1st Graders Learn Gratitude Through Tefillah

In first grade, our students begin their journey through tefillah, or prayer.

"Through this process, students engage in a conversation that will lead them to have a meaningful connection to each prayer," said Jewish Studies teacher Sandra Menachem.

Students began by creating their own personal tefillah of gratitude. The Talmud teaches that a person is forbidden to enjoy any of the pleasures of the world without first reciting a bracha, which means blessing (Brachot 35a). In order to assure that we do not take the world for granted, Jewish tradition teaches us to recite brachot for each moment or thing that we see, hear, taste, or feel.

"This ties into how our traditions allow us to get into a grateful mindset, encouraging us to appreciate the world around us intrinsically," said Ms. Menachem. 

In class, students 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 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 is currently working on their personal book of blessings. When we get back from winter break, each student will be asked to bring a jar and create their own blessing jar.

"We hope that this activity will allow our students to have a grateful mindset that can help improve their attitude towards the world," added Ms. Menachem. "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."