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Horseradish & Children


Horseradish & Children

with Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht


If you ask anyone that has ever been to a Passover Seder - what was the most memorable part they would very possibly tell you unequivocally - the Horseradish.

Growing up as a kid in Queens, I remember always going to visit my Bubby and Zaydie in East Flatbush (E. 53rd St. in the basement (where the cow was)) where Bubby would hand grind, in those good old metal-meat-grinders with the wooden hasher, her Passover Horseradish. You pretty much knew you were on the right block already because you smelled Pesach in the air – the Horseradish that is.

In New York everyone knows Horseradish, whether it Benz’s, Bubby’s recipe, or Golds – white (pure, without beets) or red, either way Horseradish can-not be mistaken.

Quite frankly it’s these bitter herbs we place on the Seder plate to remind us of the bitterness the Jews endured in Egypt and throughout history. Most of us use horseradish, yet some Rabbis write that we should and can use Romaine lettuce (or French endives). Horseradish has a tangy sharpness to it and it burns. It makes the eyes run (amongst other things). But, it really isn’t the worst type of bitterness. In fact it’s even a little exciting at first even a little zesty (especially for those who love sharp foods, like schug, and Jalapeños). The true bitterness is in romaine lettuce and endives. The flat, insipid, dull, zestless taste – that’s real bitterness.

Our mothers and Bubby’s can further tell you that in this weeks Torah portion of Vayakel we read of the Kiyor-Laver (Shemos, Vayakhel 38,8) that the priests would use to wash their hands and feet before entering the Holiest place on G-ds green earth, the holy Temple in Jerusalem. It was made of the copper mirrors which the women have donated freely. We are taught by our sages that originally Moshe did not want to accept the copper mirrors because they were used for such vanity as “women’s beauty.” But G-d told Moses, ‘No. It was only because of their wives loving, caring relationship that the lives of the men of Israel did not become hopeless and bitter’. As they used these exact mirrors to stay beautiful for their relationships, and even go on to have children, lots and lots of children - even in bondage.

Unfortunately there are people who live tasteless, insipid lives. They experience real bitterness. Instead of trying to cultivate a loving caring a productive relationship, which may end the bitterness, they take horseradish. They opt for “exciting thrills”. Zesty now - and blah later. Instead of a little bitter now and “ahhhh later”. Unfortunately all they have truly done is exchanged one form of bitterness for another. Perhaps this is why we think Horseradish is the worst kind of bitterness. It gives hope where there is no hope and ends inevitably in worse despair.

If we are to learn anything from this part of the Seder – this part of life, it is – the bitter herbs must be a means to an end and not an end itself (albeit a biblical mitzvah). Something we do - not because we like it - but rather because we have no choice, and can’t wait for it to end.

As with our spouses, similarly with our children. Education is supposed to be meaningful and memorable but not punishing and painful.  

Pesach is coming, prepare indeed, visit Bubby and Zaydie, Yess! Create everlasting and memorable traditions absolutely, but don’t kill yourself. Perhaps, enjoy the macaroons and the grape juice more than the bitter herbs and the horseradish, please.

Souls Don't Have Mates: Peace in the Home

Mordechai Z. Hecht

Souls don't have mates, oh how cliche, we, the cuties, the sweet and romantic among us love to use the term "soul-mates". [Keep reading].

People will often use the terms, "but we were meant for each other", "for sure he's my soul-mate", I don't just want to get married "I want to find my soul mate".

Historically the term has had many loops of meaning. In current usage,"soulmate" usually refers to a romantic partner, with the implication of an exclusive-life-long-bond. This is to say, the word is used with more rarity than other terms associated with 'romantic partner'. It is a very versatile term, being defined differently by different individuals, as it is related to the concept of love. It commonly holds the connotation of being the strongest bond with another person that one can achieve. 

Does it actually mean you will meet it, find it and keep it, forever indeed; I'm afraid not for all.

I, nor can anyone, not a neurosurgeon and not a nano-technician and no not even a "regular Rabbi", even a good and wise one, tell you who your "soul-mate" is, guaranteed.

