Tag Archives: Middah

Responsibility or Acharayut in Hebrew

The Jewish people are dedicated to the belief that we are responsible to society and to the world. Jews give charity in far greater proportion than others. For example, the United Jewish Appeal raises $750 million annually, making it the third largest charity in the U.S. after the Red Cross and the United Way. Since Jews are only 2% of the total population of the U.S., this demonstrates the devotion to social responsibility.  Jewish values for children

Jewish perspective, and more specifically, Mussar perspective tells us that if we see another human being in distress, we have an obligation to go out of our way to help. Being a good person according to Jewish perspective, requires us to take responsibility for others. How can parents and educators teach children this value? If we want to have children who are responsible, it is up to us to teach them responsibility.  Jewish values for children

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They will learn quickly that they have jobs just like adults do. If you want to be successful promoting responsibility in young children, making it as fun as possible will help. Turn “clean up time” into a game, a clothes hamper into a basketball hoop, or use a sticker chart for each job successfully completed.

Establish a routine for tasks. Children thrive with routine in their lives and they see that jobs are a part of everyday life. When you’re trying to get things accomplished, remember that there are jobs that young children can do to help you that will also make them feel like a responsible member of your classroom or family.  Jewish values for children

When children are learning to do new things, they may have difficulty accomplishing tasks or may make mistakes, but always praise them for their effort! Positive reinforcement will tell children that their efforts are appreciated.

Children need to experience their own consequences. In our attempt to protect our children, we often do things for them rather than allowing them to experience disappointment or frustration. If we bail them out of trouble every time, they will not learn to accomplish tasks on their own and will not learn to accept responsibility. Children need to be dependable, not only in their home but also in their school and community. As they get older they are progressively more capable of doing more for themselves and for others.  Jewish values for children

Children will have the best opportunity to learn the value of responsibility if they observe the adults in their lives modeling it. blog responsibility4Parents and teachers need to demonstrate personal accountability and by doing so we will inspire the next generation of adults devoted to the well being of society.

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar For Children was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Silence or Sh’tikah in Hebrew

blog silence3Silence is defined as quietness, not speaking, ignoring something. Jewish perspective, and more specifically, Mussar perspective tells us something slightly different. We are not ignoring anything when we are silent; we are intentionally silent so that we can carefully listen and hear.  Jewish values for childrenblog silence

We all can benefit from silence at times; silence from technology, silence from social interactions, silence from all that distracts us. In silence we can begin to listen to greater things like our hearts and our souls.  Jewish values for childrenblog silence2

Both silence and speech are powerful devices that are not necessarily good or bad in of themselves. There are times when we should purposefully and courageously not be silent, for example, if we need to stand up to defend another from injustice or harm. For all of us there are times when we speak and our speech does not benefit others or may even cause harm to others. We recall, especially from childhood years, how damaging and painful words can sometimes be.

When should we teach our children to practice the middah (value) of silence?

  1. When they are going to say something that will hurt another person’s feelings.  Jewish values for children

  2. When they are going to say something that will hurt another person’s reputation.  Jewish values for children

  3. When they don’t know what to say. (If a friend is sad or upset just being with them is the most important thing.)  Jewish values for children

  4. When it’s their turn to listen. (Silence is important to being a good listener.)

  5. When they need to pay attention, to learn, to think, or be calm.  (When we are silent we can reflect.)  Jewish values for children


Help your children look for all five of these opportunities for silence and practice them. Model a reflective pause before speaking so your children can learn to do the same. To practice use only positive words when communicating about a situation or person. Practice keeping silent when harmful speech comes to mind. Listen to others more than speaking. Remember, speech is good when it is helpful to another. With practice we can learn when it is best to speak and when it is best to remain silent.  Jewish values for childrenblog silence5

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Moderation or M’tinut in Hebrew

Moderation means to do something within reasonable limits and not to excess.  Jewish values for childrenblog moderation

There are so many areas where we all would like to have more moderation in our lives: eating fewer unhealthy foods, spending less money, watching less television, or spending less time on the Internet and playing video games. Many of these examples hit home for us and our families.  Jewish values for childrenblog moderation2

Today we see little ones who operate electronic devices, some as young as two years old! We know that technology for children is entertaining and when parents are busy and need uninterrupted time, technology is a great babysitter. For school age children there are many educational benefits from the use of technology.

However, electronic devices used without moderation have many disadvantages. Electronic stimulation has been shown to interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep. (American Academy of Pediatrics) Too many hours interacting with electronic devices results in less physical activity and is found to be associated with attention problems in children.  Excessive amounts of time spent interacting with electronic devices reduces time spent interacting as a family.blog moderation3

We all know that when our children watch television they are exposed to alluring advertising and inappropriate messages. Many studies have shown that children who watch TV without moderation are likely to read fewer books and have lower grades in school. If any of these issues are of concern to you, then its time to put moderation into effect in your household!  Jewish values for children

The first step is to talk to your family members about why moderation is important. When too much time is spent absorbed in technology, there is less time spent together as a family. Technology can be addicting and research has proven, especially in children, that it can have detrimental effects.

Old habits are hard to break, but not impossible. In order to facilitate a change in your home you will need to first let your family know that some of your rules will be changing. Specific time limits should be set for computer games and all computer and TV time. The good news is that activities and games that promote togetherness also promote a healthy lifestyle. But don’t forget, even togetherness should be practiced in moderation. We all need some time alone!

