Importance Of And How To Do Teshuva
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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To remind the chanichim about the importance of Teshuva and teach them a few halachot of Teshuva.
Deck of Cards, Pack of Dominoes, Blindfold (scarf or tie will do), long strings.
Game 1: Stations
Divide the Chanichim into 2 groups (more or less, depending on the size of your kvutza). Give one group a pack of cards and tell them to build a card house. Give another group dominoes and have them try to line up the dominoes one at a time next to each other. If there is more than 2 groups, give them some of the dominoes or cards. Each group should play for 2-3 minutes, and then alternate to another station to play the next game.
Discussion: What happened in each game? In the card house and dominoes, all it took was one person with a shaky hand to knock over everything and mess it up.
In the Mishne Torah, Rambam writes that in order to help do teshuva, a person should think that perhaps they have exactly as many mitzvot as they do averot. If they do one more mitzva or avera, the scales will move one way or the other. Similarly, a person should think that perhaps the entire world has exactly as many mitzvot as averot, and one more avera could result in the destruction of the world. This is similar to the dominoes or cards, which are on the verge of tipping over. At this time of year, we must be careful about everything we do to make sure we are tzaddikim.
Game 2: Maze
Pick one member of the kvutza and blindfold them. Take out two long pieces of string and use them to mark a long, winding path. The blindfolded person must go through the path being directed by everyone else in the group. Every time s/he makes a mistake, s/he must be brought back to the start of the maze. Repeat several times with different chanichim and different arrangements of the string. For an additional variation, you can instruct a different number of people to give directions, and see how it results.
Discussion: Often during life, we make mistakes and wander outside the maze. Teshuva is a way to start again, or more accurately, pick up where we left off. In life there are many times when we have lots of people yelling directions to us: parents, rabbis, friends, and we have to decide which ones to listen to in order to do the right thing, i.e. what Hashem wants us to do. When we do mess up, we have to do Teshuva, Return to what Hashem wants, to the proper path. We do this by recognizing that we’ve done wrong and starting to do right.
Game 3: Watchers
Before beginning the story, tell the chanichim to pay extra-special attention to your mannerisms (hand motions) as you tell the story.
A boy named Chuan once lived in a small village in far-off
When Chuan entered the elder’s home – he saw a 100 year old man sitting next to an ancient table with many nails and a hammer on it. Chuan had expected to find books and notebooks – how can one possibly teach proper behavior without books? The old man observed Chuan’s questioning looks and explained to him as follows: Each time Chuan would do something bad – he would take a nail and hammer it into the wall; a nail for each misdeed.
After several days, the old man’s wall had 200 nails hammered into it. He then called Chuan and said to him: “See my son, how many bad things you have done.” Chuan was ashamed and said to him, “Yes, I have sinned many times. Help me to correct my ways.” The old man then said: “Each time you refrain from doing something bad, you may remove one of the nails from the wall.”
As the days passed, the wall was emptied of nails, and Chuan proudly called the old man. “See what a good boy I am! There are no more nails in the wall!”
Discussion: According to Rambam, in order to properly do Teshuva, we need to be put in the same situation as before and NOT do the sin. For example, if someone were to see someone walking and trip them, they have to do teshuva. But only when they see a person walking again and decide not to trip them do we know that they’ve really done proper teshuva.
Ask a chanich to come into the center of the group and begin telling the story again, imitating the way you told the story. Let him/her continue for a little bit. After a minute or two. Pick a second chanich to continue the story, this time imitating Chanich #1. Then pick a third chanich to continue, imitating Chanich #2. This game should be good for a few laughs, but don’t let things get out of hand or embarrassing. If you need to spice this up and/or there was a chanich misbehaving during the story, pick two chanichim to begin with, and have one imitate you telling the story while the other imitates the chanich misbehaving, and proceed from there.
Discussion: [ask the chanichim how they felt when they were being imitated] While the madrich was telling the story, everyone was intently watching them, and so on. In life, it is hard to always remember that Hashem is constantly watching us and seeing what we do, even when we’re in our own bedrooms. Keeping this in mind helps us do teshuva and do mitzvoth.