What's even more disturbing is that, and I'm more than sorry to bust anyone's bubble, many marriages are wonderful and may never have even heard the word "soul-mate", and many a "soul-mate" ie. matches-made-in-heaven end in, yup you got it, failure, end, finish early, close up shop before the end of the day; disaster.

So in review, let us cap this one up now: there are no soul-mates.

However what there IS, what does exist, are souls and mates. [Keep reading] 

Souls, discussed much about in Kabalah and surprisingly also discussed much about even in Talmud and Jewish law is the conduit through which our identities as human beings gain actual continual life. Like the life in our blood, the oxygen in our bodies, like the gas and electric in our automobiles, 

Souls are vital life packs. Sources of Divine, never-ending energy. However, unlike smorgasbords they are not buffets, they require proper synchronization and cultivation.

But, if you have one, you may ask; a soul; and we are also one, why bother marrying one? A soul that is. What exactly are we looking for? What's the whole hoopla about souls and soul-mates?


I digress. In Yiddish there is a word Bashert (באַשערט‎) that means "destiny". It is often used in the context of one's divinely foreordained spouse or soul-mate, (there's that's word again) [who is called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male)]. "It can be used to express the seeming fate or destiny of an auspicious or important event, friendship, or happening." (nothing like Wikipedia (source still needed :)) The idea of basherte(r) comes from statements found in classical rabbinical literature but no findings of Soul Mate, rather "Bashert"- destiny and "Zivug"-connection.

There's also famous proverb that "marriages are made in heaven", which may be illustrated by a story brought in the Medrash which may in fact shed some some very much needed light in our conversation:

"A Roman matron, on being told by Rabbi Yosi Ben Chalafta, that God is Mizaveg Zivuggim - arranges all marriages, said that this was an easy matter and boasted that she could do as much herself. Thereupon she assembled her male and female slaves and paired them off in couples; but the next day, they all went to her with complaints. Then she admitted that divine intervention is necessary to make suitable marriages that work and last. Last, key word." (Genesis Rabba lxviii. 3-4).

Then there's the famous Gemorah, Talmudic teaching: "Even G-d Himself finds it as difficult an undertaking as the dividing of the Red Sea". Every wonder why it's so difficult for G-d? Truth be told, it's not. What G-d found difficult was G-d getting us to believe in the sacrifice and commitment that is marriage. Oh don't get scared by that word "sacrifice" it's not that daunting, it just takes some guts, like at the splitting of the sea.

The Rebbe explains, that for G-d to split the sea indeed was no big deal at all, what was however difficult, was finding even one person who would take the jump and leap forward with faith that with no doubt G-d would help them (Nachshon Ben Aminadav). The sea and mother nature was fine, man was the challenge.

In fact, a tertiary Talmudic source lends it's awesome insight that might even come as a refutation to the previous Talmudic passage:

'Forty days before a child is born it's announced via heavenly voice that the daughter of Ploni-Anonymous will be connected to Ploni-Anonymous (Genesis Rabba lxviii. 3-4; also Tractates Soṭah 2a; Sanhedrin 22a). Nowhere does the Talmud use the term soul- mates, or that halves will be reunited, for even if this were the case based on other Talmudic passages, and yes Biblical verses, this passage is saying: all G-d does is make the connection, we need to make it happen and build the partnership. Like the gargantuan task of the splitting of sea, being dependant on man, here too, the "calls" are out, the connections and leads made, but the partnership still needs to be built, by man.

Take Adam & Eve, the first man and women ever, they were literally (2) parts (back to front, side by side) of the same body, and how did that work out ?! You cant really blame em' they were the prototypes, the Beta Version, but we?!

Like the earlier passage where G-d makes the matches - Mizaveg Zivugim, the word zivug doesn't only mean marriage-match but rather the general idea which is "match" ie. connections. Sure, G-d makes the connection, but then man has to make it work and make it last with G-dly assistance and blessing of course

So there you go, it's destiny. It's not who you are going to marry but rather, will "you", the "human being", take the leap-of-marriage , with that person, when the time come?! Will the leap be continual and steadfast, withstanding that changes of Mother Nature .

Now , let's revisit the souls and soul mate thing. If, one values one self and one values one another, then what remains is souls who are mates, comrades, those who get along. Those who are ready, willing and able to take the awesome leap into the awesome undertaking that is marriage. The rewards can be awesome. For after all, is a sister a sister if they don't talk and fight and despise each other. Sure, sure, they come from the same parents but what does that mean if in action it has no display and fails to show up in reality.

Marriage is beautiful, as beautiful as siblings getting along and then some.
Marriage is romantic, as romantic as two people who are kind, considerate and loving to each other.
Souls have mates, when the other soul, "part of" or "whole", respect honor and love the other soul. Otherwise what you have is nothing of value. Semantics and bottling gone wrong.


Maybe my Bubby said it best as my aunt reminds me, marriage is about "100%."

Sometimes it's 50% - 50%. Each spouse bring things to the table. Sometimes it's 70%-30% and some times 90%- 10%. How much can one be giving if they are sick or incapacitated. What of people's emotional needs and mental challenges. What of the external forces that get in the way of smooth sailing in life. Can each spouse be present all the time 70,90, or 100%. Surely spouses need to compensate and fill in, if you wish to accomplish the 100%.

The sooner we realize this, the better our marriages. The greater peace of mind and calmness of our hearts. Soul-mates are as much soul mates as we invest in it.

Investing in it is all worth it, the returns are special and rewarding, but the day we forget what the equation of variables really is, is the day are souls and mates disappear.


Marriage has no soulmates, there are no freebies, "shes my soul mate", there are no givens, marriage is not a smorgasbord! Marriage IS a Partnership - in the greatest venture called "life". When you truly "partner up", energies that you can not begin to imagine show up and display themselves in miraculous ways. Ways in which you can truly see the innate awesomeness in your "partner", to love and cherish till 120. 


BAR MITZVAH, Myths & Facts



Many misconceptions are associated with Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Some of the more common one’s are explored here.

Myth: Wearing Tefillin is a custom of Orthodox Jews.

Fact:   Tefillin is something Jews have done since the time of Moses, far predating any division of Jews into “denominations”.  Tefillin that have been found in archeological digs are identical to those of today, even though they are about two thousand years old. Tefillin are making a strong comeback. Broad-band for G-dliness.

Myth: Tefillin only need to be worn on the day of Bar Mitzvah.

Fact: Tefillin are to be worn every day, excluding Shabbat and Jewish Holidays.


Myth: You have to go to synagogue to wear Tefillin.

Fact:  It's best to make yourself part of the community's prayers.  But if this isn't possible, Tefillin can be worn in the convenience of your home, office or even a phone booth, as long as it's daytime.


Myth: A person shouldn't put on Tefillin until he understands what it is all about.

Fact:  The best way to understand what Tefillin are all about is by putting them on.


Myth: How the scrolls are written doesn't really count.

Fact:   While it is true that Tefillin are worn as a Mitzvah and not as amulets, it is an accepted belief, explained in the Kabbalah, that the Tefillin a person wears has an effect on his life and his family's.  Finely-written scrolls inside Tefillin made with care are channels for blessing and all good things.


Myth: Tefillin are the same no matter what the price.

Fact:   Many Tefillin sold in gift shops are often no more than fair simulations. Tefillin must be purchased from a reliable source who can assure you that they have been checked by someone G-d fearing and competent in halacha. Based on this the final price varies.


Myth: Tefillin last many generations as long as they don't rot.

Fact:   The scrolls inside the Tefillin often decay with age, especially when stored without use for an extended period. They should be checked at least twice every seven years by a competent scribe.


Myth: A Bar/(Bat) Mitzvah is an event.

Fact: A Bar/(Bat) Mitzvah is a person.


Myth: Girls and boys both reach the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah at the same age, at 13.

Fact:  Because girls generally mature earlier, girls become Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12 rather than 13.  

Myth: To become Bar or Bat Mitzvah, one must be called to the Torah and make a big party.

