Skip to main content

Building a Mishkan with Pillars of History

mishkan 003Whole lotta glue sticking going on!

This week’s project:  to wrap up Sefer Shemos and the various bits and pieces we have learned through the weekly parsha that have to do with building the Mishkan (desert tabernacle), Naomi Rivka and I are working on this super-jumbo Mishkan “tabernacle” building project from the book Pillars of History.

When I bought this book online, I thought it might be a mistake – learning Torah from a non-Jewish point of view???  The book itself has put my mind at ease, somewhat.  There are still surreal bits, like a mini-book that points out – hurrah! – that the Torah is still read in synagogues around the world.

I like that the book uses the word Torah.  As a whole, however, the lessons have a definite “goyish” feel.  For one thing, the lessons don’t respect parsha boundaries:  some span two or several parshiyos, while the “Baby Moses” story is a lesson in itself.  Since Jews follow the parsha order, Moses grows up in the same parsha in which he is born, so there’s rarely a focus on his infancy. 

Also, the worst bit:  much of the Torah is simply missing – the bits that don’t make good “story,” like everything that comes in between the 12 spies and and Joshua leading the Jews into Jericho.  Jews learn those sections anyway.  They’re ours, and they’re important:  little things like keeping kosher, different types of korbanos (offerings), and all the teachings of Moshe’s last speech to bnei Yisrael.

Also, unlike Jewish resources, the book never uses the word “us” to describe the people the events are happening to and about.  It uses the word “Hebrews” sometimes, but does mention, in a mini-book about the festivals, that they were given to “the Jewish people.”  So there’s naturally a distance created between the reader (teacher) and the subject.

Finally – Bible memory work.  There are suggested memory verses for each of the lessons, and I doubt we will use these at all.  For some reason, most Jews don’t memorize the Torah, particularly in small single-verse or several-verse chunks the way Christians seem to so enjoy doing.  In some cases, we highly respect those who HAVE memorized it, but that’s usually somebody (like Yerachmiel Meir, in some cases!) who can lain an entire perek (chapter) or parsha from memory, given the first couple of words.

Still and all:  this seems like a useful book.  Along with the actual lessons, which can probably be aligned with certain parshiyos, there are mini-books in the back with cultural and anthropological information about Biblical civilizations.  One of the mini-books deals with parallels between the plagues and the gods of Egypt – I never realized, but apparently it’s a common Christian teaching, that each plague was a middah-k’neged-middah (measure for measure) “back-atcha” to one specific Egyptian god.  Fascinating!

Some of the material will be more helpful for our Story of the World history (like the Abraham and Egyptian information and mapwork) than for parsha study.  Nevertheless; I bought it on sale, and for what I paid, the book presents Biblical material in a vibrant, kid-friendly, lapbookish kind of way that I haven’t seen done well in a Jewish context. 

mishkan 001For that, at least, I think it will be worth having around.

I’m planning to cut out and have Naomi colour these Mishkan pieces during the week, and then, hopefully assemble them while Gavriel Zev is at the Sunday drop-in program with Elisheva this weekend.  Hopefully, I’ll have better pictures for you then!

You may be interested in:


  1. Thanks for the review of Pillars of History. I was thinking about getting it so that gives me some idea of what the content is like.

  2. With that kind of a review I may actually get it. I need something to liven up our parsha study in a kid friendly way.

  3. That's great (both comments!) as long as you keep in mind two main "caveats": a) the language is sometimes quite "goyish", and b) it doesn't cover most of the Torah, including lots of the upcoming parshiyos. Its "Bereishis" -story bias is very strong.

    The good news (ha ha - pun intended!) is that I haven't seen many (any?) explicitly Christian references, nor anything to suggest that Judaism is no longer valid.


Post a Comment

I love your comments!

Popular posts from this blog

לימודי קודש/Limudei Kodesh Copywork & Activity Printables

Welcome to my Limudei Kodesh / Jewish Studies copywork and activity printables page.  As of June 2013, I am slowly but surely moving all my printables over to 4shared because Google Docs / Drive is just too flaky for me. What you’ll find here: Weekly Parsha Copywork More Parsha Activities More Chumash / Tanach Activities Yom Tov Copywork & Activities Tefillah Copywork Pirkei Avos / Pirkei Avot Jewish Preschool Resources Other printables! For General Studies printables and activities, including Hebrew-English science resources and more, click here . For Miscellaneous homeschool helps and printables, click here . If you use any of my worksheets, activities or printables, please leave a comment or email me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, to link to your blog, to tell me what you’re doing with it, or just to say hi!  If you want to use them in a school, camp or co-op setting, please email me (remove the X’s) for rates. If you just want to say Thank You, here’s a

Hebrew/ עברית & English General Studies Printables

For Jewish Studies, including weekly parsha resources and copywork, click here . If you use any of my worksheets, activities or printables, please leave a comment or email me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, to link to your blog, to tell me what you’re doing with it, or just to say hi!  If you want to use them in a school, camp or co-op setting, please email me (remove the X’s) for rates. If you enjoy these resources, please consider buying my weekly parsha book, The Family Torah :  the story of the Torah, written to be read aloud – or any of my other wonderful Jewish books for kids and families . English Worksheets & Printables: (For Hebrew, click here ) Science :  Plants, Animals, Human Body Math   Ambleside :  Composers, Artists History Geography Language & Literature     Science General Poems for Elemental Science .  Original Poems written by ME, because the ones that came with Elemental Science were so awful.  Three pages are included:  one page with two po

What do we tell our kids about Chabad and “Yechi”?

If I start by saying I really like Chabad, and adore the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z"l, well... maybe you already know where I'm headed. Naomi Rivka has been asking lately what I think about Chabad.  She asks, in part, because she already knows how I feel.  She already knows I’m bothered, though to her, it’s mostly about “liking” and “not liking.”  I wish things were that simple. Our little neighbourhood in Israel has a significant Chabad presence, and Chabad conducts fairly significant outreach within the community.  Which sounds nice until you realize that this is a religious neighbourhood, closed on Shabbos, where some huge percentage of people are shomer mitzvos.  Sure, it’s mostly religious Zionist, and there are a range of observances, for sure, but we’re pretty much all religious here in some way or another. So at that point, this isn’t outreach but inreach .  Convincing people who are religious to be… what? A lot of Chabad’s efforts here are focused on kids, including a