Enduring Understanding

Women in Tanach, such as Chana, can serve as role models for us today
Chana harnessed her emotion and passion to redefine the terms of normative prayer

Essential Questions

  1. Why is Chana’s story relevant to contemporary discussions of feminism?
  2. What can Chana teach us about redefining the status quo when it doesn’t address our needs? 
  3. How can we channel raw emotions to improve the world we live in?

Materials Required

Chapter 1 of Samuel 1
Questions on Chapter 1 of Samuel 1
Berachot 31a-b with student worksheet 

White card stock paper, black mounting paper

Good pastels (black, white, blue)

“Creating a Visual Midrash” assignment 

Pictures of “expressionist” paintings by Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso

Websites for teachers about how to talk about the art with the students

Notes to Teacher

The goal of this lesson is:

  • To enable students to analyze rabbinic texts in order to appreciate that Chana was a trailblazer who fought against the traditional perception of what prayer was.
  • To explore what it means to turn emotion into something concrete and transformative and inspire students to do the same.
  • To consider how women throughout history, up until today, have used their full range of emotions to create a meaningful change to the status quo. 

Lesson Plan

Part 1

Read the story of chapter 1 in Samuel 1 together.  


Only allow students to ask clarifying questions.  Try as much as possible to avoid analysis at this stage.

Part 2

After the chapter has been read together, ask the students to answer the questions independently on this document to the best of their ability. 


After the students have answered all the questions about the feelings of the characters, and the class has gone over the worksheet together, ask the students what they think Chana felt while saying her famous prayer. 

Part 3

Learn the gemara from Berachot 31a-b as a class (where teacher reads and explains) and fill out the questions together from this document:


At this point in the lesson the teacher should stress that Chana’s prayer broke through the barriers of what was accepted as a normal prayer because she poured her emotions into the prayer in an honest way. This is why the Rabbis teach us that her prayer became the paradigmatic prayer for all people.  Then explain to the students that they will be thinking deeply about what Chana was feeling and expressing in her prayer.

Part 4

After the students offer their own analysis of the gemara based on the questions in the worksheet, have them look at the following expressionist paintings by Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.  The teacher can either print color images of these paintings and hand them out to the class or project them on a screen for the class to see. These paintings all serve as examples of artists who channelled raw emotion into the making of great art.


As you look at each of these paintings, discuss how the artist uses the elements of art (such as line, color, texture, etc.) to convey intense feelings. Refer to the following resources: 


Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

Cross-Curricular Connect: The Scream

Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm, 1950


Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903


Part 5 

Have the students create an image which expresses what they think Chana felt throughout her prayer using the following rubric:  


The goal of this part of the lesson is to enable students to do what Chana (and the artists whose painting they studied) did: turn emotion into something substantive and, in this case, tangible and concrete.

Part 6

At the end of the unit the teacher should lead a discussion where students are asked to connect what they’ve learned from Chana with any contemporary person who used the same approach to achieve his or her goals – that is, to break through barriers, boundaries and discrimination.  For instance, the teacher could read Abby Wambach’s graduation address that she gave this past year at Barnard College. 


After the students read this article the class should discuss the following points:

What makes Abby’s speech so similar to Chana’s prayer as interpreted by the Rabbis?

In what way did Abby use her feelings of frustration after she was awarded ESPY’s televised sports award show to make a breakthrough about how she would spend the rest of her career?

Traditional Jewish Sources

מסכת ברכות לא עמ’ א, עמ’ ב

שמואל א פרק א

Examples of Student work: