What kids can teach
Rosh Hashanah is a time to take stock of the previous year and prepare yourself spiritually for the year ahead. But for those of us with busy families, it can be hard to squeeze time for reflection into the round of Yom Tov preparations. It seems that, once you have children, the holiday focus goes from attending shul to tending to your children and, as rewarding as parenting can be, it leaves little time for focusing on spiritual growth. Yet, one of our most important jobs as parents is to teach our children the concepts of teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity/justice). How are you supposed to teach these values to your children when you may not have time to connect to them yourself?
Child education expert Moshe Beller has found that the answer lies within the very task at hand – by watching your children.
As director of Beit Metzudot School at Seeach Sod, an Israeli organization for kids and adults with special needs, Beller must often answer tough questions about how to teach children these important values. His answer – emunah (faith/belief) – in them, yourself and, ultimately, in Hashem.
“Here at Seeach Sod, we work with children of all ages and abilities. When we approach educating a child, we look at every detail, from the diagnosis, available therapies and interventions, family circumstances and more. Then we calculate it all to find a solution that best serves the individual child. Though I cannot tell you one therapy that works for every situation, I can say that, at the core of every treatment, is believing that your child can succeed – there is no greater intervention than that!”
Sounds good, but how can we tap into that elusive ideal? If you haven’t guessed it already, it’s our children who can teach us that as well.
Children have a profound ability to trust their parents to lead them. Even if they don’t always follow what you say, they trust you with their life essentials. They trust you will keep them safe, fed, clothed, etc. This level of emunah is one we should allow ourselves to tap into when it comes to grappling with G-d. Mirror what your child displays regularly – let go of the worries that hold you back and know that everything is being taken care of for your benefit.
As for teshuvah, an essential element of teshuvah is believing you can start anew, that you can learn from your mistakes without your ego holding you back. Children display this to us with their ability to live in the moment. They don’t condemn their past actions or the past actions of others like adults do. They’re excited to learn and grow without fear of admitting they don’t know it all.
With respect to tefilah, a key to heartful prayer is awe. A sense of G-d’s greatness and the miracles that surround us each day opens possibilities to so much more. Children have the ability to be wowed by things we take for granted. As adults, we become jaded and forget that the simple pleasures surrounding us are in fact miraculous. Learn from your children and find wonder in the simple creations.
Finally, tzedakah. Have you ever seen how a child lights up when you tell them you need their help? At the core of generosity is the understanding that, no matter what your financial situation is, we all have something we can offer to another. Children take much pride in being able to help, whether or not being of genuine assistance is within their capabilities. We, too, can take the same joy in giving tzedakah and doing acts of chesed (loving-kindness).
This year, instead of seeing your children as a distraction from the path to spiritual preparation for the High Holidays, look to them to guide you towards a year of growth.