Fact:   According to Jewish law, children are not obligated to keep the Mitzvos, the commandments. The time during the early years of a person's life is a strict training period, where they learn about the Mitzvos and how to keep them properly. A woman becomes obligated to keep the Mitzvos (Bat Mitzvah) at the age of 12. A man becomes obligated to keep the Mitzvos (Bar Mitzvah) at the age of 13. Why doesn’t the Torah Command us to make  Big party on his 13th Birthday?

Perhaps, because upon becoming adults, young people have the yoke of Torah placed upon their shoulders. While it is indeed a time when one might be a bit frightened by the burden he or she is starting to bear, one should nevertheless be overjoyed by the fact that now he or she has the opportunity to do Mitzvos and fulfill the command of Hashem. This happiness has to be natural: the

youth has to feel it on his own. An artificial happiness, brought on by an obligatory celebration of the fact, is not needed nor desired. The young man or woman at the time of the Bar (Bat) Mitzvah has to

realize how lucky he (she) is to now have received the Torah and to be thankful to Hashem for this gift. It is for this reason that the Torah contains no commandments to celebrate becoming a Bar (Bat) Mitzvah.

It’s a celebration for the parents because we just added one more person to help us carry the load of Mitzvos and bringing us one step closer to the ultimate goal and purpose of creation.

Myth: Bar Mitzvah training consists of at least one year learning how to read the Torah. Bat Mitzvah training consists of a similar training in a synagogue skill.

Fact:   Bar or Bat Mitzvah training consists of thirteen or twelve years of learning how to do mitzvahs and why.  And it continues on from there for the rest of their lives.

Myth: When I have my Bar Mitzvah celebration in the Synagouge I need to wear hair spray in my hair.

Fact: In most synagogues, it is customary for people to cover their heads as a sign of respect for God and acknowledgement that there is something "above" us in the universe. Head coverings, called kippot, are available in the back of the sanctuary.


Those who are over the age of 13 often wear a tallit (prayer shawl) which has special ritual fringes (called tzitzit) on the corners. The Torah commands Jews to wear fringes on the corners of their garments as a reminder of God's commandments. Wearing the tallit helps the worshiper concentrate better on prayer. Hair spray…is optional.

Myth: Synagogues and Bar Mitzvahs are not for Kids.

Fact: Children are more then welcome in the synagogue. They should not be expected to sit for hours throughout a long service. It is perfectly acceptable for them to walk out to stretch their legs now and then and talk with friends. I have found that books and quiet toys (puzzles, lego) are excellent for keeping young children amused and engaged in synagogue. Every now and then you will run into someone from the "children should be seen and not heard" school. If your child is behaving properly, don't let such people bother you.

Bar Mitzvah parties are especially made for young kids to be part of, in order for  the to have what to look forward to and someone to look up to as well

Myth: After I turn thirteen the torah says I am man, so now I can do what I want!? 

Fact: Upon becoming an adult, young people have the yoke of Torah placed upon their shoulder. While it is indeed a time when one might be a bit frightened by the burden he or she is starting to bear, one should nevertheless be overjoyed by the fact that now he or she has the wonderful opportunity to do Mitzvos and fulfill the command of Hashem. And when you do what Hashem asks that makes you a true man. And indeed


Obviously there is a lot more to be learned about Bar Mitzvah in particular and Judaism in general, but, this should give you a little head start in making your plans for your Bar Mitzvah.


Drugs in Our Community: Everyone's scope of practice

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht,

Warning: Explicit: not intended for all audiences.

I can share with you my experience from back in my Rabbinical college days when one of my colleagues would snort “coke” and then decide to beat me up. (I'm fine;)

Or, my colleague who would get drink and do the same.

Or my close relative who would get drunk, throw-up, and do it all over again.

Or, perhaps I can tell you of a fellow community member who lost their only daughter, a drug abuser – or “owned by her addiction”, in a very unfortunate way.

Or, I can tell you of various colleagues who destroyed their marriages because of Drug & Alcohol abuse.

Or, should I tell you the story of an acquaintance of mine - son n’ mother, who spent a $130,000.00 inheritance on drugs – in a year and a half.

Or, should I share with you all the stories from this past year alone of the deaths in our larger Jewish community due to drug abuse,never mind the "national crisis" going on in the USA.

