In Judaic studies second graders have been creating and decorating personal blessing boxes. JS teacher Sandra Menachem explains, “The Talmud teaches us that a person is forbidden to enjoy any of the pleasures of the world without first reciting a bracha—a blessing—(Brachot 35a). In order to assure that we do not take the world for granted, Jewish tradition teaches us to recite brachot (‘blessings’) for each moment or thing that we see, hear, taste, or feel. This ties into how our traditions allow us to enter a grateful mindset, encouraging us to appreciate the world around us intrinsically.”
“During our recent field trip to Urban Adamah, students sat together and spontaneously began to chant tefilot that made the moment sacred,” observed Ms. Menachem. “During the trip we were introduced to many brachot, such as a blessing when seeing something for the first time, before eating a fruit, upon seeing the diversity of G-d’s creations, or over the rain and good news.”
In class, Ms. Menachem read the story The Tale of Meshka the Kvetch, by Carol Chapman. (Kvetch is the Yiddish word for a “complainer.”) When Meshka finally learns to bless rather than complain or kvetch, her life becomes happy and good. The students learned various blessings, and that every day we should show our gratitude for all the things that surround us and care for us. The class learned that by showing gratitude for the small things in life, we become happier individuals. Students then wrote their own personal brachot for things that they see, feel, hear, and taste. Each student then crafted their own blessing box. Inside their blessing box they placed their personal blessings, (including extra paper, for continuously adding more blessings). Each blessing box will live on top of the classroom desks, so students will have opportunities to add to it, and also to count their blessings!
“This activity,” says Ms. Menachem, “encourages our students to have a grateful mindset that can help improve their attitude towards the world. Our Jewish liturgy gives us the opportunity to show appreciation and to sanctify each moment. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once said, ‘Judaism is about sanctifying life.’”