Standard 7

Grade: K–2 3–5 6–8 9–12

Students will understand, through the study of Tanakh and its interpretations, the role of mitzvot in the shaping of the ethical character and religious practices of the individual and the Jewish people.


Whereas Judaism is commonly understood as a religion of deed and finds its origins in the Torah, students will learn about the connections between contemporary mitzvah practices, traditional norms of rabbinic practice, and their biblical origins. Included in this standard are benchmarks that deal with the place of mitzvot in the covenant with God, the relationship of ritual and ethical laws, the centrality of law, the identification of the biblical origins of current day mitzvot, and the evolution of mitzvah practice.



7.1 Understands that the Torah tells of the Jewish people's relationship with God, which includes the fulfillment of mitzvot.

Suggested Examples: giving of the law, Exodus 19-20; Sh'ma, Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Shabbat; holidays; Torah study; how one treats another; how one acts

Suggested Resource: Bradley Artson, It's a Mitzvah

7.2 Knows certain key phrases that denote ethical and ritual mitzvot.

Suggested Examples:
Remember the Sabbath. .זכור את יום השבת
Honor your father and mother. .כבד את אביך ואת אמך
Love your fellow as yourself. .ואהבת לרעך כמוך
Seven days you shall eat matzot. .שבעת ימים מצות תאכלו
You shall teach your children. .ושננתם לבניך ודברתם בם

7.3 Identifies mitzvot derived from the narrative of the weekly Torah portion.

Suggested Examples: Shabbat, Genesis 2:1-3; protecting the environment/ שומרי אדמה, Genesis 2:15; belief in one God, Genesis 12; visiting the sick/ביקור חולים, welcoming guests/ הכנסת אורחים, pursuing peace and justice/אוהב שלום- רודף שלום, Genesis 13 and 18; humane treatment of animals/ צער בעלי חיים, Genesis 21:47; kashrut, Genesis 32:22-32

Suggested Resource: Danny Siegel, Mitzvah Magic: What Kids Can Do to Change the World

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how a particular mitzvah can be performed today.
  • Choose a mitzvah to do and relate the experience.
  • Develop a "pictionary" of mitzvot, adding a mitzvah when it is discussed in class.

7.4 Understands the significance of observing the mitzvot of Shabbat and festivals.

Suggested Examples: Shabbat, Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Festivals, Exodus 23:14 and Deuteronomy 16; Rosh Hashanah, Numbers 29:1-3; Yom Kippur, Leviticus 23:27-32 and Numbers 29:7-11; Sukkot, Leviticus 23:33-43; Pesah, Exodus 12; Shavu'ot, Numbers 28:26-31

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain the significance of Shabbat and holiday celebrations.
  • Associate ritual objects with specific holidays and Shabbat.
    • Create a collage of a holiday with its holiday symbols.
    • Design and make ritual objects for personal use.
    • Participate in a weekly oneg Shabbat, take part in a model seder, decorate a sukkah.

7.5 Knows that certain daily mitzvot and rituals originate in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: tzedakah, Leviticus 19:9, Deuteronomy 15:8; limmud Torah; tefillin and mezuzah, Deuteronomy 6:8-9; tzitzit, Numbers 15:38-39; kashrut, Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 13

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Contribute to a class mural of daily mitzvot.
  • Explain the symbolism of mezuzah, tefillin, and tzitzit.
  • Create a special tzedakah campaign.

7.6 Knows some basic facts about the observance of dietary laws.

Suggested Examples: separation of milk and meat, permitted animals, Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 13; berakhot for eating various foods

Suggested Resources: United Synagogue, CD-ROM, "Kosher: Sanctifying the Ordinary," Children's section; Deborah Uchill Miller, Fins and Scales: A Kosher Tale

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Create menus for a kosher dairy restaurant and a kosher meat restaurant.
  • Recite appropriate berakhot for bread, food, snacks, and beverages.
  • Design a poster of a kosher food with accompanying berakhot.



7.7 Understands that mitzvot encompass a variety of deeds and behaviors.

Suggested Examples:

Do not wrong anyone in speech. (Lev. 25:17) .לא תונו איש את עמיתו

Honor the old and wise. (Lev. 19:32) .לפני שיבה תקום

Do not place a stumbling block before the blind. (Lev. 19:14) לפני עור אל תשים מכשול

Open your hand to your fellow person who is poor. (Deut. 16:11) .פתח תפתח את ידך לאחיך לעניך

Rejoice in your festivals. (Deut. 16:14) .ושמחת בחגיך

Write them on the mezuzot upon your doorposts and gates (Deut. 6:9). .וכתבתם על מזוזות ביתך ובשעריך

You shall have no other gods. (Exod. 2:2) .לא יהיה לך אלוהים אחרים על פני

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Categorize a list of mitzvot into holiday, Shabbat, treatment of others, kashrut, ecology, and limmud Torah categories.
  • Write and act in a skit based on a mitzvah.
  • Illustrate or make a collage of mitzvot.

