Tefillah Project

Shemoneh Esrei Project

(Kerem School 2003, 2004)


The two main parts of the project were as follows:

1.  We wrote tefillot of our own, composed in three main sections according to the structure of the Shemoneh Esrei (Amidah):  Shevach (praise) Bakashah(requesting) and Hoda’ah (thanking).
2.  We then wrote 
Kavannah Aids – one short thought relating to each of the thirteen individual berachot in the “Bakashah” section.

Now learn what we did in more detail.

The Project in Detail

Part 1:  Writing My Own Tefillah

A)  The Brainstorm – we began with a brainstorming session.  We thought of anything we might want to say to Hashem, or anything that might come under the general heading, “Tefillah.”

Brainstorm 1:
This is our first brainstorm on tefillah, which we built as a class.  It involved a lot of discussion and really got us thinking deeply about all kinds of ideas.



Brainstorm 2:
Here is the kind of brainstorm you might work towards.  Use this one for ideas and to stimulate thinking and discussion of your own.  We came up with something like this just before writing our own tefillot.  It was a good reminder of, but was more focused than the more general discussion which had formed the first brainstorm.


Here is our second brainstorm, and below it is an animation which shows how it developed.


Now look how the above brainstorm came together.  It runs through the animation cycle twice, so click ‘Reload’ / ‘Refresh’ if you missed it.


Examples of Children’s Brainstorms

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Rivka’s First Brainstorm


Rivka’s Second Brainstorm


Esther’s Brainstorm


Rachel and Shoshana’s Brainstorm


B)  A Structure for My Tefillah – In order to decide on a structure for our tefillot we first analysed the structure that Chazal (the Rabbis, of blessed memory) used for the Shemoneh Esrei.  We learnt that the Shemoneh Esrei consists of three main sections.  These are shown in the following table:


The first section, “Shevach – Praise,”  consists of the first three Berachot,
the second section, “Bakashah – Requesting,”  comprises the middle thirteen Berachot and the last three Berachot, “Hoda’ah – Thanking,” make up the third section.
(Count the total: 3+13+3 = 19 Berachot – so why the name “Shemoneh Esrei?”  [which means 18] This is one for research and class discussion!)

We looked at the different Berachot in the Shemoneh Esrei in order to understand these categories and see examples of Berachot in each category.

C)  My Own Tefillah – We started to think about how we could use the same categories, ShevachBakashahHoda’ah, in composing our own Tefilot.  Ideas and guidance were given to help get the pupils started.  Some of the background to the pupils’ compositions appears in the following table:


D)  Illustrating the Tefillah – once the Tefillot were written, the pupils designed their own illustrations around the page.  We looked at the beautiful Artscroll Children’s Siddur for inspiration, but, in general, the pupils’ final designs were very much their own creative work.

E)  Medium / Format – our Tefillot were written, in a kind of blank verse poem format.  Equally, other formats and media could be employed:  song, acting/role play, Powerpoint presentation, video (e.g. film of sky, sea and countryside for praise, objects / athletes (representing good health) / food / money / smiling faces (representing happiness) for please / thank You), photo montage (similar ideas to video).

Examples of Work

2003 / 5763

Aliza’s Tefillah


Amalia’s Tefillah


Ariella’s Tefillah


Avigail’s Tefillah


Esther’s Tefillah


Nechama’s Tefillah


Sara’s Tefillah


Shifra’s Tefillah


Uri and Avraham’s Tefillah

Uri and Avraham

Zahava’s Tefillah


2004 / 5764

Esther’s Tefillah


Emma’ Tefillah

Emma1 2004

Nachum’s Tefillah

Nachum 2004 Tefilla 1

Naomi’s Tefillah

Naomi 2004 Tefilla 1.jpg

Nir’s Tefillah

Nir 2004 Tefilla 1

Rachel’s Tefillah

Rachel 2004 Tefilla 1

Rivka’s Tefillah

Rivka 2004 Tefilla 1aRivka 2004 Tefilla 1b

Shifra’s Tefillah

Shifra 2004 Tefilla

Shlomo’s Tefillah

Shlomo 5

Shmuel C.’s Tefillah

Shmuel C 2004 Tefilla 1


Shoshana 2004 Tefilla 1

Tzila’s Tefillah

Tzila 2004 Tefilla 1

Yisca’s Tefillah

1)  Here is Yisca’s Tefillah while she was still working on the intricate design at the bottom:

