Tag Archives: mitzvah

Purim Carnival Alternative, Miztvah-centric

Purim "scrip" that converts to real money after we calculate donations. Like non-digital bitcoin, but not really...

Purim “scrip” tickets become real money after tzedakah donations are calculated.

A Purim carnival without cheap, plastic prizes?  What if instead of winning crappy, non-recyclable tchotchkes, a kid at a Purim carnival wins tzedakah tickets—Mitzvah Money—from each game, and then stuffs them into a pushke for his or her favorite charity?  At least two synagogues are doing this already, and this year, mine will, too.
It’s just like Chuck E. Cheese, only instead of redeeming tickets for disposable clutter, kids donate tickets to help people less fortunate.
If the tzedakah-centric model sounds like carnival buzz-kill, read on.

(UPDATE: see pics and after-the-event update at next post, here) Continue reading

Nature work: a Mitzvah Birdbath

Mitzvah Project—The Tza’ar ba’aley Chayim Birdbath—a quick or slow nature project for home or school.

DSC01388

So subtle, I had to add an arrow

Until yesterday, my synagogue didn’t have a bird bath or any other water source for animals.  I haven’t seen one in the 20 years I’ve been a member. Our courtyard is a perfect place for informal birdwatching: surrounded by classroom windows on two sides, and the Internet Cafe and school entrance on the third. I’m a Volunteer Tennessee Naturalist. I think about this sort of thing alot.  It would have been so easy to buy and install a birdbath by myself in less than an hour, and bingo: water for wildlife.  Or, I could make it a Mitzvah Project in a slow way, a participatory way, a way that makes for several active lesson plans, and that can foster a student’s sense of investment, stewardship, community and empowerment. Continue reading

Make Your Own Lego Mezuzah

Lego Mezuzah. A Simple Version

Lego Mezuzah. A Simple Version

DIY Lego Mezuzah with Kids

(Update: a revised version is now here under my Jewish LEGO page)

I’m a big fan of making mezuzah cases with kids, and especially out of found materials. In my house, Lego qualify as found material, as they are found under every large piece of furniture.

Making a ritual object out of repurposed materials with your kid is fun and Jewish (two words we like to link as often as possible), useful and meaningful. In the case of a mezuzah (pun intended), we can touch the container every time we enter a room, which gives us a physical connection to the Sh’ma prayer inside and the parent-child crafted case outside. Of course, we make sure the case is mounted low enough for kids to reach, too. (And the observant among us would have a kosher mezuzah higher up on the doorframe already. For mezuzah rules, see here.)

Other materials great for making mezuzah cases are: dental floss containers, toothbrush tubes, fat straws (from bubble tea), half a walnut shell, toothpaste boxes, plastic tubing and pretty much anything longer than it is wide and that will still fit on a doorpost. Laurie Bellet, author of The Reluctant Artist, posted a great idea at the Torah Aura blog about making cases from dried-out markers.

Do see  my Kveller.com article about making training scrolls (as in “not kosher” scrolls) with kids and about making mezuzah cases from used glue stick containers and empty matchboxes.

But why Lego?  Why not?  Lego are fantastically fun building materials. And if you love Lego, you and your kid can happily fiddle with a pile of assorted bricks and come up with all sorts of designs.

The basic requirements are that the case is: big enough to hold a scroll, has a way to open and close to insert the scroll, and has a flat back for mounting to doorpost with tape.

The flat plate base, upside down

The rest is left up to the imagination. My dream is to create a big letter Shin(the traditional decoration for any case) on the front using the tiny, single-knob round pieces, but I have so far been unable to meet this challenge.

A stylized Lego Shin

To make a three-legged Shin requires five horizontal rows of knobs, and my flat plate is only four rows wide. I made a sample Shin (at left) which could easily attach it to the front of my mezuzah, but the thick profile (I don’t have the right kind of flat plates) would protrude too far into the doorway. Continue reading

Converting Valentine candy: Mishloach Manot

Mishloach Manot

Whether or not you do Valentine’s Day at your house, there is a world of half-price Valentine candy in shops right now, and some of it can work just dandy for the next Jewish holiday, Purim.  Kisses, especially. Because of the chocolate preferences of certain grandmothers in our family, our Purim Mishloach Manot baskets always include Hershey’s kisses. Valentine kisses are usually robed in red: simple, bright, fun red.  Without the outer packaging, red kisses are deliciously generic and ready for conversion. And of course, they are kosher. (So are Tootsie Rolls, by the way, and I Continue reading

Glue Stick Mezuzah: or, Make a Green Mezuzah for Free

A Glue Stick Mezuzah

Here’s a new use for an empty glue stick tube: a mezuzah case. If you collect a bunch, you have a cost-free craft for a whole class.

Glue Sticks don’t last very long. Manufacturers seem to keep shrinking the volume of glue without shrinking the actual container, and the glue has a fairly short shelf life (about two years).  Thus, empty glue stick containers multiply, especially at a school.

A mezuzah is really the scroll inside of a mezuzah case: a klaf, or piece of kosher parchment upon which a sofer—scribe—has written (special ink, special quill) the first two passages of the Shema, Judaism’s central prayer.* The Shema is comprised of key verses from Deuteronomy (6:9 and 11:13-21), and begins, “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

Mezuzah literally means “doorpost,” and it is on our doorposts that Jews are obliged to mount a mezuzah. Doing so is a mitzvah—a commandment—and, what a coincidence, it is a biblical commandment found in the Shema itself: “you shall inscribe them [these words] on the doorposts of your home.”

So, every Jewish home, or to be more inclusive, every home in which someone identifies as Jewish, needs a mezuzah on the doorposts. Home in Hebew is bayit, and the home of a mezuzah—the case—is called a beit mezuzah, or mezuzah home.  A beit mezuzah can be made out of just about any material that protects the scroll, and in every price range. This one comes in sticky plastic and is free.

Making a mezuzah case as pretty as you are able can actually Continue reading