Sunday, October 17, 2010

Toddlers, traditions and basics of faith

"I've been curious as to how you're going about teaching Shira the traditions of your faith at her age. I know the celebrations of your faith are serious things, and require strict adherence, but how do you handle that with a active toddler? I know she's still very young, but do you read the scriptures to her? Do you do little lessons that are easy on her short attention span? What do you do when one of your traditions requires silence, or quietness, or prayer? Does she participate, or is she allowed to play quietly while the adults participate in the ceremony?"

… I got this question in the comments, and thought to write a bit about it, as time permits. Since we’re talking about traditions, I’m going to use quite a lot of Jewish terms in the post, which might not be understandable to my non-Jewish readers – however, you can Google them if you are interested.

No age is too young to learn, and I believe children soak up their parents’ values and beliefs from babyhood. I think it’s important to keep children involved in the spiritual life of the family from the start, and not just leave them out of it until they are “old enough”.

Shira learns as we go about our daily and weekly routine, and can understand simple concepts which are explained to her along the way, such as “don’t touch the markers, we don’t draw on Shabbat”; “Daddy is going to say a blessing and we’ll reply ‘amen’” – she now often does that on her own without being told to; “the food on the table is for the Kiddush, don’t take anything right now”; and so on. It’s not too early to start saying the “Modah ani” in the morning and the “Shema” before bedtime with toddlers.

That said, it is understandable that children are children and sometimes, being quiet and sitting still for too long is too much to ask. If I see her particularly antsy during the Birkat Ha-Mazon, I let her out of her high chair and she can play quietly until we’re done. In synagogue, she will usually enjoy herself during the kabbalat Shabbat songs, but I won’t keep her inside when there are bits of prayer or reading of the Torah which require silence. Some times are great for bringing toddlers to synagogue, such as Purim when everyone are expected to make a lot of noise, or on Simchat Torah when everybody is dancing with the Torah scrolls; others, not to great. A wise parent will know to make the discernment :o)

As a rule, synagogues don’t have nurseries so often the mother either brings her young children with her to service or remains at home. Women are not required to participate in public prayer but of course it’s a shame if they can never come. So sometimes there are interruptions by young children and no one makes a big deal of it.

As children grow, they are gradually required to take a greater part in the mitzvoth. Little girls begin to wear skirts and longer sleeves, little boys get their first haircut at age 3 and start wearing a kippa. Children begin to learn the basics of prayer, more emphasis is put on waiting between meat and dairy, and so on. There are many intricacies to Jewish life and the guideline is to teach children what is age-appropriate and what they are able to grasp, to avoid frustration.

But again, the greatest part of learning, I believe, is providing a Jewish home. Children do what their parents do; they learn by example. If they see their parents are happy, proud and excited to fulfill the mitzvoth, they will feel happy, proud and excited about being Jewish and living as Jews, too. So right now I’m focused far more on self-improvement than on teaching.


Analytical Adam said...

>Mrs. Anna wrote: little boys get their first haircut at age 3

I just wanted to say that I didn't do this and it is more of a custom among some Jews but not all Jews do it.

>Mrs. Anna wrote: and start wearing a kippa

This also to be fair is a cutsom although most religious Jewish do it but nevertheless it is a custom likely because in other cultures (and even many societies men were hats) they covered their head in some way and women did do but Rabbi's are more interested on controlling other men claiming they are less spiritual which is sadly feminism not Judaism and mostly because many times they need to have reasons to throw a man out of a shul if he is threat in some way because he knows too much but anyway

Also the idea of a synagogue today is to take the place of sacrifices as if you look in the Parsha of Number Chapter 28 There is a morning and afternoon sacrifice. This idea also like came from the fact that other faiths had a place of worship. The torah does specifically specify that men have to appear in Jerusalem during the three holidays of Succoth, Passover, and Shavuoth.

Analytical Adam said...

Mrs Anna wrote:>waiting between meat and dairy.

This also is more of a custom that comes from a very noble and beautiful thing that you don't eat the mothers milk with the kid goat. It is sad I never knew this until learning on my own in my early 20's. The Rabbi's extending it to other animals. We read in next weeks biblical portion where Abraham invites guests and Sarah cooks for them and they actually do have both meat and milk and in their case they knew the source of where the meat and milk came from.

Mrs Anna wrote:> If they see their parents are happy, proud and excited to fulfill the mitzvoth,
they will feel happy, proud and excited about being Jewish

I think it is better to see parents that are human and struggle and be honest about it. As in anything if people see it as an act it will not have long term impacts in a good way.
Some things are customs and some customs are not good idea's because Rabbi's are just men who are flawed like the rest of us.

My father prayed to this day prays in a strange way that I don't think is appropriate and in a very odd tone and it seems to rationalize some of the things he does like working for an open homoseuxal and pandering to women in the workplace to keep his job.