7.8 Recognizes that certain daily prayers originate as mitzvot in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: Sh'ma, Deuteronomy 6:4-9; birkat hamazon, Deuteronomy 8:10
Curricular Suggestion: integrate with rabbinics or tefillah curriculum

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine why the Sh'ma is central to daily prayer.
  • Offer a personal interpretation of why we recite the birkat hamazon after meals.

7.9 Compares and contrasts biblical holiday mitzvot with modern-day traditions.

Suggested Examples: Shalosh Regalim, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hodesh, Shabbat

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Highlight an appropriate verse(s) in a text that commands observance of a holiday.
  • Connect reasons for the observance to a biblical source.
  • Compare Pesah mitzrayim to today's Pesah seder.
    • Create a diorama of a holiday or celebration for then and now.
    • Create a portfolio of a holiday's biblical and rabbinic names.

7.10 Understands that how mitzvot are observed has evolved over time.

Suggested Examples: rabbis of the Mishnah, Talmud, and beyond examined the words of the Torah and wrote laws as to how to fulfill the mitzvot, e.g., developed the seder from the biblical commandment for Passover sacrifice; set times when to recite the Sh'ma; interpreted "don't cook a kid in its mother's milk" to mean separating milk from meat—no eating, cooking, or deriving any pleasure from the simultaneous use of milk and meat.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine how the mitzvah is written in the Torah.
  • Note similarities and differences in the Torah's descriptions to the practices of today.

7.11 Knows traditional interpretations of holiday rituals and objects cited in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: Rosh Hashanah and blowing the shofar, Genesis 22 and Leviticus 29:1; Yom Kippur and fasting, Leviticus 23:27; Sukkot and sukkah, lulav, and etrog, Leviticus 23:40; Pesah and the seder and eating matzah and maror, Exodus 13

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Write a story in which the performance of the ritual or the ritual object is central to the story.
  • Recite appropriate berakhot for specific rituals.
  • Ascribe a personal interpretation to holiday rituals.




7.12 Analyzes the concept of covenant/brit as core to the performance of mitzvot.

Suggested Examples: "…You shall be to Me, a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation," Exodus 19:1-6; "all that the Lord has spoken, we will do!" Exodus 19:8; ספר האגדה ע' נ"ט, נעשה ונשמע ביאליק ורבניטשקי; Rashi Commentary on Exodus 17:3, "At the foot the mountain"

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Offer an explanation of a connection between mitzvot and what it means to be holy.
  • Explain the concept of commandedness/מצֻוה.
  • Discuss what it means to be obligated.
    • Debate: Must the Israelites accept the brit in its entirety in order to be a Holy Nation?
    • Write a point/counterpoint article: "We had no choice!"/"We accepted willingly."

7.13 Analyzes sources in the Torah on Shabbat observance.

Suggested Examples: creation, Genesis 2:1-3; the Decalogue, Exodus 20:8-11, and the Decalogue, Deuteronomy 5:12-15; observance of Shabbat within the instructions for the mishkan, Exodus 31:12-17; a part of the Holiness Code, Leviticus 19:3; wood gatherer, Numbers 15:32-36

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Compare and contrast the Decalogue in Exodus to the Decalogue in Deuteronomy in regard to Shabbat observance
  • Connect the concepts of creation/זכר למעשה בראשית and redemption/ זכר ליצאת מצרים to Shabbat observance.
  • Explore the concept of Shabbat as a sign of the covenant/אות היא לעולם (Exodus 31:16-17).
  • Analyze the centrality of Shabbat in the performance of mitzvot.
    • Research how Shabbat was celebrated in different countries at different times as it relates back to the biblical injunctions.
    • Develop a journal on the topic "Making Saturday into Shabbat."
    • Plan and participate in class Shabbaton.

7.14 Compares sources of holiday mitzvot to contemporary Jewish holiday observance.

Suggested Examples: Pesah, Exodus 12 and Deuteronomy 16:1-4; Shavu'ot, Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Sukkot, Leviticus 23:35 and Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Shemini Atzeret, Leviticus 23:36; Rosh Hodesh, Numbers 28:11-15; Rosh Hashanah, Numbers 29:1-6; Yom Kippur, Numbers 29:7-11

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Note changes and similarities in practice over time, e.g., Pesah mitzrayim and Pesah dorot. Pesah in the time of the Mishnah and Pesah today.
  • Find verses in the Torah that appear in the Haggadah and explore the changes from their original contexts.
  • Explain the development of a mitzvah from its biblical origins to modern observance.
    • Add appropriate details from biblical text for a "holiday log" or journal.
    • Create a holiday poster .

