Over the summer, I know that many families are looking for meaningful things to do with their children. I would like to suggest a few ideas for turning some of our Jewish values into worthwhile activities.
Giving Tzedakah – Create tzedakah boxes out of recycled materials (also fulfills the mitzvah of not being wasteful) and a place to save donation solicitation letters. Children can put change into the tzedakah box before bed each day and at the end of the summer decide which of the places you received solicitations from should receive the money.
Giving tzedakah can also be a donation of time. There are many organizations looking for volunteers. Set aside some time each week to help out. If you need some suggestions for places that allow children to volunteer, contact me in the school office.
Observing Shabbat – Having Shabbat dinner, attending Shabbat services and enjoying family time on Shabbat are all ways to observe Shabbat. A fun project to do before Shabbat is to prepare for Havdallah by going on a walk in nature and finding things that smell nice like flowers, herbs and pine needles. Gather some of these things to use as the besamim (spices) during Havdallah.
Protecting the environment and not being wasteful – If you have a garden, a good project is creating a rain barrel. Children can help decorate a barrel and then water the plants. Rain barrels help prevent soil erosion and sewer overflow (and they cut down on water bills).
Going to the park and picking up garbage is a simple way for children of all ages to help protect the environment. I do, however, recommend wearing gloves when picking up trash.
Feeding the hungry –Our congregation has a community garden; the produce grown in the garden is donated to the Asbury Dining and Care Center. Families are encouraged to get involved in harvesting and caring for the garden. We also collect food for the Brighton Food Cupboard. If you have a home garden, you can also donate a portion of your harvest, either through one of TBE’s projects or at one of many food distribution programs throughout the Rochester area.
Studying Torah, Teaching Torah and Mitzvot to Children – There are a number of wonderful websites designed to help us study Torah and the weekly Parsha. Two of my favorites are United Synagogue’s Torah Sparks and MyJewishLearning.com. Take a few minutes to read the weekly portion and discuss it as a family. These resources provide a great guide for conversation with children. A quick serarch on the internet will usually come up with some great Parsha related activities as well.
By incorporating even one of these ideas into your family’s summer, you will be both fulfilling the mitzvah of teaching your children the importance of mitzvot and the specific mitzvah you’re doing. For more ideas on performing mitzvot with children, please contact me in the school office. I hope you have a wonderful, mitzvah-filled summer!