By Rabbi Ariel Platt, Director of J Life
Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement” is about apologizing for our actions over the past year, and finding ways to make up for our mistakes. It is a time to reflect, apologize, forgive, and plan for the future. We fast to really focus and get into this mindset. Other traditions include not bathing, wearing white, and not wearing leather (you may notice a lot of people wearing sneakers instead of dress shoes). We may feel/know the gravitas of this day, but what does this all mean to a child? How can we make Yom Kippur meaningful for our kids?
Here are three ways to make Yom Kippur accessible and special for your kid(s):
1) Frame Yom Kippur as “I’m Sorry Day.” – It is a day when we tell people we may have hurt over the past year, “I’m sorry.” This is a good opportunity to practice saying, “I’m sorry” with your kids. Ask them questions like, when do we say “I’m sorry”? Or, what ways can we show someone we are sorry? You can start by saying sorry to family members. It may also help to act out different scenarios with them by using stuffed animals or puppets. Another activity is to make an “I’m Sorry” card. To take it a step further, talk about learning from our mistakes and making them better. Review some of the “I’m Sorrys” your child shared, and ask how can you act differently if this happens gain?
2) Food and “Fasting” – Kids don’t fast on Yom Kippur, but encourage them for one day to not eat their favorite foods (maybe their second favorites), or if giving up all of their favorite foods for the day is too hard, encourage them to give up one. This will provide them with a similar experience.
3) Wear White – Yes they may get a little bit dirty, but wearing white is a simple yet meaningful tradition that everyone in the family can do to mark the holiday. White represents starting the new year off spiritually clean and pure.
The beauty of our traditions is that you can find meaning in any way you choose. No matter how your family spends this time of reflection and forgiveness, as long as you are together and growing it will be a meaningful experience.
G’mar Chatimah Tovah!