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 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.

Courses:

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.

Giving and Getting – a Thought for Parshat Ki Tisa 5781

Torah message for Parshat Ki Tisa 5781. This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

Every one of us would rather be on the “giving” side than the “getting”. The Gaon of Vilna teaches us that a single word in the parshah, as well as the “trop” – the cantillation of that word, teaches us a critical lesson about both giving and receiving.

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


Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus is now running its Spring 2021 semester.

The Terrible “Bite” of Credit – An Important Message about Personal Finances from the Torah

Torah message for Parshat Mishpatim 5781. This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

Parshat Mishpatim teaches us about the prohibition of lending money to others with interest. In this brief lesson, Rashi teaches us that the language the Torah uses to convey this prohibition conveys a critical lesson about the danger of borrowing (or lending) with interest.

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


Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus is now running its Spring 2021 semester.

“But I Want It!” Learning to Control Our Desires – Torah Thought for Yitro 5781

This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

As many look forward to the Super Bowl and the fun of the advertisements surrounding the game, we are reminded that the Torah teaches us that we may not “Covet.” How can we train ourselves not to want that which our heart desires? Ibn Ezara, in his commentary on the Ten Commandments, offers a suggstion.

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for the Shabbat table.
Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus is now running its Spring 2021 semester.

Preparing for the Light at the End of the Tunnel – Parshat Beshalach 5781

This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

How do we have hope in such a challenging time? We must follow the example of the righteous women of Israel who demonstrated their faith in the future through their actions.

docs.google.com/document/d/1aU6X7rFTyZpmcTbraod9R3s08NinloAFFj6W6q1tpyU/edit?usp=sharing(opens in a new tab)

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for the Shabbat table.
Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus is now running its Spring 2021 semester.

Anyone Can Do Great Things – Parshat Bo 5781

This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

How do we encourage children that are not the best or strongest or tallest? What words of encouragement can we give that will inspire them to do their best and achieve great things? The Midrash teaches us a powerful lesson from the Korban Pesach that tells us that greatness is often found in the smallest package.

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for the Shabbat table.
Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus is now running its Spring 2021 semester.

God’s Role in the Pandemic – Parshat Vaera 5781

This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

As vaccinations begin and we think that we can see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, we must also raise the complicated question of God’s role in the pandemic. As we see in the Parshah, the word “Magefah”, which is the Hebrew word for “pandemic”, implies the direct intervention of God in the world.

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for the Shabbat table.
Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus is now running its Spring 2021 semester.

Leadership, Ego and the Power of Words – Torah Thoughts for Parshat Shemot 5781

This week’s lesson is with Rabbi Reuven Spolter

Last night, President-elect Joe Biden told the world that, “The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president,” the president-elect added. “At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.” When Moshe meets God at the burning bush, one of his comments teaches us a great deal about how Moshe viewed himself, and how leaders can and should use their words.

You can find the source sheets here if you’d like to print them out for the Shabbat table.
Know a family looking for an excellent Jewish learning option for their Middle School Children? Kitah for Home Plus begins on January 4, 2021.