7.15 Explains the significance of the mitzvot of tefillin, mezuzah, and tzitzit.

Suggested Examples: tefillin, Exodus 13:1-10 and 13:11-16 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21; mezuzah, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 13:13-21; tzizit, Numbers 15:37-41

Suggested Resources: Jeffrey H. Tigay, "Tefillin and Mezuzot," Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary; Martin Sandberg, Tefillin.

Curricular Suggestion: Invite a sofer to demonstrate the work of making a tefillin and the writing of the parashiyot for tefillin and a mezuzah.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Analyze the connection of the four biblical passages placed in tefillin to the mitzvah of donning tefillin.
  • Analyze the connection of two biblical passages placed in a mezuzah to the mitzvah of the mezuzah.
  • Draw connections between the commandment of tzitzit and its ultimate educational purpose.
  • Abstract personal meaning of ritual from text study of tefillin, mezuzah, and tzitzit.
    • Design and make a tallit.
    • Learn the laws of knotting of tzitzit.

7.16 Analyzes commandments relating to social justice and social responsibility.

Suggested Examples: gleanings, corners, and forgotten sheaves, Leviticus 19:9, 10, 24; Deuteronomy 24:19-21; release of loans, Deuteronomy 15:1-11; relationship to vulnerable, Exodus 20:20-23, Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 24:14-16; responsibility of unknown death, Deuteronomy 21:1-10; return of a lost object, Deuteronomy 22:1-4; justice, Exodus 21-22, Leviticus 19:15-16, Deuteronomy 16:18-21

Suggested Resource: Elliot Dorff, Mitzvah Means Commandment

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine mitzvot for their implications to a society.
  • Envision mitzvah as how it could be accomplished in modern times.

7.17 Appreciates the scope of the different mitzvot given in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: the Decalogue, Exodus 20:1-14; religious, legal, and civil mitzvot, Exodus 20-25; Holiness Code, Leviticus 19

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Categorize given mitzvot, e.g., positive and negative mitzvot, ritual and ethical/בין אדם לחברו- ובין אדם למקום, legal, mitzvot dependent on having the Land of Israel/מצוות שתלויות בארץ.
  • Create a sorting board from an amended list of taryag/613 mitzvot.
  • Keep a mitzvah journal
    • Participate in a class PAC (Political Action Committee) for a specific cause, e.g., the environment, a charity, a justice issue, or a Jewish-education issue, and find mitzvot to support the concept.

7.18 Evaluates the relationship of ritual in shaping ethical behaviors.

Suggested Examples: keeping kashrut as a reminder of how we treat animals and feed the hungry, sitting in a sukkah as a reminder to provide shelter and food for the less fortunate, fulfilling mitzvot as a guide to deliberate and thoughtful actions

Suggested Resources: Danny Siegel, 1+1=3 and 37 Other Mitzvah Principles to Live By

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Extrapolate ethical behavior from a chosen ritual.
  • Create a documentary or a journal or write a ballad, e.g., from ritual to deed.

7.19 Explains the significance of what it means to be a bar/bat mitzvah.

Suggested Resource: Jeffrey Salkin, Putting God on the Guest List, How to Claim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Participate in a parent/student dialogue on what it means to be a bar/bat mitzvah.
  • Write or give a devar Torah on what it means to become a bar/bat mitzvah.
  • Take on a number of mitzvot as obligations.


7.20 Traces the concept of covenant/brit throughout the Tanakh.

Suggested Examples: Noah, Genesis 9; Abraham, Genesis 14, 16, and 21; Israelites, Shemot 23, 31, and 34; David, II Samuel 7; Ezra 10; Nehemiah 9; Jeremiah 31

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Note development and changes.
  • Reflect on common elements of brit.
  • Explain the relationship of brit to the observance of mitzvot.

7.21 Understands the origins and need for law/mitzvot by examining the narratives of the Torah.

Suggested Examples: the rise of civilization, issues of good and evil, moral corruption, Genesis 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 19; Noahide laws, Genesis 9:1-8; Numbers

Suggested Resources: Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in the Book of Genesis, pp.17-116, 164-172; Robert Cover, "The Supreme Court 1982 Term-Foreword: Nomos and Narrative," Harvard Law Review 97, no. 1 (1983)

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine a narrative to see how it impacts on a law or a need for mitzvot.
  • Define the impact of law on the individual and society.
  • Write an "etiological" narrative of a law.
    • Compare issues studied in the U.S. Constitution and the governmental system to the Jewish law system.
    • Examine the role of law and mitzvot when reading, for example, Lord of the Flies or Catcher in the Rye.

