Erev Shabbos Parashas Vayelech, Shabbos Shuva 5773
Children are at the center of Yom Tov celebrations – just think of the Mah Nishtanah at the Pesach Seder or treats and flags in shul on Simchas Torah. It is relatively easy to create a love and excitement for observing our Chagim, for they are among one’s most pleasant and poignant childhood memories.
Where do Yom Kippur, and fast days in general fit in to this picture? Children don’t have the physical stamina to go for 25 hours without food, so they are not full participants in a fast day’s observance.
Furthermore, the activity of remaining in shul for a 12 hour davening marathon is not designed toinclude children. So what is a positive, meaningful approach from a Chinuch perspective in planning our children’s Yom Kippur?
Consider the following suggestions:
Plan with your children beforehand, what they are willing to undertake in terms of time for davening, time for helping Ima, and if they’re old enough to fast for part of the time, when they will break their fast. Fasting should not be trivialized by becoming an endurance contest.
Discuss with your children how their special role on Yom Kippur is to help enable their parents and other adults to be able to fast and experience a meaningful davening. It’s something they can do, that no adult can. By making them feel special in their unique role, you will find them much more agreeable and helpful.Even if they’re not fasting, or once they’ve broken their fast, Yom Kippur, or any fast day is not a time for treats, sweets and special foods. Children need to eat to maintain their health, but they can and should participate in the `afflictions’ of the day by not indulging in enjoyable foods. They can eat a simple sandwich and drink plain water to maintain their well-being.
Yom Kippur is the happiest day of the year, because of Hashem’s special gift of atonement that is ours to take advantage of. By following these simple steps, we will ensure that our children will grow to a full appreciation of the proper observance of Yom Kippur, and look back upon their childhood experiences on Yom Kippur as among their most meaningful memories.
May we all be granted a G’mar Chasima Tova.
Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann