Our Ethics Show: Learning to Master (Private-Religious)

6, 7, 8

We are commanded to “master the earth”. How one elects to do that, is a product of one’s understanding of the concept of mastery. This lesson enables learners to create a personally meaningful model and action plan of mastery/stewardship based upon their interpretation of traditional texts.

PrintOne - fifty-five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define mastery (in the sense of power and stewardship).
  • list the attributes of ethical mastery.
  • cite Jewish texts dealing with stewardship of the earth.
  • explain how he/she will act as a master of the earth.
  • engage their family in a stewardship action plan.
  • Sets of Index Cards (the number of sets to be determined by the number of learner groups formed)
  • Attachment One: What Do We Have to DO?
  • Attachment Two: What Will YOU Do…and how will you do it?
Home Connection 

The concluding activity in Attachment Two: Learning to Master: What Will YOU Do… and how will you do it? requires the learners to create and plan an action plan to implement that includes family input and support.


  1. Teacher Note: Sometime during this lesson allow time for the learners to voluntarily share their impressions of their home work assignment School/Home Connection -Lesson One. The following activity can be done in pairs- chevruta-, in small groups or as a whole-class. The number of word card sets required is dependent upon the number of learner groupings.


    Day One:

    Anticipatory Set:Provide each assigned group with a set of 20-index cards; each set contains a card bearing one of the following words: CONTROL, SKILL, POWER, PROFICIENCY, APTITUDE, DOMINANCE, KNOWLEDGE, ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST, TALENT, ETHICS, FORCE, INFLUENCE, EXPERTISE, AUTHORITY, AUTHORITARIAN, ADVOCACY, COMMON GOOD, SELF INTEREST, VALUES. Allow a few minutes for the learners to look at their cards and ask any questions about their meaning that they do not understand.




  2. Inform each group to sort these words into two piles without giving them further instructions. (Teacher Note: If you sense too much frustration tell the groups that some words are more similar to others and some are different than others and that they should do their best to sort them with that idea in mind.) Set a short time limit.

  3. Once the predetermined amount of time is up, quickly have each group share the criteria they used in sorting their cards (i.e. the words on some cards were kind words, others were not; some cards contained two words, others didn’t. etc...).

  4. Be sure that the learners understand that there are many ways to sort these cards and there is no right or wrong way when given no criteria.

  5. Inform the class that they will now sort the cards using criteria. In one pile they are to put the cards whose words indicating the limitless use of personal power (mastery, because one has the power to do so) considered a negative attribute; and the second pile should contain the cards whose words indicate the use of personal power within ethical limits (mastery, because one is committed to the concept of stewardship) considered a positive attribute. Set a reasonable time limit for this activity.

  6. Once the predetermined amount of time is up, go around the room having each group share one word they placed on the positive side and one word they placed on the negative side. Record these words on a display board in their “agreed” upon column so everyone is able to see them. Do allow time for challenges and debate. (Teacher Note: If at all possible leave these two columns on display for reference in the following lesson.)


    Day Two:

  8. Share with the class that Judaism is not just a vocabulary exercise like the exercise they were involved in earlier. Judaism is a way of life and study is an integral part of it, but study is expected to lead to action.

  9. Tell the class that they will study a number of texts dealing with Jewish perspectives on the mastery of the earth and that they will then determine how these texts can lead to action.

  10. Place the learners into chevruta (pairs of study partners), distribute a copy of Learning to Master: What Do We Have to DO? (Attachment One) to each chevruta, and assign each chevruta one of the texts.

  11. Instruct the pair to read their assigned text, discuss its surface meaning, determine and record in the proper column, the lesson(s) that one might infer from the text; and then, based on the inferred lesson(s) contained in the assigned text, determine how might the lesson(s) lead to action? What should one do (or not do) as a result of the lesson(s) contained in the text?

  12. Once each chevruta has completed their work for their assigned text, have each chevruta share, in turn, what they wrote while the other groups make notes on their handout of what is being shared.

  13. When every chevruta has had an opportunity to share, spend a few minutes in reflection. Pointing to the display board where the results of the prior day’s lesson is recorded, lead the learners to conclude that “mastery” of the earth has as much to do with ethical mastery/stewardship as it does with personal power.

  14. Distribute a copy of What Will YOU Do… and how will you do it? (Attachment Two) to each learner and read through the directions.

  15. Explain your expectations and deadlines for completion of their individual action plan. Explain that this action plan is intended to involve each learner’s family in helping to decide what one might do, what the intended outcomes are, how the action plan will be done, and what the family can and will do to support the action plan.


Learners will be assessed based on their group discussions and group work, their participation in and contributions made to their chevruta, as well as the completion, thoroughness, and practicality of their proposed “action plans”.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify how families contribute to the socialization of children.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss the function of family traditions and role modeling in teaching about sharing and giving.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Explain and give examples of enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify and give examples of stewardship in cultural traditions around the world.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Develop a service plan.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.