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!