Or, perhaps I might as well tell you what about the plight of the Jews in Egypt, or at the time of the destruction of the first temple, or maybe even the Spanish inquisition or even the Holocaust. For, as some would say, “you are crying over spilled milk”.

So! I won’t talk about that! Nor will I share with you the plethora of important books and online links you can find on this subject matter to fully fathom it's impact.

I’ll just talk about something that happened today.That I personally witnessed.

Today, I responded as an EMT to a Hatzolah call here in NY, a 16 year old child who’s parent was deeply concerned about the welfare of their child.

We arrived on scene and safely approached the child, after a brief conversation the child agreed, with the parent's consent, to come to the hospital for an evaluation.

There was only one problem, right after the child got their shoes on and opened the door, the child bolted-ran away.

With the added help of the NYPD the child was found safe and sound and was escorted in hand cuffs to the hospital.

Now Stop! How many Rabbis or community representatives get phone calls in the craziest hours of the day and week begging for assistance when a child is at risk or was arrested?! And why? Could it have been prevented? Here we were lucky. Not always. 

But how lucky? The child was in cuffs! Escorted inside and outside by police! Which parent wants to see their child like this?! What brought it to this stage? Instinctively we will begin with a slue of questions like, was the child being assessed psychologically, psychiatric-ally, or does the child have a therapist and is the child on meds? Are the meds even working? If there is drug abuse, why, when, where and HOW? These are all important questions we need to ask – that is the parents and the medical and psychological-medical professionals – each in their own “scope of practice”- experienced in their fields. Good, robust and healthy answers need to be had- and a healthy and robust team of wise and experienced people need to address the challenge at hand - and no one should attempt it alone.

But! Most importantly, and what concerns us, the non professionals, is: what are the family members, friends and community members doing about it? How in tuned are we to children who suffer from a psychological disorder, or who are at risk, or have an attention or love deficiency. What can I do to help and sympathize with another Jew – This is every one’s scope of practice. After all how many mitzvos in the Torah teach us this?! Every Jew, not just a Rabbi or a Dr.

If you know someone that needs a helping hand, or suspect such, or someone who is going through a life long challenge , REACH IN! Reach in to their hearts and minds, see the beauty in them, see the good in them, and take time to listen, be patient,loving, caring and kind to the person - and be empathetic, truly.

This child didn’t want to go the police or even on the ambulance at first, but the child agreed to come in to my car to talk. What does that tell you?! Children need to build trust and earn your respect and credibility. The child was running, bu then stopped, acquiesced, and we spoke about the good and the bad and the ugly of life, for over an hr. A beautiful Neshomah! Deeply challenged! We even got in a few smiles and even a few laughs.

There is always HOPE! Never give up and never give in – REACH IN! And ask the most important question and maybe really the only question you the ”regular person on the street” can ask: WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THIS PERSON, YOUNG OR OLD! And then, well then create a plan and do it. With wisdom and understanding, sympathy and empathy and love, lots of it.

Don’t wait till it’s too late! The challenge may not be yours and the illness not creeping through your body, the pain and anguish that many of these people have to bare, and their parents and loved one's - but - “every Jew is responsible for the other.” It’s our generation! It’s our children! Wake up. We may or may not be the cure, but we can sure be a remedy and part of the larger plan to help these people fully recover- with G-ds help. ~ r}

(Names and location and further details of this story were kept private for all practical purposes. The gist of the story is critical for further prevention.)

7 Reasons Why Parents & Teachers Should Not Yell

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht –

I’ll start right away by admitting yelling was never one of my character challenges, but I've learned a thing or two over the years. As a school teacher, a principal, as a camp counselor, head counselor and camp director for years, it's not that I wasn’t toobad—it’s that one) I imagined myself on camera, and two) I was always cognizant of the child's mind, heart and life-situation - which all too often is the reason for a child’s behavior.

As life progresses though? Ugh. Much more. I see the infinite struggle with technology and the average child level of selfishness and "self-expectancy". So I know the struggle a teacher or parent may face each day. I know a lot of us struggle even if you’re a great teacher, even if you’re a swell person most days, sometimes it all gets to be too much and you just snap.

