Deborah: Just Wars

Lesson Objective:
Learn about the story of Deborah
Develop a view on Just War – considering whether fighting for freedom is justified
Introduce the idea of informed opinion

Lesson Outcome:
By the end of the lesson, the children will have read and understood the story of Deborah and thought about their opinion of war.  

Resources:
The Story of Deborah– Deuteronomy Chapter 20
The Story of Deborah – simple version
Deborah Flashcards
Deborah – Points to Consider

                            

Introduction

  • Introducing the Viewpoints – Pin the placardsup in different places in the classroom. Read each one out aloud (without discussing what they mean) and ask the pupils to go and stand by the one that they believe is correct – so making a snap judgment. They should write their names on the placard which they have selected. Explain that this is now their ‘position’.
  • Discuss the Meaning Having written their names in their different ‘positions’ ask children to try to define what each viewpoint means. Ask children if they now wish to change their ‘position’.

Main Teaching

  • The Story of Deborah – Tell the story of Deborah and ask the children to think about the view they had supported on war and freedom as they listen to the details. At the end of the story, ask if anyone wants to change their ‘position’. If so they should cross their name off the placard and put it on the one that reflects what they now think. (There are two versions of the story, you may find it useful to read both).
  • A Jewish view on war – The two types of war are known as Milchemet Mitzvah (Obligatory or Defensive War) and Milchemet Reshut (Voluntary War). The first type of war must be fought when you are attacked and it is fought in self-defence. The second type is a war often fought because the leader wants to expand the territory or for personal benefit – perhaps today, to help win an election.
    The Torah sets down some clear guidelines about war.(a) Whenever Israel goes to war everyone is commanded to fight but there are many exemptions in Deuteronomy (eg the bride and groom on their wedding night!). However, in the Talmud it is argued that everyone should fight.
    (b) Pointless destruction of life and property must be prevented. Even the life of an enemy is sacred. For example, you should not surround the enemy on all four sides so that those who want to run away can do so.
    (c) You have to try and make peace through negotiation before you go to war.If it is a Voluntary War the great Rabbi Maimonides stated that
    (i) not everyone has to fight
    (ii) all positive mitzvot must be observed
    (iii) it requires God’s permission which meant that the judges of the main court, the Sanhedrin had to give their approval especially if many of the people did not want the war to go ahead.
  • Connecting with Pesach – This is the Haftarah that is read with Beshallah which is the portion covering the drowning of the Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds (Exodus Chapter 14 and 15). In this case, the Children of Israel did not fight a battle but the Egyptian oppressors were defeated, according to Torah, by God’s actions. Can we question God’s actions and do they constitute Just War? If the Children of Israel had not been freed from Egyptian bondage what would have become of the Jews and Judaism?

 

Activity

  • Option 1: Debate – Split the class into three groups. Each group to be given a viewpoint to defend (they may not have a viewpoint that they agree with, but must try to argue the best they can). Children to also be given points to consider when discussing their plans for debate. (If you have computers available, the children may wish to prepare their arguments using PowerPoint of an equivalent presentation program).
    Viewpoints:
    (i) We think it is reasonable to go to war to defend freedom because……
    (ii) War can never be justified because…..
    (iii) Freedom is not worth fighting for because…….  
  • Option 2: A Poem about War – Children to create a poem/rhyme/rap or song about their viewpoint of war. They may wish to write it from Deborah’s point of view or their own about war and whether or not it can ever be justified. This is an opportunity for them to be creative. Children can decorate their poem when they have finished it in best.


Plenary

  • Conclude the Debate – There will have been a lot of discussion in this lesson and so it will be interesting to see children’s points of view. As the lesson comes to an end, ask if anyone wants to change their ‘position’. If so they should cross their name off the placard and put it on the one that reflects what they now think. What is the majority view of the class?


FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN
This lesson can be adapted for younger children by leaving out the Jewish view on war. The simple version of the story can be read and then children can think about their view on war. You may wish to think about all of the news stories about war and prepare some in advance to show the children. The poem option would be a lovely option for the younger children.