Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Leading Shabbat groups can be challenging, especially if it’s your first time. Talia and Aliza found themselves in this exact situation, which is why they were thankful to have Morah Eliana Wiener to help. Morah Wiener was the youth director at Shaarei Bamba and was world-famous (OK, maybe neighborhood-famous) for her ability to train and support group leaders. Talia and Aliza went over to the shul on Wednesday night, where Morah Wiener met them to provide some advice about how to succeed as group leaders. For an hour, Morah Wiener taught Aliza and Talia a bunch of rules and tricks to ensure that the children have a fun and safe time. After the orientation was complete, Morah Wiener asked if the girls had any questions. Aliza shook her head no, but Talia had one question. “Are the girls allowed to bring their own snacks if they want?” Morah Wiener smiled. “Good question Talia. The answer is yes, we do allow it.”

Aliza and Talia walked home together, each carrying her own copy of the Big Binder of Shabbat Groups Ideas. On the way, they talked about the upcoming Shabbat. “Talia, do you think we’ll be able to use any of the games Morah Wiener taught us? I feel like we will spend too much time keeping everyone quiet and calm that we won’t even get to any games.” Talia nodded. “I know what you mean. Also that rule about kids bringing their own candy. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Aren’t the kids going to fight over the candy? What happens if a kid doesn’t want to share?” This time, it was Aliza’s turn to nod. “Totally. We shouldn’t let them do stuff like that. If they bring their own candy, we will just say no. It won’t be a big deal.”

Finally, Shabbat morning arrived. Talia opened her eyes, looked at her clock, and jumped out of bed. She dressed quickly and headed downstairs for a little Shabbat morning cholent. Just as Talia was finishing her second bowl, she heard a knock on the door. Talia looked at the clock and smiled. “Right on time, as always,” she thought. Talia opened the door, let Aliza in, and recited a bracha acharona. The two girls headed to shul together, while discussing whether cholent should have its own special form of bentching.

Upon arriving at shul, Talia and Aliza headed straight downstairs to their classroom. The time was 8:55, and the children were set to arrive in 15 minutes. The girls immediately began to set up chairs for tefillah. A few minutes later, Morah Wiener popped into the room. “Everything OK, girls?” She asked. “Yes, thank you,” replied Aliza. Morah Wiener took a quick look around the room, paused for a moment, and walked out. “Do you think she cares that we already set up?” Talia asked Aliza. Aliza shrugged. “We’ll see.”

At 9:10, the children started filing into the room. Talia and Aliza greeted the girls, asked them to take seats, and handed out siddurim. Davening went well, followed by a really fun parsha game. The weather was beautiful outside, so they headed out to the playground. After 45 minutes of outside time, Talia cupped her hands around her mouth and called out “Girls! Time to come inside!” A few of the girls looked up. “Can we have a few more minutes?” Talia looked at Aliza and Aliza shook her head. “Not this time!” Talia called. The girls groaned, but complied and headed in for a snack.

Back inside, Talia and Aliza began handing out the pretzels, chips and licorice. A few of the girls went into bags at their feet and started taking out their own food. Aliza noticed and stopped them immediately. “Sorry, but we are only eating the snacks from the shul. If you want to eat your own snacks, you can do that on the way home.” Again, the girls groaned, but listened and put their snacks away.

The rest of the day went well. The girls all behaved and followed instructions. They seemed to have a good time, and nobody complained. However, after all the children had gone, Morah Wiener came to speak with Talia and Aliza. As she walked in the door, both Aliza’s and Talia’s hearts sank. “Girls, sit. Let’s talk.” They sat. “It seems like you guys did a great job today. The girls were well-behaved, organized, and I noticed how well you supervised them outside.” Both girls smiled. “However,” (the girls stopped smiling) many of the girls told me they felt you guys were too strict. Two said they might not come back next week. Don’t worry; I’m not blaming you. You guys did better than any other first-day group leaders I have ever seen. This whole too-strict thing happens every year. Just do me a favor and give them playtime before davening. And let them eat their own snacks.”

Parshat Emor teaches us the rules and responsibilities of the Kohanim, and the haftarah repeats many of these as well. However, the haftarah adds one not in the parsha—the Kohanim had the task of deciding halacha. They were rabbis before there were rabbis. In the desert, Moshe Rabbeinu served both as “king” and “rabbi” of the Jewish people, but he is the exception. Putting a ruler in charge of halachic decisions can be a problem, because a king has a unique responsibility—keeping law and order among the people. A king—like a group leader—might therefore interpret the rules in a way that best fits his needs.

However, the Kohanim’s priority is to serve Hashem. They should have no other motivation in their work. Therefore, the Kohanim are the perfect ones to make decisions about how to keep the Torah properly. This teaches us how to make proper Torah decisions. Whether deciding how much to daven or what activities are okay on Shabbat, be honest. Make sure you are doing the right thing, not just what you want. Maybe find yourself a “Kohen” to help.

By Yair Daar


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