Yom Kippur begins tonight at sundown. It’s a serious and somber holiday that’s filled with meaning. Also known as The Day of Atonement, it’s a communal confession of all of the sins we’ve done over the past year. A day of fasting and abstinence. There’s even a prayer where we traditionally beat our chests, to feel the collective sins not just spiritually or emotionally, but physically too. Yom Kippur can be hard for parents to understand–and even harder for children.
So how do you explain Yom Kippur to your kids?
We’ve got a few good places to start. First, check out the basics of the holiday–once you have those down, you’ll be able to answer many of your kids’ questions. Then we have some suggested books to help make sense of the holidays. Personally, I’m a fan of a book called The Hardest Word, which tells the story of a bird named the Ziz who can’t figure out what the hardest word is. (Hint: it’s “I’m sorry.”)
But sometimes saying “I’m sorry” can become rote and meaningless, and that’s not what real teshuva on Yom Kippur is about. Check out this mom’s take on how to really help your kids understand the meaning of forgiveness and apology on Yom Kippur.
And if your kids are old enough to be interested in the fact that you’re fasting, you can talk about how giving up food on Yom Kippur helps you to think about how important it is to be a good person. Maybe your child might want to “give up” something for the day, like skipping dessert. Or, you could also focus their attention on something else that many people do on Yom Kippur–make donations of canned goods to the hungry. Adding a little social justice to the holiday makes it even more meaningful.
We’re shutting down early today, but we’d like to wish all our readers an easy fast (or no fast, whatever you choose). We’ll be back on Monday atoned, refreshed, and possibly skinnier.
G’mar chatima tova–may you be sealed for blessing in the book of life!