Kiddush Hashem- 3 Cardinal Sins - '-

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 10-16
Group Size: 10-20
Estimated Time: 30 minutes

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Resource Goal
Goals: Teach about Shfichut Damim, Gilui Arayot and Avodah Zara, the three cardinal sins. Discuss why, even though life is so sacred, we are obligated to die instead of committing them.

Resource Contents

Noseh: Kiddush Hashem

Topic: 3 Cardinal Sins

Written By: Josh Skarf, based on Chevraya Aleph Choveret from 1964

Goals: Teach about Shfichut Damim, Gilui Arayot and Avodah Zara, the three cardinal sins. Discuss why, even though life is so sacred, we are obligated to die instead of committing them.


Background: This week is a continuation of the discussion we began last week. In last weeks snif, we saw how important life is, and how we are even allowed to break halacha in order to save a life. This week we will talk about three instances where, despite the importance of life we saw last week, we are NOT allowed to violate Halacha, even if it means we will die or be killed. To understand why we must explore the concept of Kiddush Hashem. We must be willing to die instead of doing certain sins in order to do Kiddush Hashem, sanctify Hashems name.

The following is a quote from Rambam Mishan Torah, Sefer Mada, Hilchot Yesodei haTorah, ch. 5, n regard to sanctifying Hashems name during normal times of living. Review it so that you have a basic knowledge of the halachot and can potentially answer any questions the chanichim pose during this peula.

The entire House of Israel has been commanded to hallow Hashems name, as it is written: I will be hallowed among the Children of Israel, and not to profane It, as it is written, And you shall not profane My holy name. How shall we interpret this? If an idolater arises and forces a member of Israel to transgress one of the commandments given in the Torah, and threatens to kill him if he does not, then he shall transgress and not suffer death. For it is written concerning the commandments, Which if a man do, he shall live by them, live by them, and not that he shall die by them. But if a man dies rather than to transgress, such a man becomes responsible for his own death.

What are these words talking about? In all mitzvot except for Idol Worship, forbidden relationships, and murder. But for these three sins, if (an idolater) tells him to violate one of them or die, he should be killed and not violate them (Yehareg Val Yaavor.) This distinction is valid when the idolaters purpose is for his own satisfaction, as when he wants to force a woman to yield to him or to force a man to build his house on the Shabbat or cook his food. But if the idolater is intent solely upon having the Jew transgress a commandment, then: If he is alone with the idolater, i.e. if ten Jews are not present, he shall transgress and shall not die; But if the idolater forces him to transgress while ten men of Israel are present, he shall die and not transgress, even if the idolater wants him to transgress any one of the 613 commandments.

Game 1: Shipwreck[1]

This is a classic action/reaction game, the success of which depends on your enthusiasm and what you, the madrich, says.

Section of a portion of the room to make a large, square shape. Have all the chanichim stand in this square. Assign each side of the square as follows: front = bow; rear = stern; left = port; right = starboard. (These designations are all relative to where you are standing and where you want the front to be.)

Since youre the captain of the vessel, the members of your crew must immediately do as they are told or

  • Theyll be thrown overboard to the sharks,

  • Theyll be forced to walk the plank, or

  • Theyll have to eat the captains cooking.

(Actually, there are no penalties, just say these things to set the tone for the game.)

Heres what the crew members must do as quickly as possible in response to your precise, well-delivered commands:

  • jellyfish lie on your back, with arms and legs jiggling in the air

  • sunbathing lie on your side

  • fish for dinner jump up and down, holding your nose

  • May I go to the bathroom, captain? salute while jumping up and down with legs crossed

  • dig for treasure pantomime digging movements

  • scrub the deck get on hands and knees

  • midships lie belly-down in the middle of the ship (This is funny when followed by jellyfish and sunbathing.)

  • crows nest kneel on one knee and pantomime looking through a spyglass

  • bow run to the bow of the ship (same for stern, starboard, and port.)

  • bow on fire run to the opposite side of the boat (same for stern, starboard, and port.)

