Written by Doctor G

Kids and Yom Kippur

Tonight is the beginning of the end.   Yom Kippur starts at sundown.  Despite that fact that our Jewish new year began last week, Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) marks the end of our intense period of reconciliation for everything done and undone in the past year.

Our focus in this ten days is on missteps and opportunities missed to do right.  The point is not to berate ourselves for what we did or could have done.  The point is to begin the new year full of renewed hope and a better understanding of how to do “it” better.  Friendship, prayer, eating, exercise, work, it’s possible that Judaism is the origin of the New Years Resolution!

In that hopeful spirit we, like a lot of Jewish families, engaged in a thousands-of-years-old tradition.  We took our kids to a body of moving water (in our case a river) with a bag of old bread.   “Hmmmm???” you say?

This ceremony, called Tashlich (it’s that hairball sound – don’t worry about it) is one my kids talk about throughout the year.  We each take small pieces of bread and, one at a time, name a behavior we want to throw away, and then hurl that chunk of bread out into the water.  We usually use up about 2 big loaves of bread.  This casting away is cleansing, and has a nice message of turning negatives into positives (at least for the fish) .  My children enjoy the chance to talk about stuff they have done wrong without the specter of punishment.  My husband and I find it educational, and incredibly moving.

You see, in Judaism we are taught that you can’t apologize to God for a wrong you committed against a person.  You have to apologize to the person.  This is, as our 5 year old pointed out, “Way harder.”

To listen to our children, even the almost-three-year-old, apologize to each other specifically for times they have hurt one another or failed to help each other or cheated, lied, kicked, grabbed, stolen… (you get the idea) is strangely gratifying.

The five year old threw away “Crying when I lose, even if it does sometimes make my brother let me win.”

The seven year old threw away, “Bragging, cause even when I’m right it might make someone else feel like they shouldn’t try to do something when if they tried they might be even better than me and I could learn stuff from them and we could have even more fun together.”

The nine year old threw away not being grateful for his family each day.

And I threw away a whole lot of things, but first and last were impatience.

The three year old mostly ate the center of the bread.

Apologies have power.  So does a clean slate.  I am glad that the boys are learning the power of throwing away their missteps in order to do better next time.

For those of you who share this faith, may you be sealed for good.   For all, I wish you a season of hope and renewal.

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4 thoughts on “Kids and Yom Kippur”

  1. What a wonderful ritual… we are UU and do something similar by putting such things on scraps of paper and letting them burn by light of the chalice but I think putting voice to it makes it more powerful. Thank you so much for sharing.. I am going to pass this on.. a good read.


  2. I love this! Our family does this very similarly to yours- and our kids, too, talk about ti all of the time! So symbolic and personal- one of my favorites, for sure!

  3. This is a wonderful explanation that anyone would understand. I plan to share it with others who might be interested. Your kids are lucky to have a mom like you.

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