I remember the teacher in the room next to me one year, a person I completely adored. This teacher had a perfectly fine relationship with our students, but once or twice a week…Hooo-WEE! I could hear it through the walls, often accompanied by the slam of the classroom door, and it turned my blood to ice. If my students and I happened to be doing something quiet, we would all kind of freeze up listening to it. It never lasted long, but I always felt bad for my colleague during those moments. I knew a switch had been tripped and it wasn’t this person’s normal way of dealing with students.

Similar to a neighbor I once had, his mom would lose it, all the time. It frightened us.

And if this person was anything like me, they probably felt pretty awful when it was all over. Once the moment has passed and they have had their little tantrum, they're ashamed of the spectacle they have made.

Losing control is not a proud moment for anyone. But we can get a lot better over years, time should train us.  I want to share what has worked for me, along with some research and ideas from other people that has worked and proven productive.

By way of introduction:

We, my brothers and I had a principal in Elementary, one of many great educators I had growing up, but this man was in a league of his own - Rabbi Goldstein OB"M. In the morning he would bring us to other classrooms to answer Amen to the other classes making brochos, teaching us the power of Amen with love and affection. But then he would patrol the hallways and common areas, and when a child misbehaved all he had to do was look at you - and you were ‘finished’. This is a talent very few great educators have. Possibly he yelled, I don’t actually recall, but if and when Rabbi Goldstein yelled it was like a Tzaddik cleansing your soul. He breathed Judaism and ethics and morals, when he yelled it was his heart pouring out to the child’s soul, to re-support the child to re-behave. A true educator has to create a demeanor beyond yelling out of anger and disdain and lack of personal self control.


Kicking the yelling habit will be more likely if you have a good basic understanding of why it’s an ineffective way to solve classroom discipline problems or issues at home.

Each one of us may find different reasons that inspire us to be better self-controlled individuals.

2. It’s really poor Role-Modeling

Even if we accomplish nothing else in a day, the least we can do is demonstrate a respectable level of self-control. Part of our job in life is to show students and children how to handle anger, stress, and conflict in a healthy and productive way. We can’t just tell them to do that. We have to show them. And yelling is definitely not showing them healthy, productive stress management. We all remember how much we despised being yelled at when were younger.

3. It Trains Students to Ignore Your Regular Voice

It may seem strange but when your go-to strategy for handling negative situations is yelling, students and children ultimately tune out all of your other voice levels and your training your students to listen to you only when you raise your voice. In other words, they learn that unless you’re shouting, you must not really mean it. So yelling begets more yelling, which may in turn make them immune to even the garden-variety yelling, so you have to keep upping the volume and intensity to get their attention. That’s just a horrible, slippery slope you need to back away from.

4. It Disrupts Student Responsibility

Studies find that when students have teachers who use more coercive, aggressive behavior management techniques (like yelling), they report being less likely to act responsibly in that class.

This makes sense, because students are acting more out of compliance and fear than out of any kind of intrinsic desire to be responsible. Which what any educator should really be imparting.

So if you believe it’s part of your job to raise mature, conscientious humans, know that yelling at them will only slow that process down; sorry!

5. Students Are Less Likely to Respect You

When adolescents are raised by authoritarian parents—whose methods are punitive, coercive, and often include yelling—they are less likely to view their parents as legitimate authority figures than kids whose parents have different styles, according to multiple studies in the Journal of Adolescence (Trinkner, Cohn, Rebellon, & Van Gundy). Because parenting and teaching involve similar skill sets, it’s reasonable to assume students who have authoritarian teachers feel the same way about them. The obedience you might get from yelling might look like respect, but that behavior probably doesn’t match their true feelings for you. Long term, it may even create resentment and yes even trauma.

6. It May Contribute to Bullying

The way students and kids at home treat one another has become a major concern for educators in recent years and always a concern for moms n’ dads. We tend to look at programs that aim to change student behavior and attitudes, but our own conduct may be a contributing factor: classrooms where the teacher used an authoritarian style— and parents who are in not in control, using punishment and coercion to influence student behavior—created an environment where bullying behavior between students and siblings are likely to develop. Trust me I've grown up in a large family - “Bullying doesn’t occur in a vacuum.” A host of factors contribute to it’s existence, and one of them is how teachers manage their classrooms and parents their children and how they respond to inappropriate student and  children's behavior.