The following commands are to be down with partners:

  • overboard get in piggyback position

  • arm the torpedoes get in wheelbarrow position

  • under attack both partners lie on the floor with one person lying across (perpendicular) the other persons back

  • time for grub one person represents a table (on all fours) and the second person sits gently on his partners back while eating.

  • three in a lifeboat form a trio, sit on the floor single file and row together while singing Row, row, row your boat.

  • shipwreck everyone freezes

As captain of the ship, deliver the commands with a tongue-in-cheek., militaristic flair. Use as many of the commandments as you like, or make up your own. Teach them to the kids one at a time and then start yelling them out in rapid fire succession. It is important for you to have a good grasp of the commands and know them well so you can say them quickly.

If you wish you can play competitively by having the last person to obey a command go out. After a few rounds you can try letting a chanich be captain. Remember to be super-enthusiastic thats the key to this game.

Discussion: In this game we followed ridiculous rules delivered by the captain. In real life, we have only one set of rules which we must follow: Halacha. (Of course, this includes Dina Dmalchuta Dina, so we keep civil law as well). There have been many times during Jewish history when other people tried to get Jews to follow different rules over than Halacha, and to worship gods other than Hashem. Doing so is called idolatry any type of worship to another god or gods, or accepting to worship a Pagan religion. It is the custom is some countries to worship the King, or an idol of his image, either during his lifetime or after his death. In some countries people worship departed souls. Others worshipped the moon, stars, or animals, human beings, or any part of nature. The belief in evil spirits, demons, devils, charms, fortune telling, and similar superstitions are forbidden by our Torah. In short, the transfer of the trust (Bitachon) of any individual to any other being or concept except in Hashem is to be regarded as idolatry. We cant follow anyones rules except for Hashems.

One of the most important parts of Judaism is believing only in Hashem. We say this three times a day in Shema, Hashem Echad. It is one of the most basic things we believe. Because this is such an important part of our lives and faith, we cannot violate it and worship idols at any point, even if it means we have to die instead of doing so. In Hebrew this is known as Avoda Zara.

Story: Chana and her Sons

The following is a summary of the main points of the story. Use them to tell the story creatively, but not by reading straight off the sheet:

Chana and her seven sons were captured and brought before the evil King Antiochus. The eldest

was brought forward and commanded to bow down to an idol. The son refused, stating, "It is written in the Torah "I am Hashem your God." They took him out and killed him. The second son was then brought before the king. He was ordered to bow down to the idol and he refused, stating, "The Torah says, "You shall not have any other gods before me." He was then taken out and killed. The third son was then brought before the king. He was ordered to bow down to the idol and he refused, stating, "The Torah says "Do not bow down to another god." He was then taken out and killed. The fourth son was then brought before the king. He was ordered to bow down to the idol and he refused, stating, "The Torah says "He who sacrifices to any god other than Hashem shall be destroyed." He was then taken out and killed. The fifth son was then brought before the king. He was ordered to bow down to the idol and he refused, stating, "The Torah says "Hear Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is one." He was then taken out and killed. The sixth son was then brought before the king. He was ordered to bow down to the idol and he refused, stating, "The Torah says "Know today and take to heart, that Hashem is God, in the sky above and the below, there is no other." He was then taken out and killed. The seventh, youngest son was then brought before the king. He was ordered to bow down to the idol and he refused, stating, "The Torah says "You have, today, declared Hashem to be your God... and Hashem has, today, declared you to be His special people. We have already promised Hashem not to exchange Him for another god, and He has promised us not to exchange us for another nation." The king said to the boy, "I will throw my seal (or ring) on the floor, bend down and pick it up so that the people will say that you have accepted the authority of the king." The boy responded,

"Woe on you, King! Woe on you, King! If your own honor is so important, how much more so the honor of the Holy One, blessed be He!" They took him out to be killed.

His mother said to them, "Give him to me so I may kiss him a little." She said to him, "My son, go tell Avraham your father, you bound one son to the altar, I bound seven, yours was only a test, mine were for real."

Discussion: This is not a particularly happy story, but it does show the extent to which we must be willing to go to do Kiddush Hashem and be killed instead of doing Avoda Zara.

