How does Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu find relaxation? Bibi disclosed to the world his not-so-secret approach in a July CNN interview: “Every Saturday, our Sabbath, we have a day off. It’s a very good idea –that this institution was brought into the world– so I have a day off. Every Saturday, I take an hour and a half and I read from the Bible with my younger boy, who just won the National Bible Championship of Israel …I draw enormous reservoirs of strength and relaxation, and I think that is needed for all leaders but especially for the leaders of Israel.”
How can families tap into Bibi’s power of Shabbat and Torah? Jinsider asked the
forward-thinking and thoughful educator Geula Zamist, director of early childhood at the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck. Zamist was previously early childhood director at Ramaz and is a proud mother and honored grandmother. She has developed a loyal following who seek her advice on the practical and religous matters of family life (www.wjcenter.org).
Shabbat, Families & Young Children
Young children thrive on ritual and consistency. Shabbat brings that order and routine to our week. Parents should create consistent rituals — setting the table together, putting out the candles, the Kiddush cup, the special challah cover. Children can and should be a part of this from the youngest age.
The best way to impart to children a certain atmosphere is to use the senses, which create the strongest impressions on the brain. Whether it’s the taste of the grape juice, the smell of the challah baking or the feeling of water rushing over your hands as you pour from the washing cup, children need to learn from experience more than anything else. Having them hear the special melodies and see the glistening table set out in front of them creates a lasting Shabbat experience that they will grow to love and look forward to every week. By using these positive images and feelings, we assure that Shabbat will leave a lasting impression on their brains.
And just like the beginning of Shabbat should be a multi-sensory learning experience, so too the ending, the Havdalah ceremony, should have the children connecting through their senses. By seeing the candle and smelling the bsamim, children have a clearly marked ending to the Sabbath day and thereby are able to appreciate its uniqueness more.
Aaron’s Staff: A Torah Lesson in Parenting
“On the next day, Moshe came to the Tent of the Testimony and behold the staff of Aharon of the house of Levi had blossomed; it brought forth a blossom, sprouted a bud and developed almonds.” (Bamidbar 17:23)
Why is it that the Torah describes not just the almonds but also the blossoms and the buds? We learn a very important message from this verse — the final product of one’s efforts is not always the most important thing. The effort that brought the final product to fruition is also considered holy. That is why Aharon’s staff produced flowers and buds, the early stages of growth, as well as almonds, the final product. It is for this reason that Aharon was chosen for leadership above the others. He had a keen appreciation for all the stages of human and spiritual development. Similarly, we must also recognize each and every stage of our children’s development as unique and special unto itself.
For families, we must appreciate a young baby’s first utterances as language and communication and not just the final expression of full sentences — each step along the way is to be cherished and acknowledged. We are often in a hurry for our children to “just sleep through the night,” “just go off to kindergarten,” “just be ready for sleep away camp.” The message of the bud, the flower and the almond on the branch is that we should celebrate each stage of our children’s development. See in each stage its own beauty and its own unique qualities. We demonstrate our appreciation for our children by focusing on them fully and being with them in the moment.