By Larry D. Bernstein
(Kveller via JTA) — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are boring. There, I said it. Seriously, what do Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer from a child’s perspective?
Rosh Hashanah’s selling points are the shofar and raisins. Kids are hustled into the sanctuary and told to be absolutely silent while listening to the shofar. Keeping my kids silent without electronics in their hands is as difficult as finding a honey cake that I would actually eat. And as for raisins, my younger son doesn’t like them and pulls out them out from the challah — so much for his sweet new year.
And then there’s Yom Kippur. Children spend the whole day in the basement of the synagogue. Their group leader is some bored teen willing to make 20 bucks for four hours while dealing with kids who don’t have electronics. Now even if your darling has friends at the synagogue and is content to play with them for hours, it’s not memorable. My children would just as soon be home than hang out at temple.
The Days of Awe have passed, and all we can do is hope our signature made it into the Book of Life. But now we have Sukkot, the forgotten holiday. You would think it would be hard to get psyched up for yet another holiday, but Sukkot rocks for children. It is a 10 out of 10 on the child-friendly meter. Here’s why:
- You get to build a sukkah. My boys love climbing the ladder and using the mallet. OK, they end up using the mallet on each other half the time, but there’s never been any blood let. No harm, no foul.
- You get to decorate the sukkah. For those children who are into arts and crafts, the sukkah is a great place to show their work. My children are not the crafty type, but even they enjoy hanging up their decorations from preschool days.
- You get to eat in the sukkah. Doesn’t every child love a cookout? My children end up outside the sukkah and in our backyard. They go back and forth between eating and playing, except for dessert time. They are seated during dessert time — don’t have to request that one.
- You get to sleep in the sukkah. Children love camping. My boys and I spend one night each Sukkot sleeping in the sukkah. The best thing about this campout is you can run into the house in 18 seconds if it starts raining in the middle of the night. Trust me.
- In addition to the sukkah, you have the lulav and etrog. Kids get to walk around the synagogue and shake a plant and fruit. That’s just weird and fun. For children, they don’t have to sit down. They don’t have to sit still. Instead, it’s shake, shake, shake — shake your lulav.
And how does Sukkot end? With the granddaddy of them all — Simchat Torah. If you look hard enough, I’m sure some biblical commentator says Simchat Torah means no shushing. Either that or one of the 613 mitzvahs is let children be loud on Simchat Torah. Simply put, shuls rock on Simchat Torah. There’s dancing and singing and mosh pits. My children turn off whatever volume control they have and go to town!
Plus, there’s the junk food. You may remember a simple apple and flag from your days celebrating Simchat Torah as a child. Nice, but far from thrilling. Well, Simchat Torah has changed. Today it’s candy. So much candy. My children end up with a bag full of candy so big we have to negotiate their limit for the day.
So I hope your children enjoy Sukkot and Simchat Torah. They need it after the High Holidays.
(Larry D. Bernstein is a freelance writer, blogger, and educator. He and his family reside in North Jersey. He blogs at http://larrydbernstein.com/me-myself-and-kids.)