Can You Name 50 Mitzvot?

Recently, one of my readers over on twitter read “Living on the Mitzvah Plan” and asked for a list of mitzvot for working the plan.

If you haven’t read the article, the gist of it is in this paragraph:

The Mitzvah Plan isn’t just for depression. Bored? Do a mitzvah. Frustrated? Do a mitzvah. Insomnia? Do a mitzvah. What, you did it and you are still bored, frustrated or awake? Do another mitzvah. And another. Keep doing mitzvot until you feel better or the world changes. Then do another mitzvah.

The idea is that mitzvot can keep us busy when we need a plan for what to do. They can keep us busy and out of trouble. They can take us outside ourselves and give us some reason to feel better about ourselves.

So, @travelincatdoc, here’s a list for you, with examples:

  1. Care for the body (bathe, brush teeth, exercise, get enough sleep)
  2. Pay a bill. (Paying workers on time is a mitzvah.)
  3. Study some Torah (anything from reading a little to actual study of a commentary)
  4. Smile when you greet someone. (You don’t have to feel friendly, just act friendly.)
  5. Give tzedakah. Even very small amounts count.
  6. Say the appropriate blessing before eating. English is OK.
  7. Learn the appropriate blessing to say before eating.
  8. Refrain from participating in gossip (yes, NOT doing some things is a mitzvah.)
  9. Feed or water your animals.
  10. Befriend a stranger.
  11. Write a thank you note to someone.
  12. Say Shema when you get up and when you go to bed.
  13. Honor your parents.
  14. Do some small act of kindness for someone.
  15. Visit someone who is sick, or give them a call.
  16. Visit a mourner, or give them a call.
  17. Attend a funeral or shiva house.
  18. Attend a wedding and compliment the bride.
  19. Attend a Torah study class.
  20. Drive the car with an awareness of all the lives in your hands.
  21. Fix something at home that was unsafe.
  22. Teach a Jewish child to swim.
  23. Teach Torah to another Jew.
  24. Join a local minyan for weekday prayers, even once.
  25. Keep Shabbat.
  26. Keep the holidays.
  27. Apologize to someone you have injured.
  28. Accept an apology.
  29. Be honest in business.
  30. Pass up an opportunity to steal something.
  31. Help someone who is injured.
  32. Stand up for someone who needs help.
  33. Let go of a grudge.
  34. If you find lost property, try to return it.
  35. Treat a stranger kindly.
  36. Bless after eating. (Birkat HaMazon)
  37. Refrain from embarrassing another person.
  38. Refrain from hitting or cursing your parent.
  39. Get married.
  40. Tell the truth kindly.
  41. Rest on Shabbat.
  42. Rejoice on Shabbat and festivals.
  43. Repay a debt.
  44. Keep your word.
  45. Fulfill promises quickly.
  46. Do not leave something around the house that may cause injury.
  47. Refrain from murder.
  48. Refrain from cursing the ruler or government of your country.
  49. Refrain from idolatry.
  50. Love God.

Many of those commandments are worth their own articles. Are there any that surprise you? Any you’d like to add?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

14 thoughts on “Can You Name 50 Mitzvot?”

  1. This is something I wrestle with sometimes. It’s hard to fathom that brushing your teeth is a mitzvah (well, beyond not offending others with bad breath, I suppose!). Would you consider the study of books by Jewish writers to be a mitzvah?

    1. Our bodies aren’t just ours: we are responsible for what we do with them, and for how we keep them. If I neglect care of my body, then I am (1) not caring for a gift of God and (2) risking getting sick and not being able to do mitzvot or worse (3) setting myself up to need others to care for me. Now, there’s no shame in that, but I should do what I can to avoid optional illness. Dental health is linked to heart health: therefore, brushing my teeth is a mitzvah.

      The definition of Torah can be very broad. When I study Jewish books, I’m learning Torah, even if it is at a remove. Also, if I choose leisure activities that connect to my learning, then I’m occupying my time with Torah instead of maybe something not so constructive.

  2. This gives me a great idea for counting the Omer next year. Thank you so much for posting this. I love the Judaism you bring to Facebook. It inspires me. Thank you.

  3. I’m curious about #22. Why specifically a Jewish child? There’s no such condition or limitation on most of the others. Why would it not count as a mitzvah to teach a non-Jew to swim?

    1. OK, that one is poor writing on my part. Jewish parents are commanded to teach their children to swim. However, not all Jewish parents are qualified to do it, so if they can’t do it, they fulfill the mitzvah by hiring someone. Also the community is responsible to make sure that Jewish children learn Torah and how to swim.

      This isn’t about excluding non-Jewish children; it’s the community having a responsibility to care for its own.

      Teaching anyone to swim is potentially saving a life, so it’s as much a mitzvah as driving carefully.

      1. Interesting. After our locale had a rash of African-American kids drown or near-drown, the local JCC provided trained lifeguards to staff the public pool.

  4. Mitzvot are not at random: they deal with everyday life and, thank you to remind us that. Who’s not tempted into stealing, paying off largely overdue, because of sloppiness and mere neglect?
    Gossiping may make some feel “good”, but is a good way to end up excluded and/or feared…, which is not a good way to pursue social life..!
    Mitzvot, whether a believer or not, question our stand and pratice.
    Judaism is not set within a frozen frame. We need to move forward, and though we’ll not be able to reach a state of perfection, unless we are locals of Gan Eden :), challenge our drawbacks, and so what if we fail? Well, we have tried, that is, thought of the stuff.

    I did not teach my children how to swim, their mother was far better at that, but they thank me teaching them DIY in the house, through helping me. Now they’re quite at ease with it ! I achieved several mitzvot, though it took many years.

    And, we’d better remember: mitzvot are not a sentence, a punishment: they have a reason. We are to discover why through achieving in so many ways.

  5. Thanks, as always, for your candor and wisdom. I have a new position as Youth Director at Melbourne’s only Masorti shul. As part of this, I am working with the bnei mitzvah class and have asked each of them to write a post for our own blog addressing one of the 50 mitzvot on your list. I asked them:

    Would you/ Do you like to do this mitzvah? Why? Why not?

    Is there a mitzvah on this list you’d like to take on? To do in a particular situation (e.g. visit Bubby in hospital)? Or to do regularly (e.g. give tzedakah on Shabbat every week)?

    Being able, or unable, to see why a certain mitzvah is important. Why should I bother doing…?

    I hope to see some good sharing from them. I’ll keep you posted.

  6. I think doing these mitzvot would be useful for just about anybody. Obviously, if you’re a Buddhist, you’re not going to study Torah or say the Shema.

    But driving mindfully, taking care of yourself, being grateful for food, giving charity, refraining from gossip — all these things are good for both you and the world.

    Apparently, God, in His wisdom, declared a bunch of mitzvot that are suitable for even the goyim. HaShem’s clever like that. 🙂

  7. 39. Well, not today… . Laughed out loud when I read it, though!

    48. No! Not going to refrain!!😤

    47. Well, o.k. But not happily!!😡

    R. Ruth, I bet you had a ball assembling this list! Thanks!!

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