While September is often synonymous with back-to-school, it also marks the beginning of some of the most important Jewish holidays of the year. And one of those is Rosh Hashanah. Starting on sundown on Sunday, September 29, Rosh Hashanah runs through evening on October 1st. For Jewish people, Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish New Year, a time for celebration as well as reflection. But even if your family is not Jewish (or doesn’t follow any set religion), there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from Rosh Hashanah that you can impart on your children.
Just ask Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent. “Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of the High Holy Jewish New Year,” says Dr. Walfish, the daughter of renown Orthodox Cantor Hershel Walfish, a Holocaust survivor and the first Cantor to sing at the Great Wall of China. “In addition to the ways to talk to your children about Rosh Hashana, it is equally important to show them the joys, light, and hope of this meaningful holiday.” After all, Rosh Hashanah is a time for introspection, self-examination, accountability, repentance, apologies, and forgiveness (to ourselves and others), which is something that we can all benefit from.
So parents, break out the apples and honey (to ensure a sweet New Year), and learn how to make the most of Rosh Hashanah with your kids. You’ll create indelible memories into the minds and hearts of your children that will last a lifetime.
Make It Positive
Rather than injecting guilt into your kids by focusing on repentance and feeling sorry for your sins, talk with them about Rosh Hashana being the time of year for self-improvement and taking small steps towards meaningful and reasonable goals. Tell the kids that Rosh Hashana is about making this New Year better than the last one. Be sure to use a warm and accepting tone of voice without judgment, blame, or criticism. Sit with your kids as a family go around the circle asking each child What accomplishments are you most proud of? and, What do you want to do differently in the coming year? Openly tell your family what you regret that you did this past year.
Explain The Significance Of The Shofar
There are three distinct calls – tekia, shevarim, and teruah -, along with the great, long tekiah g’dolah. “The loud sounds are meant to jolt us awake and say ‘Wake up!'” says Dr. Walfish. “And if you have done something wrong, make it right!” But it’s not just about the mistakes that your kiddos might have made in math class. It’s about being aware of what’s going on in the world–and doing something about it.
Talk About Timing
There are 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to think about people we have hurt, to reach out to them, and to apologize for the way we have behaved. “We have 10 days to repair relationships,” says Dr. Walfish. “This is a time to write letters, make phone calls, and approach loved ones face to face to say we are sorry for the past and to express what we’d like to do better in the future.” So ask your kiddos to reflect on their behavior in the past year and see where (and with whom) they’d like to make amends. It doesn’t matter how big or small the slight was–what matters is that your child recognizes the wrong…and does something about it to make it right.