Yom Kippur – A Day Of “Not” Doing
As the mother of two bright, active boys, I've decided that often the best way to get my message across is to make it fun. Without even thinking, my children will be practicing basic religious rituals and learning a thing or two. Last year I started a new family tradition and I am going to do it again this year. Here is my plan for making Yom Kippur, the most sacred of the Jewish holidays, a day of "not" doing. (Trust me, you'll enjoy it too.)
When the kids wake up on the morning of Yom Kippur they are instructed to go downstairs and check the list of "forbidden acts." The nice thing about this Jewish holiday is that if it falls on a week day, there is no school. So no matter what day of the week it is, the kids are home and this special ritual can be followed.
On a large piece of poster board I print the rules for the day. They are:
- No dressing (pajamas only)
- No washing
- No cars, no bikes, no scooters
- No television
- No chores
- No eating or drinking (for mom and dad)
"No brushing our teeth!" is chanted next. No bath or shower, great! No doing the laundry, even better. While I feed the kids breakfast and lunch, I leave the dishes in the sink until the morning.
Because no means of transportation is allowed and we must stay in our pajamas all day, we get to stay home. My husband goes to work if it's not a weekend and I must say, it is really nice staying home with my sons without any distractions. It gives us time to talk. While they don't always like it, we discuss how they can be nicer to each other. They apologize to one another for anything they did in the past that hurt each other's feelings. Actually, the past week has been spent asking for forgiveness for mistakes made. We've talked about making peace with anyone we may have hurt. We usually accomplish this without the injured party's knowing; I or my kids will just be really nice to the person or we'll bring them a baked treat we've cooked up together. It's difficult with kids to actually speak of atonement with another person. Actually, it's hard for me too sometimes.
I tell them that lots of Jewish people spend the day in synagogue, praying. I remind them that community and unity are an important part of Jewish life so they should be kind to their friends and classmates. And lastly I have them write down (I help my younger son) a list of what they like about each other. When they're finished I date them and put them away in their baby books.
No television is tough in my household. We all like to watch it. Since the kids rarely watch during school weeks, a day off is time to tune in. Not today. Instead I get out paper and crayons and we draw. I tell them the story of Jonah and they draw pictures of the ocean, fish, and boats. These are fairly simple things to draw and they can do it however they want. My younger sons fills his ocean with lots of fish, while my older one tries to perfect his boat. I have the kids sign their pictures and I bring them to the grandparents at dinner.
I'm a very neat person so not being able to lift a finger is difficult for me. I'm always picking up after my kids, prompting my family to call me a neat freak. The kids, however, are thrilled to have no chores. It's the one day off from fulfilling their family duties around the house and they are grateful for it. (See, I'm teaching gratitude in a way they hopefully understand.)
The last item on the list is the most difficult for me. I explain to the kids that on Yom Kippur, Jewish adults fast. Eating is a distraction from prayer so on this day Jews don't eat until sundown. They are a great help in my moments of weakness. They encourage me not to give in to that one bite of sandwich or drink that one sip of soda. My older son will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah soon and I tell him at that point he can try and fast with me if he wants. Having a partner in fasting is always easier than going it alone.
At the end of the day, we go in the backyard and pretend to listen for the final blowing of the shofar. This means we can go inside, get dressed and head over to grandma's house for break the fast. All of our family gathers together and we finally get to eat. We celebrate with bagels and cream cheese, lox, white fish, egg and tuna salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, cold roasted chicken and plenty of round challah. We make a toast with wine (the kids with sparkling apple cider) and everyone shouts Mishpachah, which means family in Hebrew.