Teaching the Concept of Hiddur Mitzvah on Chanukah – A Free Kitah Lesson Plan (with links!)

Many Jewish educators teach the famous Gemara from Shabbat that describes the basic mitzvah to light the Chanukah candles, and the debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel about how to perform hiddur mitzvah.

Yet, students can find the basic concepts in the passage confusing. I’d like to share how I taught this lesson, as well as the text of the Gemara.

The Goal of this lesson: Students will understand the three levels of mitzvah performance – Mitzvah, mehadrin and Mehadrin min HaMehadrin, and apply the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah to a mitzvah other than Chanukah.

How do you teach Gemara text without having to read the text? I love Wordwall. So I made a simple matching game to teach the terms found in the passage. Students need to match the Hebrew terms with their English translations (you’ll find a link to the game here.)

After playing the game for a while, we then played the game together, with each student calling out a pair. (I did not keep score, but they would have enjoyed that). This ensured that the students all “played” twice, and understood the meaning of each Hebrew term.

Then, I shared with them a Google doc with the Gemara text in a chart. I asked the students to then highlight the phrases that they recognized from the game. Students quickly realized that they knew almost all of the terms in the piece. Students that worked faster were then asked to begin translating the Gemara.

Then, we focused on the words hadar and hiddur mitzvah. What does it mean that one can (and should) perform mitzvot in a beautiful manner? How do you do it?

We then looked at the three levels of mitzvah performance described in the Gemara (also in the same Google doc linked above):

Now students could understand that on Chanukah, we light only as mehadrin min hamehadrin. You can ask them why they think we Chanukah candle lighting specifically is done in this manner.

Finally, I asked students to name a mitzvah other than Chanukah lighting. In order to check whether they had in fact understood the meaning of hiddur mitzvah, I asked them to descibe how they would perform that mitzvah in a more beautiful manner.

I hope that this is useful and helpful to you! Chanukah Sameach!

Kitah 5783 Google Classroom Links

Kitah 5783 Google Classroom Links

If you’re a Kitah 5783 Student, you can use this page to access your Google Classroom and any assignments. Click on the banner to access a class.

Are you a parent interested in enrolling your child in a Kitah class (it’s never too late to start!)? Contact Rabbi Spolter.

What is Teshuvah? A Kitah High Holidays Lesson for Families and Children

How does Kitah work? Each video lesson is divided into smaller sections, with questions after each section.

Watch this lesson with your children, and then answer the questions together. You can find other Kitah holiday lessons here.

What is Teshuva Graphic

Lesson Description:
As we look forward to the High Holidays, Teshuvah (Repentance) is on our minds. What is Teshuvah, and how do we do it? In this lesson, we look at the pesukim that teach us about the Mitzvah of Teshuvah, and Rambam’s explanation about the elements of Teshuvah.

Kitah Registration now open for Fall 2021

I’m very excited to let you know that we’ve opened registration for the coming school year. Kitah learning begins on Monday, August 30th.


Kitah students will learn the following courses, which will begin after the Chagim.

Chumash Breishit – The Ten Tests of Avraham Avinu: We’ll learn about our first forefather, and study the stories in the Chumash that formed the basis of the Jewish people. This class is taught by Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Megillat Rut: Learn the story of Rut, and the values that motivated Rut to join the Jewish people. This course, which covers the entire book of Rut, is taught by Mrs. Adina Blaustein of Cleveland.

Mishnah Sukkah: How do you build a Sukkah? What are the Four Minim? What are the basic attributes of each? In this course, taught by Rabbi Spolter, we’ll study the Mishnah and learn halachot surrounding the holiday of Sukkot.

Registration – And Saving Money

Tuition for Kitah at Home:Plus is $189/month – a zero percent increase over last year! Families that register by August 1st will pay just $179/month – a one hundred dollar savings over the course of the school year! (Sadly, there’s no discount for Kitah at Home:Basic early registration).

August-September Schedule

With this in mind during the month of September we’ll send two weekly on-demand classes every Monday related to the Tishrei Chagim. We’ll review what we’ve learned together over Zoom. These classes will give our students a sense of connection to the holidays, as well as some of the texts they’ll see in shul over the chagim. Then, once Sukkot is over, we can begin our regular schedule of classes. 

This year the Jewish calendar presents some significant challenges (see the August-September calendar here.). The Chagim take place on many weekdays throughout the month of September. This will make it especially hard for students who are not in Jewish day schools, who will be missing classes, and will need to keep up. Yet, it is very important for students to begin their Jewish learning at the same time that they start school. 

How Do You Register?For all returning parents, simply send me an email reply indicating that you’d like to register with the names of the children (and their ages) who will be participating this year. Before the school year begins, I’ll send a new payment link – and we’ll be good to go.
For any new families – please fill in the contact form here: https://kitah.org/kitah-for-home-contact-us.

Patents, Intellectual Property and Saving Human Lives

A Kitah lesson on Modern Medical Ethics

The United States government recently announced that it would support a patent waiver for the COVID vaccine that would allow other companies from countries around the world to quickly produce badly-needed vaccines for the global population. This raises the thorny ethical issue of patents and the right to keep information secret, when that information can save human lives.
A recent article in the Israeli Mekor Rishon newspaper by David Kurzweill addressed this issue in light of a fascinating Talmudic story about the sage Rabbi Yochanan, who used a questionable tactic in order to secure critical medical knowledge.
This story raises questions not only about medical ethics, but also about how we relate to stories about questionable behavior by our rabbis, leaders and teachers.

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for your students.

Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Registration is now open for Kitah for Home for fall 2021.

Mishnah Sukkah Course Description

Course Description: Mishnah Sukkah

Course Name: MIshnah Sukkah
Teacher: Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Text Studied: Mishnah Sukkah, Chapters 1-3
For Grades: 5-8
General Course Description:
Mishnah Sukkah is one of the first tractates taught to children beginning their study of Torah She’beal Peh. It introduces students to basic concepts fundamental to Mishnah study, including the notion of arguments, applying halachic logic, and understanding rabbinic terminology. It’s also an area of halachah that kids are familiar with, making the study more approachable and fun.
In this course, we’ll cover the first two chapters of Masechet Sukkah, which cover the laws of the construction of the Sukkah, and many other aspects connected to the fulfilment of the commandment to “dwell” in the Sukkah over Sukkot.

The student will learn the following skills during this course: 

  • How to read and translate the Mishnah texts
  • The connection between the verses in the Torah and how the rabbis in the Mishnah interpreted them
  • The application of the rules in the Mishnah in the real world
  • How to chart an argument in the Mishnah
  • Basic fundamental Mishnah terminology and vocabulary
  • Basic commentary of Rav Ovadia of Bartenura on the Mishnah
In this course, we’ll see many different diagrams and pictures of the Sukkot we learn about in the Mishnah

The student will learn the following Judaic knowledge

  • The basic halachic requirements of a Sukkah
  • What are the halachic qualities of kosher Schach? How much schach does a Sukkah need?
  • How many walls must a Sukkah have? How high must they be?
  • Can one eat outside the Sukkah?
  • Must a person sleep in the Sukkah?
  • Can you put a Sukkah on a truck? What about a boat?

The text of the Mishnah is punctuated and organized for easy comprehension, and charts help understand arguments in the Mishnah

Number of lessons: 18
Sample Lesson: You can progress through the lesson to get a sense of how we present and organize Kitah materials. To access the sample lesson click here.

Gemara Baba Metzia Course Description

Course Description: Gemara Baba Metzia – Eilu Metziot

Course Name: Baba Metzia – Perek Eilu Metziot
Teacher: Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Text Studied: Gemara Baba Metzia
Chapter 2, Pages 21a – 22b
For Grades: 7-9
General Course Description:
The second chapter of Baba Metzia is a foundational text for the beginning Gemara student. The chapter deals specifically with issues of ownership, property and “lost and found” – topics relevant to students in their daily lives. Students begin to think in a legal framework: Why is your bicycle “yours”? What does it mean to own something? When is it considered lost, so that someone who finds it can keep it? These questions introduce the student not only to the topic of the Gemara, but also to the way that the Gemara teaches us to think about ideas, issues and concepts.

The student will learn the following skills during this course: 

  • How to read and translate the Mishnah and Gemara texts
  • How to identify different source texts that appear in the Gemara
  • The difference between Tanaim and Amoraim, and how they interact in the Gemara
  • The flow and logic of a Gemara text
  • How to chart the flow of questions and answers in a Gemara text
  • Basic fundamental Talmud terminology and vocabulary
By using flowcharts, students can learn the not just what the Gemara says, but how the Gemara thinks

The student will learn the following Judaic knowledge

  • The Mitzvah of Hashavat Aveidah – returning lost items
  • Aspects of ownership in Jewish legal thought
  • What is yiush and when does it happen?
  • The famous argument about yiush shelo mida’at – and the extensive sugya that deals with the debate between Abaye and Rava
  • What is a siman and how does it work?
  • The debate about a temporary siman

The student will understand:

  • How to relate to their own property
  • How to care for the property of others
  • The importance of returning lost items to their original owners
The Gemara is studies with vowels and punctuation, and is color coded and blocked for visual learning

Number of lessons: 20
Sample Lesson: You can progress through the lesson to get a sense of how we present and organize Kitah materials. To access the sample lesson click here.