7.22 Analyzes historical influence on selected mitzvot in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: Shabbat, the Decalogue, Exodus 20:8-10 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15; mitzvot dependent on being in Israel, cities of refuge, Numbers 35; sabbatical and jubilee years, Exodus 23:11 and 34:21, Leviticus 25:5-11; gleanings, corners, and forgotten sheaves, Leviticus 19, 9, 10, 24; centralized cult, Deuteronomy 12:14

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Compare and contrast the two versions of the Decalogue as recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
  • Evaluate mitzvot that are dependent on entering the Land of Israel/מצוות שתלויות בארץ and compare the ideal to the real.

7.23 Traces the evolution of dietary laws in the Torah and in its postbiblical observance.

Suggested Examples: creation and vegetarianism, Genesis 1:29; Noahide laws, Genesis 9:5; dietary laws, Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14:1-22; prohibitions against boiling a kid in its mother's milk, Exodus 23:19, 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21; being distinct, Leviticus 20:22-26; narratives, Genesis 43:32, Judges 13:4-14, Daniel 1:8, 12

Suggested Resources: Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger; United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism CD-ROM, "Kashrut: Sanctifying the Ordinary"; Ed Greenstein, "Dietary Laws," Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explore the importance of distinctions or separations in the Torah, e.g., clean/unclean, pure/impure, sacred/profane, becoming a distinct people.
  • Analyze the role of dietary laws in maintaining ethnic identity in biblical narratives.
  • Examine the role of dietary laws in connection to creation and covenant and "imitatio dei."
  • Examine the role of kashrut in sanctifying daily lives.
    • Research postbiblical narratives as expressions of Jewish identity, e.g., Judith 12:2, 2 Maccabees 6-7.
    • Compare the laws of kashrut to dietary laws in ancient cultures.

7.24 Examines the concept of divine reward and punishment in relationship to mitzvot.

Suggested Resources: Exodus 23:25-27; 32:33-34, Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 4:25-28, 5:9-10; 11:13-21; Isaiah 43:25, 44:22, 52:13-52:12, Jeremiah 5:15-17, 19:9, Amos 2, Jonah; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Develop a personal response to the concept of divine reward and punishment.
  • Analyze passages on reward and punishment throughout the Tanakh for commonalities and note differences.
  • Trace the development of the concept of teshuvah in the Tanakh and compare it to the rabbinic notion of teshuvah.

7.25 Explores the implications of the centrality of law in God's relationship to Israel and the ongoing development of the Jewish law.

Suggested Examples: revelation at Sinai, Exodus 19-20; Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Tanur shel Achnai, Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metziah 59b, Avot 1:1

Curricular Suggestion: can be integrated with rabbinics

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Research the development of a given law from its Torah origins through rabbinic interpretations through modern-day responsa literature.
  • Write about the implications of being commanded through a system of Jewish law.

7.26 Interprets the tension between moral and ritual mitzvot as presented by the prophets.

Suggested Examples: Isaiah 1:11-17 and 58; Micah 6:6-8; Amos 1:3-2

Suggested Resource: Shalom Spiegel, Amos vs. Amatziah

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Present a prophetic argument that highlights this tension.
    • Write an op-ed article: "When ritual is not enough" or "Is there more to life than just being good?"
  • Analyze selected haftarah portions and their matching Torah portions for this tension.
  • Dramatize a confrontation between a prophet and a "high priest."

7.27 Explores the connection among the different categories of mitzvot in the Torah.

Suggested Examples: Exodus 20-23:19; Leviticus 18-19, 25, Deuteronomy 5:6-18, 13-16, 18-24:16, civil, criminal, religious, cultic, moral, ethical, societal, personal, communal mitzvot

Suggested Resources: Excursus 13 and 16, "The Arrangement of Laws in Deuteronomy" and "The Laws of Deuteronomy 16," The JPS Torah Commentary, Deuteronomy

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Offer interpretations of the structure of legal sections.
  • Suggest how to understand each law as part of a system of law.

7.28 Examines biblical commandments that may counter modern sensibilities.

Suggested Examples: slavery, Deuteronomy 12, 15, 18, Exodus 21, Leviticus 25; issues of sexuality, Leviticus 20:12; laws of the Sotah, Numbers 5:22; proscribing defeated populations, Deuteronomy 20:15-18

Suggested Resources: Barry Holtz, Textual Knowledge: Teaching the Bible in Theory and Practice, pp. 129-149; Jeremy Cohen, Be Fertile and Increase

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Compare biblical laws to modern conceptions of a given issue.
  • Defend reasons for change or stay in law.

7.29 Compares the underlying premises of biblical law with American law.

Suggested Resource: Robert Cover, "Obligation: A Jewish Jurisprudence of Social Order," The Journal of Law and Religion 5, no.1 (1987), Hamlin Law School

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Write a paper that compares and contrasts the differences between rights and obligations in the two legal systems.

7.30 Articulates a personal approach to obligation informed by biblical and rabbinic teachings.

Sample Learning Activity:

  • Present a position in a class-wide symposium.