Make it Jewish by adding a thing or two.
Find what fits for you.
From the end of supper to the last kiss goodnight, we can add Jewish content to our routines.
Ending the day Jewishly is a powerful influence in making our kids who they are.
Add books, toys, loveys, songs, conversation, and a version of the traditional Sh’ma prayer as you see fit. (See the Sh’ma suggestions at the bottom of this page.)
One basic linear progression:
Supper……Clean up……Bath……PJs……Teeth……Books……Review Day……Bed…..Sh’ma……Sleeeeeeeep (each step is detailed below).
SUPPER: For Jewish kid dishes, bibs, cookie cutters, and pretend food, see here. Good table manners and helping set the table or clean up are mitzvot (commandments). Call them Derekh Eretz, or “way of the land,” a commandment having to do with common decency and good behavior. Eating healthy food is Shmirat ha-Guf, or “guarding the body.” See the Mitzvah Chart for more everyday mitzvot.
BATH: Jewish bath books, Foam Hebrew letters, Toys, Music (songs or CDs)
Add a Jewish bath book, foam Hebrew letters, or toys that can act out Torah stories or Jewish themes. Noah’s ark sets are easy to find, and Jonah & the Whale sets are not unknown, but you can make any boat into the Ark with a little imagination, and any toy whale into Jonah’s whale. Most kid-friendly Torah stories or Jewish stories are ripe for re-enactment, and you can use toys you already own.
Foam Hebrew puzzles do double duty in the bath: they stick to the sides of a wet tub and introduce the aleph bet. Pick the ones with a smooth texture on the back, so you don’t place the letters backwards. This tactile clue is handy for kids and adults who are learning. (Plus, you can use them as rubber stamps and tracing forms.)
Music is a great way to cut the stress of the end of a long day, and to have fun with Jewish songs, holiday songs, and new music. Set up a boom box outside the bathroom and sing along.
PJs: On some Jewish Parent networking sites, we see moms kvelling over certain holiday PJs or kitschy Yiddish tees. Make your own with fabric paints, embroidery, iron-on printer paper, and fabric crayons. At our house, we use hand-me-down Israeli-made T-shirts like Hebrew Bazooka and Shalom Sesame.
Teeth: Turning off the water while brushing teeth is a great time to introduce the mitzvah (commandment) of B’al Tashcheet, roughly translated as Do Not Destroy Needlessly. You can even invoke the mitzvah of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, in the sense we are helping preserve the earth by not wasting resources. Taking care of your teeth and body is Shmirat ha-Guf (guarding your body and treating it well). Putting a Jewish name to an everyday value or righteous act reinforces the idea that Jewish is everyday. See Mitzvah Chart.
Loveys/Sleep friends: Plush torahs, velvet Stars of David with little faces, bears with yarmulkes,Plush critters of all kinds, Oy Toy Macca Beans beanie babies, etc. Or, just cut out a circle of felt and sew it on a stuffed animals head. My son found a plush fish at a thrift store and named it Gefilte, so now it’s a Jewish toy.
Lites: Jewish night lights! They come in AlephBet blocks, a Miriam figure, Chai (life) symbol, Lilah Tov in pink and in blue, and Noah’s Ark. If you know of any more, email me and I’ll add a link. A Jewish night light makes comfort in the dark specifically Jewish! OyToys.com has a selection.
BOOKS: Thanks to the invigorating influence of the PJ Library, books for little Jewish kids are more available than ever.
Bedtime books can be divided these categories:
- Bible stories
- Jewish life
God: Books like God’s Paintbrush, Does God Have a Big Toe, Thank You God, and God’s Quiet Things. If you have issues with masculine pronouns, just switch or omit them. If you are uncomfortable reading about “God” at all, you can still choose from a vast range of books that are Jewish and value-based.
Bible Stories: Single stories or collections. Don’t ignore books of “Old Testament” stories: sometimes these can be great (the phrase Old Testament is not a Jewish term). See for example, the Usborne Bible Stories from the Old Testament. For quickies, see Shari Lewis’One-Minute Bible Stories-Old Testament. When I read these, I substitute “Torah” or “Bible” for the other term.
Folktales: Tons of these. The Way Meat Loves Salt: a Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition, Mishka the Kvetch, Just Enough is Plenty, and so on.
Jewish Life: Books like A Mezuzah On the Door, My Jewish Home, The Colors of My Jewish Year, Challah Time, etc.
Holiday: Individual holidays and books of all the Jewish holidays. Keep them out year ‘round: little kids love holidays, period, and if they want a book about Rosh Hashana during February, great. At least they want it! Shabbat, of course, is a holiday that happens every single week: My First Shabbat Book, Look at Me I Can Celebrate Shabbat, A Holiday For Noah, etc.
Bedtime: Several new books incorporating the Sh’ma are out. See the three big ones below. My favorite though, isn’t even “Jewish:” God’s Quiet Things is a lovely picture book with few words, good art, and an ending that naturally flows into a recitation of the Sh’ma. The first two words of the book are “Shhhh. Listen.” The last two words of the book are reversed: “Listen. Shhhhh.” How perfect to sustain the Shhhhh into a Shhhhhhhh’ma, Yisroel…… See the full review here.
For parents who are new to using the Sh’ma at night with kids, this book or one of the Jewish books that add it for you are easy, gentle ways of approach.
Why say the Sh’ma at all? It’s a traditional prayer for bedtime and waking.
SH’MA PRAYER: books, pillowcase, songs
If you want to add the Sh’ma to the end of your Jewish bedtime routine, several tools make it easy.
Pillowcase: Make a Sh’ma pillowcase so your kid actually lies down on the prayer. One company sells these (Pitome.com), but you can make your own with a blank pillowcase, fabric markers, fabric crayons, or fabric paints.
Note: the Sh’ma prayer in Hebrew contains the tetragrammaton: God’s 4 letter name. Some Jews do not print this name on any material, because it is considered too holy. Anyone may use the accepted abbreviation of the name, which is a pairing of two “yuds.” In transliteration, it is fine to use the word Adonai. Questions: here’s a link for an article on the 4-letter name: The Tetragrammaton.
Sh’ma Songs: There are several CDs of Jewish lullabies, and several individual songs of just the Sh’ma. My two favorite of the latter variety are by Shira Kline (album: ShirLaLa Shabbat!)and Rick Recht (album: Shabbat Alive!). You can listen to free samples on iTunes.
The Sh’ma book Goodnight Sh’ma has an accompanying CD, too.