Thursday, February 4, 2010



When I told Maya that this week's parsha was about Har Sinai, she quickly responded, "but, Imma, we already did Har Sinai!" She was referring to the Har Sinai that we created last Shavuot out of torn grocery bags for the mountain, cotton balls for the clouds, foam stickers for the flowers and dot paints for the sky. I guess that was actually our first Jewish craft project and I was so excited and proud that it has been hanging on the wall in their bedroom ever since.

So, this week, we focused on the Aseret HaDibrot, or Ten Commandments, that were given on Har Sinai. The first thing that I realized was that I was going to have to decide how I was going to translate, both literally and into kids terms, the meaning of the commandments. For example, we have a kids book at home from the PJlibrary called Ten Good Rules that lists the commandments in the following kid-friendly way:

1. I am the one and only God.
There is just one Hashem - fine.
2. Do not pray to other gods.
I also mentioned something about not having idols. Maya remembered that King Antiochus had idols. She needed some reminding about exactly what idols were though. Not an easy concept for someone who has never actually seen an idol.
3. Do not say bad words.
This is really just not what it says or means. One kid-friendly translation I saw online was "Use God's name with respect." At least that's a little closer to "don't take God's name in vain." The two mainstream understandings of this verse are either that it refers to one who swears falsely using God’s name or to one who uses God's name unnecessarily. So, I told her that we shouldn't just say "God, God, God, God." To which she said, but Imma, you just did! Argh.
4. Celebrate Shabbat.
5. Love your mother and father.
Major pet peeve of mine. I was very adamant about translating "kabed" as honor or respect. Very different than love. "Kabed" means that you have to listen to what they tell you to do, whether or not you are feeling the love!
6. Do not hurt anyone.
I did mention the "kill" word which was not a big deal for my overly sensitive and gentle four-year old daughter but I could imagine avoiding this word with a violent four year old boy obsessed with guns and bows and arrows.
7. Married people should love each other.
This one was a bit complicated. Andy overheard me saying that married people should love only each other. He didn't think that sounded quite right. I also thought about saying "you can only marry one person" but then Andy told me that I might have trouble explaining Yaakov, Rachel and Leah.
8. Do not take anything without asking.
I didn't think that this version was clear enough - what if you ask and they say no? I went with the straight-up "don't steal," explaining that you can't take things that aren't yours.
9. Do not tell lies.
I was a bit more specific since the original commandment is to not bear false witness. I said that you should not say things that were not true about another person. The example I gave to Maya was that she shouldn't tell me that Avital pooped on the floor if she really didn't. In retrospect, a weird example, I admit.
10. Be happy with what you have.
At first, I said something like you shouldn't be jealous but I realized that I probably should not be censoring or limiting her emotions. In fact, one of our favorite books "The Way I Feel" validates all emotions including jealousy - "I want to play with you right now - I don't think taking turns is fair - I'd rather have you to myself - I'm jealous when I have to share." So, instead, we said that you shouldn't always be saying "I want, I want, I want, I want." A common phenomenon in the life of small children.

Once we figured out what the ten commandments WERE, we had to figure out how to make a craft out of them. Of course, I turned to google. I found different versions of the same thing and decided to keep it pretty simple by just creating our own cut out luchot pretty much like this one. The girls mostly enjoyed all the cutting and pasting, sticking and coloring.

For some reason, I was determined to make a Har Sinai cake. had instructions on a page called Munching on Mount Sinai that gave me some good ideas and guidelines. Also in googling "Har Sinai Cake," I found the website "Torah4kids: A Multimedia Approach to teaching kids parsha all year long" (hello?!?! Perfect!) so I immediately ordered their book - "Morah Morah Teach Me Torah!" Anyway, I am very proud of how the cake came out but I was most excited because it was EASY and stress-free. The stress-free part came mostly from the fact that I actually made and frosted the cake when the girls were sleeping. I was pretty thrilled by graham cracker luchot (it even has that little perforated line down the middle!) and the lightening cut from a disposable aluminum tin.

I was very worried that Maya would be upset when she saw the cake had been done without her. But, all she said was "Imma, I love your Har Sinai cake! It's beautiful." Score. She was very happy with the job that I left for her. She was in charge of inserting the plastic birthday cake candle holder flower things (that I actually had in a drawer at home!). The finishing touch to the cake came on shabbat itself (thus not shown in photo) when we added dabs of white fluffy cool whip to the top to represent the clouds engulfing the mountain. It looked great!

Once again, the kids' Parsha Project was useful at our grown-up Shabbos dinner table. The "ice-breaker question" that all 18 people had to answer was "Which of the Ten Commandments would you most want to delete?" or "What would you add to the Ten Commandments?" People decided to expand this question to all of the mitzvot - which of the (613) mitzvot would you get rid of or what would you add to the list of mitzvot. Getting rid of the prohibitions against milk and meat, pork and shellfish were very popular...but, that's next week's parsha.


  1. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog and the creative way you are teaching your children (and mine by extention)!

  2. I am so glad that you are enjoying! How did you find the blog? I am so curious.

  3. I googled "Parsha Projects" (no idea why those were the exact words I choose) and there you were! I just thought I could do a Jewish craft with my kids that was beyond the standard Shabbat set. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  4. Emily - I am so excited to have stumbled upon your blog - it is just what I've been looking for. To find that it is written by someone I know (if only a little) makes it all the better. Thanks so much!

  5. Also- do you remember how u shaped the graham crackers into luc hot?