7. It Creates Anxiety for Everyone

I don’t think any research is needed to back this one up. When you yell in anger, it changes the feeling in the room; in your heart and mind and your "mood". Imagine what it does to the kid you’re yelling at, and for everyone within earshot (have mercy), that includes the teachers and students in nearby classrooms, siblings or neighbors.

Just a quick glance at your situation will tell you that the need for children's sense of healthy, safe, calm and grounded environment are vital. Students and children are much less able and likely to do quality academic work and show happy behavior when surrounded by anger.

Staying calm, cool and collected particularly in tough situations could be a vital gift to your students children and ultimately yourself.

[And always remember    כל הכועס כאילו עובד עבודה זרה lack of self-control is often due to lack of experience with personal character traits.מה הוא רחום וחנון אף אתה תהא רחום וחנון... דברי תלמידי חכמים נשמעים בנחת.]

Being stern and serious and even raising our voice with a child or a group IS often necessary, as need be, but this is not the same as "yelling with disdain".

One good way to tell the difference is: would you feel jolly if your video was on You Tube? Ask yourself why?! Remeber children are little adults, how would you feel if SOMEONE YELLED AT YOU AT WORK - regardless of your behavior - how productive would you be?! How much more so with innocent children, precious souls who need, love, affection and EDUCATION!

Contrary to what many of us may have been exposed to over the years, learning good and healthy techniques for communication in education, is a vital prerequisite and requirement in any and every educating scenario and situation. Listen so kids will speak, speak so kids will listen. Don’t yell, please.


Chanukah & Children

Chanukah & Children

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht –

"It is a positive Rabbinic commandment to kindle a light each night of Chanukah."

(Maimonides Laws of Chanukah Ch.3,3)

The mitzvah is customarily enhanced by kindling one light the first night and adding one additional light each successive night until we reach a total of 8 candles

(Code of Jewish Law: 671,2)

The widely followed custom is that the head of the household kindles the lights and thereby exempts his wife from lighting, as well as other females of the household who should be present at the lighting.(ibid. Mishna Brurah,9. See Chasam Sofer, T. Shabbos 22b)

It has also become widespread custom that anyone who wishes to light may do so. One should always consult their own personal competent Rabbi.

Parents are obligated to educate their children, from the age of 5 or 6, or younger depending on the intelligence of the child, in the performance of this mitzvah.

It is customary for boys of this age to kindle their own lights. (S"A, Rema,675,3)

It is interesting to note that this mitzvah is the "lighting itself" and with a "blessing" and even though classically the mitzvah of "educating a child" begins at 9, we begin to train children in many practices as this one even at 5 or 6 six years of age. Even though it is only 'customary' to add an additional light each night, and we are not obligated to educate children in that which is customary, never the less it has become custom that a child lights Chanukah candles in the same manner adults do.(See Rema end sec.675, Mishna Brurah ibid 14)



Children have such an acceptable and respectable place in this mitzvah some codifiers even make the argument that a child of the age of education may even bless and light and fulfill the obligation on behalf of an adult. Which goes to show how important a child's mitzvah may be. (Code of Jewish law sec.671,3. See M"B ibid 6. see Orach Yisroel 27)

CHILD lighting for a SHUL

It is customary to light Chanukah candles in Shul and a child may do so. Customs may vary.

(Minchas Yitzchok,6,64)

We as a community always try to involve the household in all our holidays and practices. There is no more beautiful way to celebrate this holiday then by getting kids involved and making them feel special and important.