In fact God isn't always proud of the Jewish people nor should we.
In both Issiah and Jeremiah God was unhappy with the Jewish people and how they behaved.

What I have seen in my family by people that hide behind religion disgusts me and I am not proud of it worst being my cousin who makes a living and has 9 kids by telling parents to label 0-3 years old developmentally disabled and get money from the government which one day the government may FORCE kids to reach certain goals because of my people like my cousin who works helping people take tax dollars.

Analytical Adam said...

One more thing. There is this focus on modesty with women (you mentioned wearing long skirts I think) and women are not suppose to be harlots (Leviticus 19:29).

However, it makes no sense to me that this became something specific for women and men don't have to be modest.

In fact Moses who the torah consider the most righteous prophet that ever lived (Deutoronomy 34:10) covered his face when he wasn't speaking to the Jewish people due to the radiance from receiving the torah from God (Exodus 34:33) which God mentions later again when Miriam criticized Moses in Numbers 12:3.

I say this because too many Jewish religious men have no modesty at all and it is terrible. A religion must have serious problems if it has to be done in a way that you have bring attention to yourself and your "group" and can't be done through less intimidating means.

I myself am mostly ashamed of the way religious people behave (and that they like to abuse anyone who asks any question outside of some ritual area) and many of the things they do brings desecration to God's name by what they do. I'm sorry to say this but that is how I honestly feel from my own experiences and if that is happened to me it has happened to others as well.

Never are boys taught to have humility which starts with the male leaders and the fathers who set a bad example and good men are not to be found in the religious world for the most part and many of the religious men are always attacking other men who aren't part of their clique.

WELCOME said...

I really enjoyed reading your post and I always enjoy reading your blog for that matter :0)

I wanted to say that as a Catholic(another religion with a lot of traditions) the steps and tools you are using to teach you daughter are very familiar.

My husband and I are awaiting adoption. However, we've taken our nephew to mass along with his older sister as long as I can remember.

And we started when he was a toddler or younger to have him participate in things along the way like saying Amen after prayers - or holding hands during other prayers. I also would take time before mass to point things out in the church such as statues, the priest, etc. And as he got older I'd start asking him where these things were.

Like you say children are not going to be still the whole time but it's important to make them aware of their faith from early on. Another thing I would do is take books with us that had bible stories in and lots of pictures. And as he started learning to read I taught him to follow along with the scripture reading like all of us were - I'd pick out a word in the readings and ask him what that word was - it might have been a word as simple as the or you, but it taught him to focus on mass.

I also wanted to agree with you on the home and setting an example. Our head priest is always telling parents that the home is the first church. That children need to learn their faith at home. In fact, I seem to recall him stating some facts/percentages about how many more children stay with their faith when their parents are proud of their faith and actually practice it.



Star said...

I think it's a nice idea to teach your children about your faith as you go along, like you are doing: a little at a time. I also think it is important that you teach children to accept that other people have different ideas about faith and religion.
That way, when they are grown up, they can make their own minds up.
Blessings, Star

Aaron and Amber said...

100% agree. My children are 4, 3 and 2. The greatest teacher is by our example. Their little minds pick up on so much! Its humbling for us as parents, but also a great reminder to do our best!


Analytical Adam said...

This is my last comment before I read other comments before I respond again but I wanted to mention the passages of what I said.

In regards to men appearing before God it says in Deutoronomy there are three time they MUST appear and that is the three holidays of Succoth, Shavoth, and Passover. From Deutoronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your males should appear before God your lord in the place that he will chose on the festival of matzos the festival of shavuos and the festival of Succoth everyone according to what he can give according to the blessing that God your lord gives you. As I said in today's time prayer is in place of sacrifices although men did not have to come every day to give sacrifices. Ask your husband Mrs. Anna as the Talmud in Chapter 4 of the Tractate of Brachos discusses this of prayer being in the place of the sacrifices in the temple. It was the first talmud I learned when I was 10 years old. To be fair I put on the Tefilin and say Shema on many days although not every day although I should.

In terms of meet and milk it is from here (Exodus 23:19, 34:26) (Deutoronomy 14:21) "You shall not cook a kid in the milk of it's mother". Although if you know the sources of both I don't see what the problem would be. Also Rabbi's extended it to other animals other then a goat. I forgot why it says it three times maybe your husband knows Mrs. Anna.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Adam, the time of Abraham and Sarah was before Mt. Sinai, therefore technically they weren't given the mitzvoth in their full extent.

Jan Hatchett said...

You and your husband are setting a wonderful example of faith for your daughters! Children truly learn best from example in the home before going out into the world.

Carol said...

I enjoyed the post and the discussion. I agree that our faith must be lived out in our families to be meaningful. It has to be more than tradition. It is interesting to get a glimpse of Jewish life. I have been studying the Old Testament of the Bible for the past several years.

Lady Anne said...

Anna, you have the patience of a saint!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lady Anne, I'm SO far from it, you can't imagine how. :o)