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This is the place!
The chanichim should understand what the message of Shmah is, and why the Shmah plays such a central role in our daily lives.
something to be used as the "shlaff laff"
Written By: Sarah Gordon and Rachel Koller,
Goal: The chanichim should understand what the message of Shmah is, and why the Shmah plays such a central role in our daily lives.
Suggested Age: Zach
Suitable for Shabbat
Materials: something to be used as the "shlaff laff"
Trigger: Play the game “Shlaff Laff” with the chanichim. All the chanichim sit in a circle. The madrich takes a folder tube, a.k.a. the shlaf laff (or something along those lines), and will yell different terms at the chanichim to which they will have to respond back in 3 seconds (which the madrich will count loudly in their face) or they get shlaf laffed – meaning hit lightly on the head. The 2 rules are – when the madrich tells the kid Shlaff laff, the kid says his (the kid’s) name. But, when the madrich says the kid’s name, the kid must then say “Shlaff laff” back. This is a very active game, and the kids will get very into it, but the madrich has to be super hyper and intense for it to really work!
You can mix things up a bit, but switching that now everyone answers for the person on their left. (If the madrich tells a kid “shlaf laff”, that kid doesn’t answer, but the kid sitting to the left of him does).
Sicha: Ask the chanichim to try and name all the different times when Shmah is said: (Shacharit, Ma’ariv, Right before we go to sleep – Kriat Shma al Hamita, before we take out the Torah from the Aron, Before someone dies – in Vidui). What do all these times have in common? (Key times during the day, times when we are doing important things). Why do we have to recite Shma so many times? What is so important about it? Even totally non-religious Jews who have a very limited Jewish education will know the sentence Shma Israel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad. Why? What does the Shma represent that makes it one of the main lines that all Jews know??
You can tell the chanichim the story about Eli Cohen and the cameraman.
Eli Cohen was an Israeli Mossad spy who worked in Syria undercover and helped Israel find out a lot about military operations being planned by Syria against Israel. Unfortunately he was caught and put to death by Syria. At the same time, there was a non-religious Jew who was hanging out and touring Europe and the world with his friends and he was in a bar at 4 am in Damascus, and all of a sudden he heard all this noise. He and his non-Jewish friends leave the bar and see a whole procession in the Town Square where they are dragging a man up to a gallows. They put the rope around the man's neck and announced that this man was being executed for treason! They then asked the man if he had any last words and he looked up at the almost deserted town square, surrounded by a few onlookers and soldiers and yelled out: Shma Israel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad. The non-religious Jew heard that and was blown away. He had never given any thought to Judaism before but now he realized here was a Jew who said Shmah thinking no other Jew was around and that he was dieing alone. The non-religious Jews was inspired by this and left the country because he couldn’t stay in a place that hated Jews so much and went on to be a cameraman who produced holocaust films about survivors with Steven Spielberg. And the Jewish man who was executed had been Eli Cohen, that famous Mossad spy caught by the Syrians. His saying Shmah inspired this cameraman to lead a Jewish career.
Ask the chanichim if they also know any stories about how in times of persecution, during the Holocaust, or the Spanish Inquisition, when Jews were put to death for being Jews, they died with the last words Shmah Israel, even if they were not so religious.
What is it about the Shmah that people say it at the most powerful moments, especially when facing being killed??
Make the connection with the Shlaff Laff game. In the Shlaff Laff game, when the madrich asked you a question you had to know the answer right away, you had to be able to yell your name or shlaff laff, you had to know the “codeword” that you had to yell. So too Shma is basically our code word. Even among non-religious Jews everyone knows what the Shma is. Shma is our way of saying that we believe in Hashem, our way to affirm our belief in G-d in one sentence. At crucial times during the day we reaffirm our believe, remind ourselves of the “codeword” – Shmah Israel – so that whenever everyday situations come up (should I do this bad deed, should I do this mitzvah), we’ll know what to answer – Shmah Israel – we believe in Hashem.
Show the chanichim the “Atheists Convention in L.A.” song (scroll down to find it). You could have them sing it if they know it, or a few madrichim could sing it. This is the same question – what made Harold, the atheist – cry out Shmah Israel when he thought he was in danger?
Talk to the chanichim about the concept of how “there are no atheists in foxholes”. People will often talk big and say they don’t believe in G-d, but when they are in trouble, you see that they always did believe deep down. There is a concept in Judaism of Emunah Peshuta – Simple faith, that Jews always have this core belief in Hashem, which is shown by the Shmah.
Conclusion: Shmah Israel is basically the “codeword” of the Jewish People, in how we reaffirm that we believe in Hashem, and are willing, if necessary to die al Kiddush Hashem for those beliefs.
From "The Atheists Convention" by Journeys
The plane took off on schedule from La Guardia, on a bright clear sunny summers day. What a cheerful trio they appeared to be, they were off the ground, westward bound, to the Atheists Convention in L.A.
Peter was a lawyer from Manhattan. Mohammed sold used cars in Sheep’s Head Bay. Howard was a dentist out in Woodmere. With the clouds below, they were on the go, to the Atheists Convention in L.A. Peter ordered white wine with his dinner, Howard and Mohammed asked for gin. There was a Chasid in the next row keeping kosher, “Could he be so naïve?” “To still believe?” “That Someone up there is watching overhead.”
"I'm so glad that we'll be staying at the Hilton" "I can't wait to spend the day in Disneyland" "I hear there'll be a lecture in Agnostics" "The Convention should be absolutely grand" "There'll be speeches that will ponder our existence" "Religious Dogma will come under fierce attack" "That we were all once primates is our motto" "& the Big Bang's not a theory but a fact!"
Suddenly there was a big explosion. Everyone began to scream & wail. Peter yelled, "Help me Father", Mohammed screamed, "Spare me Allah", & in Hebrew, Howard said "Shma Yisroel". Just before that final, awful impact. When everyone was sure that they would die. Some how, some why, the engines came to life again. Just a few yards from the trees, with what seemed to be great ease, the pilot flew the plane back to the sky. Everyone gave thanks to G-d in Heaven, "It was a miracle, that saved us on this day!” The Chasid turned and asked the trio with a smile, "With your true colors now showing, will you three still be going to The Atheists Convention in LA?"
Peter's now a priest in Cincinnati. Mohammed built a mosque in Santa Fe. & Howard's still a dentist out in Woodmere. But now they call him Chaimel, & on Shabbos he wears a streimel. For their very faith ignited, while flying on United to "The Atheists Convention, to the Atheists Convention, to The Atheists convention in LA."