Let us not forget that it was the children who played dreidel when the Hellenist Greeks tried to stop us from learning Torah- historically the children have a major part of this holiday, let's empower 

Mezuzah & Children


Mezuzah & Children

With Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht -


Q. Are children obligated in Mezuzah?


The Tannaic sages of the Mishna state: ”Women, servants and children…are obligated in prayer, mezuzah and grace after meals”.  (Mishna, Berochos Ch. 3, Mishna 3.[See Sefer HaItur, Shar 1, Laws of Tefilin 61, Tur 3])


The code of Jewish Law codifies that: “…We educate the children to place a mezuzah on their doors”  (S”A Yoreh Deah, Tur 291.S”A, Yorah deah 291,63)

Maimonides rules as well, like the words of the mishna itself: “All are obligated in Mezuzah, even women and servants, and we educate the children to placemezuzahs on their doors in their homes.”  (Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah, Sefer Torah Ch.5,5)


The Commentary on Miamonides the Kesef Mishna explains, what does it mean ‘they are obligated’ - it means the parents are obligated to educate them in this mitzvah accordingly. (K”M T. Berochos 17b)


Does this mean they are obligated in the same way adults are obligated?Do they watch their parents place it on their doors, or even on the child’s door as well?


The Chinuch states (Mitzvah 423)”A mute, an imbocile and a child are not obligated in mitzvos”, rather we educate them in doing so, as we mentioned above.


Does this mean they should place the Mezuzah on their doors themselves?

This is a matter of great debate amongst the codifiers.  The Aruch Hashulchan adds, (S”A 286,63) “It appears to me that even a room designated only for children needs a mezuzah, because of the “mitzvah to educate them in this mitzvah”. Furthermore, children who don’t have parents, (or a child who inherited the space: See Shu”s Torah Lishmah 307) may place the mezuzah themselves, and when they become adults shall reaffix the mezuzah. Otherwise parents should do it. If a child did it for the parent/adult it should be reaffixed. If one did not, it’s fine, the main thing there is a mezuzah on the door, withstanding/regardless of how it got there.

With that said, various contemporary codifiers conclude based on the words of the Rambam, that the affixing is primary and as all mitzvahs must be done properly by an ‘adult only’ and this is the best way for it to be done. The Rambam states that the blessing on Mezuzah (like on Tzitzis) is not made on the writing of the mezuzah or the making of the Tzitzis but rather preceisley when it’s affixed, as this is the primary component of the biblical and or Rabbinical parts of these mitzvahs, hence concluding  that it’s vital that an adult does it – albeit the child be taught how it’s done properly. (Shevet Levi 2, 158. See Magen Avraham 19,1. See Eretz Tzvi 15)


In reality the child should do it with a blessing on their room alone, as this is the seeming understanding of the words of the Shulchan Aruch – code of  Jewish law mentioned above, 291. All other spaces should be done by an adult accordingly.(Tsitz Eliezer ,75. Yalkut Yosef, Sovah Semochos,Mezuzah, 14)


What about a room for a nanny who takes care of children, or may reside in the room with an infant?


From the words of the Aruch Hashluchan it seems even though a room may be desginated for them only, since it’s in the house of the adult Jew, the room should have a mezuzah as well, unlike when you rent your property to a non Jew and you don’t live yourself in that dwelling.


Parents: When a parents places a mezuzah on a child’s room door, they fulfill 2 mitzvahs, one the mitzvah of mezuzah and 2 the mitzvah of educating children.

An afterthought on this matter may be: that as we find in many other aspects of educating children includes many mitzvahs where the child themselves would make the blessing such in prayer, Shabbos candles or Tzitzis or grace after meals etc.. Thefore in the realm of education, it would seem quite proper that here too, the child make the blessing oneself upon the special itzvah of affixingthe mezuzah.


Rabbi Hecht can be reached at:

Chabad Chinuch


In honor of the 90 year celebration of Anshe Sholom Chabad JCC tenured Rabbi who now celebrates one decade at ASC JCC, Mordechai Z. Hecht will produce periodical videos and Chinuch-sheets for parents and educators on the values, structure, laws and customs on the Jewish education of Children.
Rabbi Hecht, from a huge family and a generational line of rabbis patrilineally and matrilineally will share with you everything he has culled from the most creative teachers, rabbis and educators as well as codifiers, bringing you the bottom line on Jewish Education, to help bolster a more robust and comprehensive, happy and healthy next Jewish generation, forever.
Chabad Chinuch , since 1745
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