The Four Hatikvah Questions

15-18, 19-22
Jewish festivals and elements of Jewish history
45 mins

To be

Enduring Understandings

  1. Life is fragile
  2. Life is noble
  3. There is a need for Power to secure life, yet the Power required to secure life has its own costs
  4. A threat to an individual’s life is not necessarily the same as a threat to the existence of that individual’s nation.


Essential Questions

  1. How best to live with existential fear?
  2. What makes life meaningful?
  3. How can I differentiate between my individual existential angst, and a threat to my nation’s existence?
  4. What is Power for the Human Condition?

1. Opening round of introduction

  • Ask the participants to take 2 minutes and write down:
  • What are the coincidences in the last 5 years that led you to meet your best friend?
  • Few participants are invited to share their answers.

i.e. I chose X school over Y school, I decided to quite crew and joined a sorority, I put X as my first choice, I looked around the room at our first meeting and there was only one seat left, I sat next to my soon to be best friend. We hit it off!! 

If one of those coincidences were eliminated (or 2) would you have met your Best Friend? (chose a different school - never would have met) the Choices we make, sometimes  even the insignificant ones can change our entire future. 

2. Presenting the subject matter

  • We would like to explore together the first question of 4HQ model: the questions of  BEING:
    * What does "BEING" mean?
    * What are the values and the tensions it embeds?

3. From Coincidence to Fragility

The facilitator reviews with group one story from 9/11 ... one small choice (take a different train) stay in bed even thought late for work, might save your life. (Maybe go more general if you are worried that one of the teens lost someone in 9/11) 

  • What are our emotional responses to this story?
  • What is the range of possible reaction and behavioral consequences of such experience? (overthink all decions, paralized to make ANY choice, worry all the time about consequences of choices) 

The facilitator may mark up responses on the board, dividing according to category of response: Paralysis – Determinism - Human Agency

Meaning of Life cards


5. Pick a card, any card...

  1. Facilitator offers each participant an "existential" card.
  2. Each person must read the card, and then write a ' direct response to the text. What do I think about this idea? how does it relate to me? Where I am at today? 
  3. In pairs, share your reading and your writing. 
  4. Facilitator gathers some responses.
  5. How might your responses be different if you lived in Israel? How might they be similar? 

6. Conclusion

Frontal conclusion from the facilitator, leaving room for responses.

In Jewish tradition we can see two noble responses to the fragility of life.

Sukkot and Purim.

Sukkot celebrates the fragility. Sukkot insists we be happy at the symbolic beautification of life's fragility. It reminds us to never put too much faith in permanance or structure. It asks us to be ok with the unkown - even if that is scary or frigtening! 

Purim on the other hand requires Power. Esther could not wait to see what fate had it store for her or her people, she had to step up and put her own life on the line to save countless others. 

Sometimes, Jewish memory teaches us, the way to maintain life in the face of fragility and threat, is to take - and use - power.


Reflect on what you have seen so far.... What have we seen that reflects the fragility of life? How do Israelis cope with that fragility? In what ways have Israelis/the state of Israel decided to use Power to protect the fragility that they live with? How has that been successful? how has it been disadvantageous?