of how to blow shofar that the rabbis described for us hundreds of years ago.

Lesson 4: Reasons for blowing shofar

The shofar’s symbolism reminds us to prepare for our new beginning in meaningful ways that include gemilut hasadim (acts of kindness) and mitzvot (commandments).

Lesson 5: The shofar as a reminder to do mitzvot.

The shofar reminds us to mark the Yamim Noraim by performing even more mitzvot than usual. By learning to perform the shofar blowing service, we are able to blow shofar for those who are not able to hear the shofar at a synagogue.

Learning Objectives and Performance Outcomes

Learning Objectives

Performance Outcomes

Students will demonstrate knowledge that:

Individuals approach new beginnings with a variety of emotions, hopes and concerns

Students will demonstrate a variety of scenarios in which one may approach the beginning of the school year.

On the Yamim Noraim the Jewish people mark time through celebration, tradition and prayer.

Students will list and categorize customs and traditions that Jewish people use to mark the New Year.

The sheheheyanu blessing expresses gratitude for arriving at Jewish holidays and other events in our lives.

Students will create a page in their hand-made birkon to reflect upon the "firsts" that they are thankful to experience. These include: new starts: new clothing, new foods, new moon.

The blowing of the shofar is an important way to mark the Yamim Noraim.

Students will study Jewish texts that describe the importance of the shofar in Jewish life.


Students will reflect upon what the shofar blowing symbolizes to them.

Students will express feelings of:

Inspiration to help others.

Students will prepare a shofar service for individuals who are not able to attend synagogue on the Yamim Noraim.

Students will be able to:


Identify the "Yamim Noraim" as a term that refers to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


Recite or sing the sheheheyanu blessing.


Tell several occasions upon which the sheheheyanu blessing is recited during Yamim Noraim (Hadlakat nerot; kiddush; fruit that have not been tasted within the new season; new clothing; hearing shofar blown.)


Describe the shofar blowing service, including the blessings that are recited and the types of blasts that are blown.


State that blowing the shofar for those who cannot come to synagogue to hear it is an act of gemilat hesed.