Yisca 2004 Tefilla 1a

2)  Here is Yisca’s Tefillah once she had finished the intricate design at the bottom (well done!):

Yisca 2004 Tefilla 1b


Part 2:  Kavannah Aids

The focus on Tefillah in these exercises (Part 1, above and Part 2, here) is Tefillah as a spiritual-emotional act rather than Tefillah as a textual study.  Therefore, little emphasis, as yet, is being placed on the textual detail.  Rather, we are using the ideas, thoughts, spiritual and emotional prompts as stimuli for sensitizing the pupils to the tefillot on a personal level.

I see this as leading to what we could term “emotional fluency”  achieving a general ‘feel’ for the meanings and meaningfulness of the prayers – as a preparation for “emotional decoding”  a closer appreciation of the meanings, not just instinctive understanding but also those meanings specifically constructed and inserted by Chazal, our Rabbis, of blessed memory – just as “textual fluency” – achieving an ability to read and translate significant quantities of text fluently but with limited understanding – is a helpful prerequisite for “textual decoding” – analysing and breaking down the component parts in perakim (chapters), pesukim (verses), phrases and individual words.

In both cases, the objective is that fluency leads to motivation, personal interest and confidence and a preparedness to make a more detailed analysis.

Here are the instructions which were given to the pupils to get them started on Part 2 of our project.  Again, we used the beautiful Artscroll Children’s Siddur for inspiration and to help us with our work.

Part 2: Kavannah Aids
Instructions for Pupils

Now that you have written your own Tefillah, based on the structure of the Shemoneh Esrei, you are going to write “Kavannah Aids” for saying the Shemoneh Esrei itself.

We are going to look at the “Bakashah” (asking) section of the Amidah.  Study each Berachah and write one sentence of your own to go with it.  This will be a personal thought, along the lines of the particular Berachah.

When you have written a rough draft of your short thoughts, plan your neat copy.  Decide on the layout and general presentation.  When you are ready,  write your list of thoughts in a colourful and attractive way.

How do I start?

Begin with the fourth Berachah:  ”
– “Daat” – “Wisdom” (Artscroll Children’s Siddur, or “Perception,” Metsudah).  It is also sometimes called ‘Binah’ (‘Wisdom’ – Artscroll Siddur).  Study the Hebrew and the English.  Think about the meaning.  What are we asking Hashem for in this Berachah?

Ok, but what do I do next?
Now, think about when you act, think, speak in a wise way.
–  When do you display wisdom?
–  When do you not display wisdom?
–  Do you sometimes copy silly behaviour?
–  Do you behave during lessons in a way which will help you to learn?
–  Do you think before you speak?

Find out what do the Rabbis say about wisdom.
Look in Pirkei Avot:  you will find ‘wisdom’ defined in more than one way.

Now, decide on a single thought that you can have in mind the moment after you recite the Berachah on Daat.  For example:

“Please, Hashem, help me to have the wisdom to make friends with people who will be a good influence on me,”
“Please, Hashem, help me to know how to behave appropriately in different situations,”
“Please, Hashem, help me to think about and anticipate the consequences of my actions.”

Write the heading, 

Daat or Binah

and then write the single thought that you have composed.

For the next berachah, which is

you might write,
“Please, Hashem, help me to have the strength to admit that I have done wrong,”
“…to have the strength / courage to apologise for what I have done wrong.”

Think up similar single thoughts for each of the Bakashot in the Amidah, from number 4, Daat / Binah, to number 16, Kabbalat Tefillah.

When you have finished, this piece of work will be put back to back with your personal Tefillah and they will be laminated together to make a really special, personal Tefillah card to help you daven with more feeling, more thoughtfully.

Examples of Work, 2

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Aliza’s Tefillah, Part 2


Amalia’s Tefillah, Part 2


Ariella’s Tefillah, Part 2


Avigail’s Tefillah, Part 2


Esther’s Tefillah, Part 2


Zahava’s Tefillah, Part 2


2004 / 5764

Yisca, Naomi and Talia’s Tefillah, Part 2


Rivka B.’s Tefillah, Part 2


Rivka M.’s Tefillah, Part 2