Monday, September 26, 2011

Bed Time Lessons from The Shofar

As the school year is beginning for our children, it’s a blessing for them to see us adults also engaged in learning. 

With this in mind, this past Shabbat we had a conversation about the shofar, which is blown each day of the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. Our sages tell us that it is meant to help us awaken, to realign with our true calling as we enter the new year. As I am grappling anew with start of school bedtime routines I hope that we won’t need a daily Shofar in our house to get us out of bed.

Jewish texts speak not only of the value of wakefulness but also of the tremendous value of sleep not only for health, but also for our spiritual well being. This reminded me of research findings that show that “around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. The cost: decreased IQ, emotional well being, ADHD, and obesity [1].” I learned that the shofar is meant to support not only a process of awakening but also introspection. 

At our conversation’s end, I took away an insight relating to the shofar, which could actually help me with our bedtime routines. The mitzvah related to shofar is to HEAR the shofar. Yet in the Torah we are told that at Mount Sinai the people SAW the sounds of the Shofar. Here’s the insight: Perhaps when we hear another with our full being, with every sense – not only with our ears - then it is an awakening experience. In our family, as part of our bedtime routine, we say the Shema prayer with our children. The same word, HEAR, is used in that prayer. Maybe as part of our bedtime ritual this year, before we say the Shema, I will remember more often to take time to listen to my children with my full being.

Ronit Ziv Kreger has been teaching Ikkarim for many years. She lives in Sharon with her three children. She has a Ph.D. from the Sloan School of Management at MIT and is a Jewish educator in many circles.

[1]See second chapter in ‘Nurtureshock’ by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9/11 2011… Ten Years Later

Written by Sasha B. Lichtenstein.

Ten years ago… I was holding my new baby daughter, Moriah, just 4 months old; bright, pink, grateful that she finally was over her colicky behavior that kept us up night and day.  A bright, sunny morning. We had the first appointment of the day for her wellness check-up at the pediatrician.  She and I exchanged smiles as we waited alone together for the doctor.  Feeling her warmth close to me, I held my pure, precious first child. 

Our quiet cooing was interrupted by the nurses’ chatter behind the glass windows.  They seemed to be rushing around with anxiety.  One of the nurses entered the waiting room and turned on the television that was in the top corner of the room.  I glanced up and was shocked by the image of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers.  Surreal.  Scary.  I pulled Moriah into my chest and held her tightly.  What kind of a world have I brought her into? 

Ten years later… My ten-year-old is striking and tall, with her wild dark curly hair pulled up high in a side pony tail.  A young rock-star in the making.  I pick her up at a play-date finding her begging for more time with her friends.  She persuades me to join them on the outdoor trampoline, knowing that I am a sucker for fun things like this.  There are five of us bouncing and talking.  One of Moriah’s friends mentions that today is 9/11.  “Do you know what 9/11 is?”  Maya, an even taller 10-year-old, educates us about all of the different planes and crashes and that all of the people in the planes were killed but not all of the people in the towers.  “The people on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania chose to kill themselves.”  The youngest spoke up, an almost 8-year-old sibling, who jumped and said they did “Super-Slide!”  My mind immediately envisioned the plane coming down, the emergency slides opening on the sides of the plane and the people sliding out to safety.  Of course this didn’t happen on 9/11.  We jumped and giggled and we all yelled, “Super-Slide!”  Elegant Maya persisted. “No.  These people chose to die.  They worked together to make sure the White House wouldn’t blow up.”  Again, little Halleli with her blond hair bouncing to and fro said, “Yeah, Super-Slide!”  Her big sister, Raizi, stepped in and translated for us.  “She is saying ‘Suicide’.” 

Wow, these kids are really thinking.  Continuing to bounce and keep things light, I tried my best to keep up with these smart kids. “Actually people in our Jewish tradition who make hard choices like these are called Martyrs and we honor them during the High Holidays.  There were no good choices and so they made the most honorable and heroic choice they could in the circumstance.”   I did a big sitting bounce and back on my feet to see if I could shake things up a bit.  The girls kept bouncing, some silence, then back to, “Weee Super-Slide!”

I walked away feeling honored to be invited to these girls’ 9/11 Service in honor of this Day of Remembrance.  Grateful for their willingness to let me see in to their world of making sense of the experiences of their day.  May we all stay close to one another, remember where we came from, and be inspired by our children to make this world a better, more loving world. 

Sasha B. Lichtenstein is an Alumna of Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. Sasha works as the Ceramics Instructor at Gann Academy and also at Jewish Community Day School. She is the author of The Yummy Without... Cookbook, which focuses on gluten- and dairy -free cooking. Sasha is the proud parent of Moriah and Simeon, who are now 3rd and 5th graders at JCDS.