How appropriate that the worldwide Shabbos Project 2015 coincides with the Parsha that introduces us to Avraham Avinu’s world of Chesed. Two important facets of Avraham’s chesed have a direct bearing on the goals we are striving to achieve this Shabbos.
Avraham truly loved his fellow man. That love found expression in tending to his fellow’s physical needs for food and shelter. Avraham understood that the essence of humanity is to emulate Hashem’s traits of kindness and goodness, and he devoted himself to the wellbeing of every individual he could possibly help. This concern for the physical wellbeing of others was only half the picture. Avraham’s love was so strong and so deep that he nurtured the soul of his fellow as well. This was true concern for others – it started with the here and now, but his care stretched to eternity.
Avraham’s focus on the needs of others was not at the expense of his own family. The Torah makes several indirect references to the fact that he enlisted the help of his children in the care of others. Most famously, by the incident with the three angels in next week’s Parsha – the Torah tells us (Bereishis 18:7 see Rashi) Avraham had Yishmael participate by preparing the food to serve the guests. It is an everlasting lesson in the appropriate manner of being mechanech our children to do chesed.
We know what the Shabbos Project offers those who have heretofore been denied the beautiful heritage of Shabbos. Do we know what the Shabbos Project has to offer us and our families? At whatever level we are participating in the Shabbos Project, we mustn’t lose sight of our children. They are integral to our efforts in presenting the splendor of Shabbos to outsiders. When guests enter our home, or join us in a communal Seudah, they are entering an environment that is bewildering; Halachos, Minhagim, Tefilos, Zemiros, Bentching, Divrei Torah, family traditions, just plain `shtick’ – what are they to make of it?
No matter how spectacular the food and presentation are, reactions and judgments will be made primarily over two aspects of the experience; the level of warmth conveyed toward them, and the impression the children will make on them. That is something almost anyone can relate to. Our children are happy, lively, comfortable with Shabbos and Torah & Mitzvos, knowledgeable and genuine. They convey an aura that is completely unknown in the outside world. When they say over their Divrei Torah and their Parsha sheets, guests are simply amazed.
Lest you think that such children only reside in those picture-perfect families (who always exist somewhere else!), step back and envision your children through the eyes of an uninitiated Jew – you will realize what a treasure you have. Even if the Zemiros last only 4 seconds and the kids bicker a bit, (OK, a lot!) even if your child can’t remember some detail about the Parsha, they still represent a commodity that the nonobservant can only dream about.
Realize the tremendous opportunity that we have. If our children can make such a tremendous impact, it compels us to involve them as much as possible – before, during and after. Speak with them about the fact it is such a privilege to be a Torah Jew and we naturally want this goodness for others as well. The children will want to participate and are excited to be involved. Enable them to be active participants. Let them help with set up, decorating the room, planning their role during the meal and Shabbos. Encourage their presence and contributions during the meal. This win-win will capture the hearts of your guests, and greatly enhance the chinuch of your children.
With best wishes for a unified, connected and child-oriented Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann