Moses teaches to Celebrate Freedom and Passover
Book Units
1 Ratings
Add to Favorite  

Moses teaches to Celebrate Freedom and Passover

Categories Passover (Pesach) , Freedom 
Book Title: Moses

Author: Margeret Hodges

Illustrator: Barry Moser

Jewish Value: Freedom

Book Summary:

Revered as G-d’s chosen leader, Moses weathered countless tests of faith as he guided his people out of slavery. This elegant telling of his inspiring story captures all the power and poetry that marked his life, from his harrowing infancy hidden in a basket in the bulrushes to his final days as he looked toward his people’s freedom in the promised land.

Enduring Understandings:

  • We cannot take our freedoms for granted. 
  • We enjoy freedom because the people who came before us worked for it. 
  • We must treat people with dignity and respect.

Essential Questions:

  1. What is freedom? 
  2. What does it mean to be liberated? 
  3. How can we be a leader like Moses? 
  4. How can I be a meaningful be part of the Passover story today?

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Freedom, or herut, has been a fundamental principle upon which many communities, including that of the United States and Israel, have been founded. From Moses until today, herut, the seeking of freedom, has been an essential part of the Jewish story for over 3,000 years. We learn from our stories that freedom is not simply the absence of oppression, but also having the opportunity to make meaningful choices in life and stand up for what we believe.

In Jewish tradition and history, Pesach - Passover - is a festival that commemorates past slavery and the Exodus from Egypt; it is the national unity celebration of our people; the festival of the greatness of the Jewish family; it is the Spring festival that embraces the renewal and awakening of a people. Above all it is known as Hag Ha-Herut, the festival of freedom, the freedom of every single Jewish individual and the freedom of the entire Jewish people.

Traditionally, liberation was understood to have come directly from God. Today, we can also interpret the idea of herut and its relationship with Pesach as meaning when a group of people come together for a common cause, they can triumph many tragedies.

In turn, Pesach is frequently understood as a celebration of the release and letting go of all that one is enslaved to, such as fears and personal struggles. Universally, this means that Pesach symbolizes the hope for the release of all people from physical and spiritual bondage, and the ability of all to live in dignity. As such, Jews were freed from mental and physical slavery during their time in Egypt. It was as a physically and spiritually free people that the Jewish nation became prepared to receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai and embrace a life of ethics and values.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What ultimate freedoms do you have? Meaning, what freedoms cannot be taken away from you? 
  2. How can other Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah, be considered festivals of freedom? 
  3. What types of freedoms can you work towards attaining? 
  4. How can you incorporate notions of herut, and the celebration of Pesach, in your classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

At the beginning of the school year, or upon study of this value, classes can create a brit. A brit, or covenant, is not simply a list of rules for a classroom, but a commitment between students and students, and students and teacher. Because everyone is accountable for the brit, students and teachers can help enforce what it says.

One way to make this brit is having students brainstorm freedoms that should be included in it. For example, students might wish to detail that a student should learn in a bully-free environment, or that students have the right to appropriately voice concerns about other teachers and students. Post your brit in visible space, and encourage students to advocate not only for themselves but also for others, thoughtfully observing behaviors and working towards achieving every type of freedom that the community deems appropriate.

Materials and resourcesmore


Copy of Moses

Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Show students the cover of the book and encourage students to remember everything they know about Moses, an important leader of the Jewish people about whom many of the Torah stories are written. Do a “Think, Pair, Share” asking each group to try and remember then discuss what they know about the leader.

Explain to students that the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt. What background knowledge and understandings about Moses and the Exodus do students have? Introduce and read aloud the book Moses, which focuses on the story of Moses and the Exodus of Jews from slavery in Egypt.

Reading The Story

At various times during the reading, involve students in responding to the story either using a “Dialogue Journal” (see Appendix 1) or an oral response. Topics for the responses can be based on student comments concerning the story and/or book illustrations, or you may wish to suggest a topic such as the following:

  • How were the Hebrews treated by Pharaoh and his men? 
  • Moses was brought up as a prince of Egypt. Why did he help the Hebrews? 
  • What qualities did Moses have that made him a good choice to be the leader of his people? 
  • After each plague, Pharaoh promised to let the people go and then broke his promise. Why do you think he didn’t keep his promise? 
  • What do you think is the most important lesson of the Exodus that you learned from this book (e.g., lessons of hope, faith in G-d, courage, etc.)?

After The Story

Songs of Freedom
Work with students to create a “songs of freedom” playlist or song suggestion list. Encourage students to brainstorm and research many diverse tunes that reflect this idea, and ask students to share their suggestions to the class. Song sharing can be enhanced by providing lyrics as well listening to the tune. Songs might include Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” The New Seeker’s “Free To Be You and Me,” any version of “Mi Chamocha.” Song suggestions can be accessed below, under Music Connections. However, encouraging your students to create their own playlist will yield a collection more meaningful to your community.

Can You Imagine? Navigating The Journey...
Use a current world map to locate the countries of Egypt and Israel. Allow students time to look at the map and help them find the areas mentioned in the story such as the Red Sea, the Nile River, Egypt, and the Promised Land. (See reference to boundaries of the Promised Land in Genesis 15: 18-21.) Let students make their own observations and inferences in terms of size of the countries, width of the Red Sea at various points, distances from the United States, etc.

