What Mitzvot Will You Do This Month?

Mitzvot is the plural form of mitzvah, a Hebrew word that roughly translates to “commandment.” Still, folks commonly interpret it as “a good deed.” The term mitzvah comes from the root word tzavta, which means “connection.” What makes a mitzvah a mitzvah is its emphasis on action. A mitzvah is a decisive act that embodies empathy and kindness while bringing us closer to others. Positive thoughts and wishes, while always welcome, are not mitzvot. Mitzvot are more than a creed—they’re about doing deeds.

Mitzvot have been integral to Judaism for millennia; the Torah, for example, references 613 mitzvot. Several of these only applied during Biblical times, such as worshipping at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. However, some mitzvot have not only maintained their relevance throughout the ages, but also continue providing a compass for living a Jewish life—yes, even today.

Jews celebrate the holiday of Shavuot on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, which is in May this year. During this holiday, we celebrate the moment that God, through Moses, gave the Israelites the gift of the Ten Commandments and the Torah—and in doing so, bringing mitzvot into the world. Thousands of years later, many Jewish people continue to practice mitzvot, such as observing Shabbat, keeping kosher, and celebrating Jewish holidays. These practices keep us connected to Judaism and our local Jewish community. Meanwhile, other mitzvot are more widespread and recognizable across different cultures, like being honest, treating others respectfully, honoring parents, visiting the sick, and caring for animals.

Mitzvot with Children

So, now that we know what mitzvot are, how can we actively and meaningfully perform them with the children in our care? Sure, every child is different, and so is every family. Therefore, which mitzvot you choose to perform and how you do so will be unique to you—age, interests, culture, and personality all come into play. Nevertheless, children of all ages can (and should) participate! Even toddlers show kindness to others, read body language, and know when someone’s seeking affection. For them, even something simple like giving a hug, a flower, or saying kind words all count.

Older preschoolers and elementary-age kids can help create a list of important values for your family and find mitzvot they can do to reflect those values. Letting the children choose a task they enjoy can help make doing good feel more natural. If a child likes to draw or write, they can send a card to brighten a friend’s day. Children who love animals can walk a neighbor’s dog. Every action, no matter how small, helps make the world a better place.

Read and Do

Stumped? Open up a PJ Library book! The compelling Jewish stories within PJ Library books are infused with Jewish values and examples of characters doing mitzvot. To get you started, we’ve provided the following examples of child-friendly mitzvot, their corresponding Jewish values, and a selection of PJ Library books that explore these topics:

Suppose you like visual organizers to help you get things done. In that case, PJ Library also has you covered. Download this “a mitzvah a day“ checklist, place it in a central location, or even share it with friends. When one person does a good deed, others can see and be inspired to do the same. Creating these ripple effects of kindness can build and sustain communities over time, and showing children how we can all make the world a little better is profoundly empowering—for them and for you!

So, which mitzvot will you do this month?

Join us to Weave Mitzvot into Everyday Moments
Wednesday, May 19, 8:00 – 9:00 pm PDT

Anyone can do a mitzvah—it’s easy! Early childhood expert Janet Harris will teach us how mitzvot (holy obligations) add value to our lives and help create meaning and joy. REGISTER NOW

This event is proudly hosted by PJ Library Bay Area in collaboration with Jewish Preschools in the East Bay - JCC East Bay, Beth El Nursery School, Netivot Shalom Preschool, Gan Shalom, Gan Avraham, and Temple Sinai Preschool.


May 12, 2021