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only Mussar values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Trust or Bitachon in Hebrew

Bitachon generally translates as “trust,” which according to one definition is “a powerful sense of optimism and confidence.”  Mussar scholars have understood trust to mean “trust in God.” According to Jewish thought, trust is something to be valued, even treasured.  Jewish values for children

When do children learn to trust? Acquiring trust begins at birth. blog trustNewborns are dependent on their caregivers for everything they need to survive. If their needs are met, they will feel safe and begin to trust those that care for them. If their needs are not met, they will become fearful rather than trusting. Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. Trust vs Mistrust, the first stage of Erikson’s theory occurs between birth and one year of age and is thought to be the most vital stage in life. The parent-child relationship is the first and most important social relationship a child has.  Jewish values for childrenblog trust2

How do children learn to trust? Children develop trust in response to specific interactions they have with others. New experiences and daily interactions with others guide children to differentiate between people who are trustworthy and those who aren’t.  Jewish values for childrenblog trust3

Can children be too trusting? Helping children develop trust does not mean blind trust. Being too trusting can be problematic and even dangerous. Children need to know common-sense rules that can help keep them safe. Make sure your children understand the rules you have set up for their safety. Balancing trust with caution is a skill they will develop with adult guidance.  Jewish values for childrenblog trust4

How can adults help children to learn to trust? Adults need to display behavior that is trustworthy. Try not to make promises to your children if you cannot keep them. If it seems that you might not be able to keep your promise, tell your child in advance. Explanations should be as honest as possible taking into consideration the developmental level of the child. Tell the truth in an age appropriate way. As parents and teachers we should focus on being trustworthy caregivers and role models. The result will be children who are worthy of trust, which transfers to trusting relationships later in life.   Jewish values for childrenblog trust5

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only mussar values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Courage or Ometz Lev in Hebrew

Ometz Lev (from the Hebrew word meaning courage) refers to acts of courage.

We see references to Ometz Lev throughout history, in children’s literature, fairy tales, and in many of the stories we read to our young children about Hanukkah, Purim, and Passover. We recount stories of outnumbered Maccabees fighting their enemies. We describe Queen Vashti and Queen Esther standing up to the king who wants to kill the Jews. At Passover we retell the story to our children about Moses standing up to Pharaoh who kept the Jews slaves and even tell about first born Hebrew children thrown in the river.  Jewish values for children

These stories teach our children about our ancestors being courageous in the face of danger and overcoming fear. We often wonder though, about the value of sharing these stories that are filled with violence. Are we promoting unnecessary fear in our children who already live in a world filled with danger everywhere they look? Or will these stories help them to become courageous in their own lives? These may include everyday situations like sleeping in their own bed, separating from parents, or participating in activities for the first time.  Jewish values for childrenblog courage3

In recent years the suitability of violence in children’s stories has been strongly questioned. Experts do not agree on the value or consequence of reading stories containing violence to young children. What is clear is that it is essential to communicate to children that suffering is caused by violence. It is also essential to show children that there are courageous solutions to conflict other than violence. It is important to find books that discuss conflict and courageous solutions in ways that are meaningful to them in their lives.  Jewish values for childrenblog courage4

Children need to be aware of the realities of the world, both good and bad. Many experts argue that children’s literature that includes violence can be especially valuable when it teaches children how to cope with conflicts in their lives. Experts also believe that violence should have its place in children’s literature only if it truthfully reflects characteristics of the world that children should be aware of, no matter how much adults wish to protect them from it.  Jewish values for children

Our lessons on Courage help young children to deal with the issues that directly affect them, like going to the doctor, riding a bike for the first time, learning to swim, etc. The children learn how to cope with their fears through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. They express their fears through drawings and listen to other children talk about the ways they use courage to cope with their fears.

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The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

  Jewish values for children

Forgiveness or S’lichot in Hebrew

During the High Holidays, Jews contemplate their words or actions which may have hurt others. It is difficult for most of us to acknowledge when we are wrong. We may be troubled by feelings of discomfort, embarrassment, or even inadequacy. It is much easier to rationalize or blame others and avoid responsibility for our words or actions.  Jewish values for childrenblog forgiveness4

According to Jewish thought, Maimonides gave us a description of what we must do in order to establish teshuva. (Teshuvah translates as “return” and is used in reference to repentance.) These terms of teshuva are only acceptable after physical compensation has occurred. The terms are as follows:  Jewish values for children

  • Stop the wrong action  Jewish values for children

  • Admit what we have done wrong and feel regret  Jewish values for children

  • Express our regret and promise not to do the same wrong again

blog forgiveness3These teachings are difficult for adults to observe so we must understand that for children they are even more difficult. When we ask our children to forgive someone who has wronged them children don’t always understand exactly what that means. They may have difficulty forgiving because they imagine it means accepting or tolerating the wrong actions of others. They also may be worried about these actions happening again. If someone has apologized to your child you may want to teach them to say, “I don’t like what you did and if you promise not to do it again, I forgive you.”  Jewish values for children

Children must also understand that if they have been the cause of someone’s material loss, they need to compensate for that loss. Then are they permitted to ask for forgiveness.  Jewish values for childrenblog forgiveness 2

Help children to practice this by encouraging them to replace objects, belonging to others, that they have lost or damaged.  Jewish values for children

Forgiveness from a Jewish perspective does not mean forgetting. We often ask our children to forgive others: their siblings for hitting them or taking their toys, their classmates on the playground for pushing them, their friends for not treating them nicely. We even ask them at times to forgive adults for having broken a promise.

Beginning at a young age, children develop an awareness that their actions have consequences. Our hope is that our children learn to apologize for wrong actions and not repeat them.  Jewish values for children

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It is also important to let children know that under the right circumstances forgiving others will not only make others feel better but can make them feel good too. It is important for children to learn to forgive, not only out of compassion for others but also for their own emotional well-being. Holding onto anger and resentment can cause children to feel anxious and apprehensive. Practicing forgiveness early in life will help children become compassionate human beings and more comfortable and successful in their relationships.

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children