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We had a really good class last night. I hope your children came home talking about it. If not, ask them.

We stepped outside the normal curriculum to take a look at the Ten Commandments. This subject used to be a part of the 5th grade curriculum, but it dropped out when we switched textbooks a few years ago. However, since these classes produced such engagement and energy, I kept them a part of our curriculum.

Last night was no exception. The students engaged and participated with interest. They generated lots of ideas, questions, etc., even from some of the students who are sometimes more reticent. Two of our students, who do not normally volunteer to read aloud did so.

We had one really funny incident. We were discussing the 4th Commandment (Honor your father and mother.). As one point of discussion, I was trying to drive the class towards the idea that as parents get elderly, it is the responsibility of their children to care for them. One of our students said: “Well, when people get old they become week and feeble, and need hearing aids.” As you may know, I wear hearing aids and have done so for more than 25 years. So I pulled one off and replied, “You mean like this one?” The poor girl’s mouth dropped open and she turned beet red. We laughed and I told her it was OK. But the whole thing was very funny.

But back to the lesson…

We started by telling the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt and how they came the base of Mt. Sinai. We talked about how they were worshiping idols, generally misbehaving and needed a set of rules to live by. We then had the students take turns reading aloud from Exodus Chapter 20, which is the first description of the Commandments.

We distributed a listing of the Commandments that included a chart showing how they are numbered differently in different religions. (Most Protestant churches break up the first three “God Commandments” into four and combine the “covet commandments” into just one.) We pointed out that this is only an issue when you discuss a particular commandment with a Protestant friend. If you are discussing the Fourth Commandment, a Catholic would be talking about “Honor your mother and father,” but the Protestant friend would be talking about keeping holy the Sabbath. We walked our way through the first seven Commandments with these key points.

#1 “I am the Lord your God…” We discussed how worshiping statues and other idols was common in the time of Moses. However, we asked the students to think of things in today’s world that some people may elevate to a priority higher than God. They came up with things like money, popularity, music stars, gambling, alcohol abuse, drugs, and even electronic games.

#2 “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of God” We talked about using God’s name improperly. We also pointed out that the early Jewish people took this commandment so far as to give God a name that could not be pronounced. It eventually evolved into Yahweh or Jehovah.

#3 “Keep holy the Sabbath” We discussed why Christians changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and the requirement to attend Mass on Sunday.

#4. “Honor your father and mother” As mentioned above, we emphasized the need to love and respect your parents throughout their life and to help and support them when they need it.

#5 “You shall not kill” Not a lot of discussion here. We talked a little about self-defense and war, but didn’t go very deep into other issues.

#6 “You shall not commit adultery” Surprisingly, the first student I called up on could define adultery. We emphasized the importance of the marriage vows, but did not wander far afield on this one.

#7 “You shall not steal” Again, this one was pretty obvious to the class. We did broaden the definition to go beyond just physical objects to include intangibles like ideas, software, pirated music downloads, and so on.

Next week, we will finish off with the last three (false witness and the two “covet commandments.”) We will then break them into groups and have them come up with a set of commandments relevant for today’s 5th graders. That is always fun.

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