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Roadway to mitzvot

June 2016

I drive on Passaic Avenue at least once a day; I go to ShopRite, fill up the car with gas, or just stop by Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee. And every time I am on Passaic Avenue I hunt for “mitzvot,” commandments. Why? Well, the offi-cial route number of Passaic Avenue just happens to be 613, the precise number, we are taught, of mitzvot in the Torah.

So as I drive on Passaic Avenue, I can’t help but notice that there are opportunities for mitzvot all along the way. Could it be that Passaic Avenue is actually holier than the rest of our Essex County roadways, or am I just more aware of the mitzva potential because of the number attached? Either way, I pay more attention and think of the mitzvot represented by the places I am passing. When I go past the pet store I think about the mitzva Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim — Being Kind to Animals. When I pass Crane’s Mill senior res-idence, of course Kibud Zekeinim — Honoring the Elderly —comes to mind. And at ShopRite, the mitzvot potentials are boundless: eating kosher, preparing meals for guests (hospitality), feeding the poor — you can even buy Shabbat candles and yahrtzeit candles in the store!

All of these associations remind me that we can always see the world through our Jewish lenses. Whether it is a number like 613 or colors like blue and white, our Jewish lenses perceive everyday things in a slightly different way. As we approach the summer do we keep our Jewish lenses on or do we take them off? With our bodies and minds distracted by all of the outdoor leisure activities like picnics, swimming, and sandcastle building, how can we make sure we are still see-ing life through Jewish lenses?

Here are some summer family suggestions that can enhance our Jewish perspective:

* Say hello and good to Shabbat outdoors — Enjoy erev Shabbat and Friday night dinner al fresco and conduct Sat-urday evening Havdalah services — all you need are a braided candle, spices, and wine to perform the ceremony that separates the holiness of Shabbat from the rest of the week —under the stars.

* A family nature walk is always a great occasion for some profound God talk.

* Summer mitzvah projects: Visit the residents of a nursing home, collect items to donate to a food bank, plant a tree, help a neighbor with yard work.

* Learn and recite the blessings for seeing the wonders of nature, including lightning, shooting stars, vast deserts, high mountains, and the sunrise (“Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, source of creation”); hearing thunder (“Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, whose power and might fill the whole world”); seeing a rainbow (“Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the uni-verse, who remembers his covenant, is faithful to it, and keeps promises”).

* Use summer leisure time to continue your child's Jewish education in a fun way. Read books of Jewish interest, listen to Jewish music, explore Jewish sites on the Internet, and visit area Jewish museums.

* Host a family reunion and share your family stories, recipes, and good humor! Enjoy the summer! Remember we are here even in July and August, at Adult Summer Camp, Shabbat in PJs, and more!

April 19,2024 /  11 Nisan 5784