Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei Torah Reading: Exodus 35:1-40:38
Educators, child psychologists, even rabbis are expressing concern over the phenomenon of over-programmed kids. From school to hockey to band to gymnastics to soccer to karate . . . it seems as though many kids today have no time to just do nothing. My friend and colleague, Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses shows us how this week's Torah reading provides us with a valuable guiding principle as we prioritize time for our children:
"In this Torah portion Moses tells the people that they are commanded to set aside the seventh day as a day of complete rest. It is a day in which no productive labor is allowed, a day in which the emphasis is put on "being" instead of "becoming" or "having."
Think about your own life. Is there enough time and room for simply stopping and being with one another? Stop now and take a breath. See how that feels. Think about ways to incorporate rest into the busy life of your family. Some families choose to put aside a day of the week and celebrate the Sabbath as a day of rest. Others pay attention to the principle of the day and figure out where to find the resting moments in life."
Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses, www.myjewishlearning.com
This week's Torah reading invites us to integrate Shabbat into our lives. Here are some accessible ways to weave the values of Shabbat into our week:
1. Make Friday evening family dinner night. Go around the table and have each family member talk about something good, exciting or challenging that happened during the week.
2. Make or purchase a tzedakah box (a Jewish piggy bank!) and on Friday afternoon have everyone in the family put a few coins in the box. Twice a year, count up what you've contributed and decide on a cause to send your donation.
3. Trying to control your family's intake of sweets or salty snacks? Ban them during the week and rename them "Shabbat Treats." Everyone in the family gets to pick one Shabbat Treat (candy, chips, whatever...) that they will enjoy during Shabbat.
4. Bless your children. Whatever parenting challenges you may have faced during the week, take a few moments at Friday evening dinner to treasure those little blessings in your life. Put your hand on each child's head and recite the blessing that has been part of our people's heritage since biblical times:
May God bless you and guard you.
May God's light shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God show you kindness and shower you with peace.
Then . . . and this is really important . . . then kiss each kid on the head!
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.