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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Games people play

Daf Yomi Nedarim 36


A colleague of mine has a very creative way to encourage people to attend daily minyan.  I call it ‘Millions for Minyans.’ Every day, he draws a seat row and number from a hat and if you happen to be sitting in that seat that day, you win a cash prize.  If there’s nobody in the seat, the money goes back into the pot and accrues to make the next day’s win even bigger.  Same thing the next day.  The longer the losing streak continues, the larger the pot gets.  By the time you get to the end of a month without a winner, the place is packed as every member of the congregation is hoping (and praying!) for that windfall.

If one said to his children, “I will offer the Pesach sacrifice for whoever reaches Jerusalem first,” whichever child enters his head and most of his body into the city first, wins.
Why would a father make such a suggestion to his children?  In order to energize them to perform mitzvos.

Integral to the responsibility of teaching, whether as a parent or educator, is getting people excited and energized.  While most other fathers were happy just to take their kids off to Jerusalem for the Pesach festival, this Talmudic dad realized that even the thrice-yearly excursions to the capital could grow stale after a while.  And so he figured out how to make a game out of it.  As human beings, we’re all naturally competitive – now whoever made it to Jerusalem first would be the winner!

How are you motivating yourself and your kids to be excited about doing mitzvos?   What games do you play? What competitions do you hold? 

Marbles in the jar.  That’s what we would get from our teacher, Rabbi Ulman, in fifth grade for every mitzvah in the Torah that we could memorize.  Once the massive jar was filled, he rewarded us with a class trip.  I was above average with my memorization of thirty-some mitzvos.  Our classmate, Sholom, was ultimately responsible for making the trip happen in no time at all, once he had mastered over a hundred mitzvos!  I’m eternally grateful to Rabbi Ulman for many things, not least of which are the many mitzvos that I remember by heart till this day! 


Everyone loves a good competition.  Our obsession with team sports attests to that fact.  We are members of the human ‘race’!  May you merit energizing and motivating yourself, your kids and your friends to compete for mitzvah performance – the ultimate spiritual race!