Ideas for teaching liturgy

I realized during Rosh Hashana services last week that Aviad doesn’t know half as much as I had assumed that he did about the structure of the Mahzor. The middle of the silent Amida wasn’t a very helpful time to realize this, but I gave him a whispered overview of Malchuyot Zichronot and Shofarot before the repetition while resolving to do the job properly in the time remaining before his Bar Mitzvah.

So … I have been trying to think up a lesson plan, and had the idea of approaching it as a system of cycles, something like this:

  • Three times a day: the Amidah
    • Sources: the patriarchs vs. the Temple services
    • Structure and content
      • First three blessings
      • Middle thirteen blessings
      • Last three blessings
    • Live example: Minha
      • Parshat haTamid and Pitum haKetoret
      • Ashrei
      • Kaddish as liturgical punctuation
      • Amida
      • Tahanun
      • Alenu
  • Twice a day: the Shema
    • Sources
    • Structure and content
    • Live example: Arvit
      • Blessings before the Shema
      • Shema
      • Blessings after the Shema
      • Amida
      • Alenu
  • Every Monday and Thursday: weekday Torah reading
    • Sources
    • Live example: Shahrit
      • Morning blessings and readings
      • Pesukei deZimra
      • Blessings before the Shema
      • Shema
      • Blessings after the Shema
      • Amida
      • Tahanun
      • Torah reading
      • Alenu
  • Once a week: Shabbat
    • Shabbat forms of the Amida, including Musaf
      • First three blessings
      • Middle blessing
      • Last three blessings
    • Other extras
      • Kabbalat Shabbat
      • Expanded Pesukei deZimra
      • Minha Torah reading
      • Havdala
  • Once a month: Rosh Hodesh
    • Ya’ale veyavo
    • Hallel
    • Torah reading
    • Musaf
    • Birkat haLevana and Kiddush Levana
  • Four times a year: public fast days
    • Selihot
    • Anenu and Nahem
    • Torah reading
  • Three times a year: Pilgrim Festivals
    • Festival forms of the Amida, including Musaf
      • First three blessings
      • Middle blessing
      • Last three blessings
    • Other extras
      • Hallel
      • Torah reading
      • Hosha’anot
    • Special festival services
      • Seder
      • Tikkun Leil Shavu’ot
      • Tikkun Hosha’ana Rabba
  • Once a year: High Holidays
    • Selihot
    • Shofar
    • Rosh haShana Musaf
    • Yom Kippur Amidot
    • Ne’ila
  • Once a year: Minor Festivals
    • Purim and Hanukka
      • Al haNissim
      • Hallel
      • Megillat Esther
    • Others
      • Tu biShvat
      • Lag Ba’omer
      • Tu beAv
  • Every now and then: life-cycle events

I don’t know if this approach would work for everybody, but I’m sure it would have worked for me when I was a kid, and I suspect it will work for Aviad too.