Game 2: Modern Sculptures[2]

Divide the chanichim into two teams. One player from each team leaves the room. Five to fifteen players are then chosen to assume statuesque positions. One of these positions is selected by the group as the secret position. The players reenter and must try to pick out the player who assumed the secret position. Each team assists their teammate by singing louder or softer depending whether s/he gets closer or further from the selected player. The team whose player finds the statue first wins.

Discussion: This game is simply provided as another game relating to Avoda Zara, as all the chanichim are in a way worshiping the statues they seek, in this case by singing louder. Avoda Zara can be done in many ways, each specific to the god being worshiped. The Gemara even brings down a case where idol worship was done by going to the bathroom on the statue.

Game 3: Murder[3]

Arrange the chanichim in a circle. One player is secretly chosen by the leader to be the murderer. (Have everyone close their eyes, and tap one chanich on the head). S/he can kill any player by winking at him or her. If that player sees the wink, s/he must die very dramatically. The players try to identify the murderer without being murdered themselves. If a player thinks he knows who it is, he whispers to the leader that persons identity. If he is right, he wins. But if he is wrong, he too must die.

Variation: Basic Killer[4]

Instead of having the chanichim sitting down, have them walk around and shake each others hands. The killer kills someone by tapping the inside of their wrist with his or her index finger. DO NOT die immediately, but give the killer time to move away. Also, the killer doesnt always have to kill someone when he or she shakes hands with them. As the group mills about the playing area, eyeing each other carefully and someone thinks s/he knows who the killer is, s/he shouts I accuse! The accuser must be seconded by another player within ten seconds or the initial accuser is eliminated by the referees gun. However, if there is a second, you say, On the count of three, I want you both to point accusingly at the killer. If both players point at the same person and it is, indeed, the murderer the game is over. If the accusers point at different people, you quickly reach for your gun and polish off the two maladroits who have so crassly offended the groups sensibilities. The game continues until the killer is caught or until all the players have been killed.

Hadracha Tip: This is a good game to illustrate a hadracha technique: sometimes when playing games, it is best to give the minimum number of rules as needed to get the game started. As the game progresses, you can add rules as needed, but try to let the chanichim figure out the rules for themselves. Although this sounds a little odd, it makes the games more exciting for the chanichim.

Discussion: In these games we simulated a situation in which someone kills other people. Why? Simply because the madrich told you to. In real life your duty would be very different you would have to refuse, of course, even if it meant you would die. All lives are equal in the yes of Hashem, and killing someone is like destroying a whole world. If you are commanded to kill someone, it being a matter of your death or his, what right do you have to decide that your life is more precious than his? In other words, you must be ready to give your life rather than to take someone elses life, unless you were doing so in self-defense. Then you are not shedding blood, but preventing the shedding of innocent blood. Ein Maavidin Nefesh Baad Nefesh.


Form two teams of four or more players each. Using a bouncy (but soft) ball and a makeshift net (chairs in a row), play volleyball, but with this difference: The player whose mistake gives the other team the serve or a point will be turned over to play on the opposing teams side. It gets heroic as one team dwindles to two or even one player who must stand against many more opponents.

Discussion: Normally in volleyball, people stay on the same team throughout the game. In this game, the other team keeps taking your teammates. Gilui Arayot, prohibited relationships, is a bit harder for us to explain to chanichim in snif. Explain that it used to be a pagan custom for brothers and sisters to marry, to have wives who were also other peoples wives, and so forth. This is similar to how we played volleyball, with people constantly changing teams against normal rules. The Torah speaks out very strongly against this type of behavior, as it is immoral and disgusting to the human race. It is not advisable to delve into this issue too deeply, as the chanichim are still young, etc.

Summing Up: At mifkad, summarize that today we looked at three different sins, Avoda Zara, Shfichut Damim (murder) and Gilui Arayot, all of which we must die rather than commit the sin. The reason why we must do so, despite the importance of life we saw last week, is because these laws are so fundamental to our lives and the basic principles of Judaism, that we can never commit them, even to save our lives.

Related Resources can be found under:

» All > Between Man and Himself > Responsibility

» All > Judaism > Keeping Mitzvot

» All > Judaism > General

» All > Jewish Holidays > 9th of Av

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