Have pairs or small groups of students create a “tableau” in which each group selects a specific moment from the book Moses (as a class, brainstorm and list the major events) and recreates it, becoming human statues “frozen” in time. Photograph each “tableau” and add captions to create a class book about the story of the Exodus from Egypt.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

The Exodus Story in America

American History
 Benjamin Franklin suggested that the $1.00 bill include a picture representing the Exodus from Egypt. Ask students why they think Franklin made this suggestion. Divide students into pairs and give each pair a dollar bill to examine.
Involve students in a Think-Pair-Share (see Appendix) concerning the pictures, symbols, and words on the bill. What did they notice? What do they think these represent? For example, above the eagle are thirteen stars representing the thirteen original colonies of the United States. (For information about the $1.00 bill, visit the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences - NIEHS Kids Page: Have students design their own $1.00 using symbols and phrases to reflect their ideas about freedom and the importance of freedom to all people.

Book Supplement
History, Literacy, Language Arts, Culture
Read the book The Yankee at the Seder by Elka Weber. The book features a remarkable discussion about what it means to be free, a topic as relevant today as it was during the Civil War and during the Exodus. Allow time for students to discuss the story, its illustrations, the issues of freedom, slavery, as well as the Torah reference “Do not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

Seder Plate
Creative Thinking, Art, Research
Create a class Seder plate with the traditional items. Explain what each item is and what it symbolizes. Involve students in creating their own Seder plates to be displayed at their homes during Passover, using pictures and materials to replicate the actual items. Check out our Pinterest board for inspiration:

Story Share
Talmud Torah
One of the lesser known stories of the Exodus from Egypt, yet one that inspires us and reminds us about the price of freedom, is the story of Nachshon. Tell students about Nachshon, who was terrified of the water, yet was the first to jump into the Red Sea when Moses told the children of Israel to walk into the sea. Although afraid, Nachshon took a leap of faith, reminding us all that real freedom means facing your fears and overcoming them.

Free to Be the Jew In Me Art Project
Point out to students that one of the big ideas of the Pesach story is the importance of freedom, and that when we are free, we have choices about what we will do and how we will behave. For Jews, as well as for others, being free doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want, but that we can make responsible choices that don’t harm anyone else. Give students art materials, and ask the students to create a drawing or collage that illustrates themselves, either today or in the future. Tell them that they are as free as they like to make the drawing or collage interesting, silly, funny, serious, colorful, or plain. They are free to make these choices. Once the students are done, you can hang their collages on the classroom walls.

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

Jewish tradition is rich with examples of music that helps address and reinforce the celebration of Passover and the themes of the story. With the help of your school specialists and teachers, explore these songs (or others, meaningful to you) by listening, playing, singing, animating, illustrating and dancing.

  • “Mah Nishtana” (“The Four Questions”), as sung by Shir Synergy, is inspired by the chant typically recited by the youngest child at a Passover Seder. “Mah Nishtana” asks the question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Discuss the ways in which “this night is different from all other nights.”Discuss with students the fact that questioning is a sign of freedom as well as the fact that Judaism gives great importance to questioning so we can learn and grow. 
  • “Miriam’s Song” by Debbie Friedman. After the Red Sea parted and the Hebrews safely crossed, Miriam and the other women danced and sang a song of thanks. Encourage students to create a dance to accompany the singing of the song while others create tumbrels, ancient percussion instruments similar to the tambourine, and play them to accompany the dance. Alternatively, encourage students to illustrate the lyics and turn their drawings into a music video like this: Rehearse additional songs you wish to include in the Passover Seder such as “Dayenu,” which is sung in gratitude for the many reasons we have to be thankful to G-d, and “Had Gadya,” the traditional cumulative song that ends the holiday evening. 
  • Teach students the African-American spiritual “Let My People Go,” which includes Moses? repeated command to Pharaoh. Ask students what “Israel” and “Pharaoh” represent in the context of this song, when sung in the context of American slavery (“Israel” represents the African-American slaves and that “Pharaoh” and “Egypt” represent the slave master).“When Israel was in Egypt?s land, Let My people go! Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let My people go! Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt?s land, Tell old Pharaoh, To let My people go!”

Evidence of Learningmore

Students can appropriately identify Moses and describe his role in Jewish history.
Students can articulate their understanding of freedom in the context of human rights.
Students will be able to describe how the Passover story exemplifies the ideas of freedom and liberation.


Ask families to involve the student’s understanding of Moses and freedom by sharing what they know as a part of the Passover Seder.

One of the most well known songs from Jewish musical repertoire is “Dayeinu,” meaning “It would have been enough.” Ask each family to create their own, updated contemporary version of Dayeinu, to the tune of the traditional version, to reflect their gratitude for all the freedoms that modern life offers.

For example, In lieu of the verse , “If G-d led us out of Egypt, but did not give us the Torah, If G-d just led us from Egypt, Dayeinu, ” create a verse such as “If G-d gave us enough to eat, but did not give us tasty restaurants, only gave us enough to eat, that would be enough!” or “If G-d gave us a hospital, but did not give us walk-in clinics, only gave us a hospital, that would be enough!” Invite students to share their many, diverse verses to reinforce understanding and appreciation of their many freedoms.

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah* Leslie KimmelmanPaul MeiselLittle Red Hen must make matzah for Passover. She asks her friends for help planting grains. “Sorry, bub,” neighs Horse. “Think again,” barks Dog. Of course, the Little Red Hen does it all herself. A classic tale gets a Jewish twist in this hilarious story.
Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad Ellen LevineKadir NelsonHenry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom.
The Yankee at the Seder Elka WeberAdam GustavsonRespect for the opinions of others and openness to learning are important themes of this story about a Jewish Yankee looking for a place to observe Pass-over shortly after the end of the Civil War. Keeping in mind the words from the Passover Haggadah “All who are hungry, let them come and eat,” a Confederate family offers him hospitality.
* PJ library Books






Games & Activitiesmore