Use this chart to reframe ordinary actions and ideas Jewishly (and in Hebrew too, even if you don’t know from Hebrew).
Folks aim to do mitzvot (commandments) for many reasons: both here-and-now and world-to-come reasons. And even though the basic actions can be viewed as universal, to view them through a Jewish lens and call them by a Jewish name can be powerful, positive building blocks of identity.
Mitzvot are everywhere. Traditionally, there are 613 in the Torah, but this handy chart below shows the biggies for using with kids. These are things we already do, everyday kinds of things that help people, animals and the world. Think of any act of kindness or example of social action, and it’s also a mitzvah. If we call the mitzvah a mitzvah, we reinforce Jewishness. And if we call the mitzvah by the Hebrew name, we reinforce Jewishness, big time.
Call an autumn coat drive an act of Malbish Arumim (Clothing the Naked) for example, and suddenly an annual charitable event is Jewish.
Call recycling or re-using trash Bal Tashheet (Do Not Destroy Needlessly). And if your kid forgoes the casual ripping of leaves off low branches of a nearby tree, he’s practicing Bal Tashheet. Name it, frame it and praise it.
Shmirat ha-Guf (Guarding the body) can describe when a child brushes her teeth, takes a bath, wears a safety helmet, eats a healthy meal, gets exercise, and so on. (This one isn’t on the chart.)
The chart makes this so easy: it names the Mitzvah (commandment), the transliteration, the Hebrew term, and “When You Can Refer to It.”
This mitzvah chart is found in the CAJE publication Jewish Values for Growing Outstanding Jewish Children (June 2003) and is from the work of “Machon L’Morim B’reshit,” a “professional development school change initiative for early childhood educators whose goals are to develop Jewishly knowledgeable personnel and educational environments that infuse every aspect of the early childhood experience with Jewish values, concepts and Hebrew vocabulary.” The director of this program, Ilene Vogelstein, granted permission to reproduce the chart here. Thanks, Ilene!