Tzivos Hashem – the soldiers of Hashem – received their marching orders earlier this year: “Learn Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos.” Many students in Lubavitch schools throughout the world began their studies of the mitzvos using a series of books published by The Living Lessons Foundation called the Yahadus series. With workbooks and textbooks explaining each mitzvah, the main halachos, and their applications to life, the students prepared for a series of in-school tests that would qualify them to compete in the international Chidon Championship in Crown Heights, New York.
This year, 1832 students in Grades 4 through 8, from 45 schools, took the three qualifying tests to become eligible for the competition. 627 students from 62 cities around the world qualified to visit Crown Heights for two exciting weekends (one for boys and one for girls) of fun (ice-skating, bowling, etc.), spirituality, and intense test-taking. Those who qualified further then participated in a grand game show that was broadcast internationally.
A number of students from Los Angeles qualified for the trip to Crown Heights; the 12 boys and 16 girls from fourth to eighth grade attend Bais Chaya Mushka, Bais Rebbe, and Cheder Menachem. Five of them won medals: From Cheder Menachem, Mendel Fisher of fifth grade won a bronze and gold medals went to Yossie Heidingsfeld of fourth grade and Zali Raichek of eighth grade. Bais Chaya Mushka and Bais Rebbe each had a student win a silver medal: Chaya Mushka Brook of fifth grade and Mushka Heidingsfeld of eighth grade, respectively.
The qualifying tests were grade-level based. The Yahadus curriculum that the students learn is completed in a five-year cycle, they begin in fourth grade and end in eighth. Rabbi Greenbaum, Menahel of Cheder Menachem states, “The boys learn a tremendous amount of knowledge while studying. The Yahadus curriculum breaks into five volumes, which will ultimately give the students the 613 mitzvos in-depth.”
Rabbi Greenbaum was focused and proud of the learning the boys did. As for the actual competition, “It was a reward for their efforts and a chance for them to challenge themselves against their peers,” he explained.
Mrs. Geula Newman, principal of Bais Rebbe, Chabad’s middle school for girls, is also very proud of her students. She was impressed not only by the amazing amounts of knowledge the girls learned, but also by “[t]heir self-motivation and the rigor they displayed toward the learning.” Mrs. Newman also believes that the actual competition in Crown Heights was, “A unity of all the girls from around the world all learning the same thing. They had pride in their school…[O]verall it was a very positive experience.”
Both Rabbi Greenbaum and Mrs. Newman agree that the success from this year should encourage students next year to fully participate in the learning of the 613 mitzvos, for the Lubavitcher Rebbe was adamant that learning them brings many brachos.