I’ve always loved the Jewish High Holidays. The blowing of the shofar, the time spent with family, the food (oh! the food!), and the overall sense of starting over with a clean slate. And now, as a parent, I’ve truly come to appreciate the opportunity for reflection and forgiveness that the High Holidays provide. Even with Yom Kippur–a mostly somber affair–we have a chance to own up to our wrongdoings, apologize for them, vow to do our best not to repeat them, and then start anew.
What better parenting tool than that?
Over the past few years we’ve really started to fine-tune our own personal family traditions around the High Holidays. If we’re not visiting family, we will spend the second day of Rosh Hashanah taking a walk through our local woods, ending up at a small brook in order to do tashlich. Tashlich–the symbolic practice of washing away our sins–is a powerful one for both kids and adults alike. My son was around 4 years old the first time he grasped what it was all about. I explained to him that each piece of bread represented a behavior, action, or thought that we wanted to change in the New Year. We toss the bread in the water and it washes the poor thoughts and actions away, giving us space to do better. He would throw in crumbs and say, “No hitting!” or, “No yelling!” As he grew older, his answers became more nuanced and thoughtful.
While I doubt we’ll ever give up our tashlich tradition, I’ve thought about ways to supplement it around the holidays. This year, I came across eScapegoat, a virtual sin collector from the folks at G-dcast. eScapegoat trades on the biblical tradition where goats were used to atone for our sins. One goat would be sacrificed, while all the sins would be symbolically placed on a second goat–aka the scapegoat–which was then cast off into the wilderness, carrying our wrongdoings with it.
Now, you can share your sins with eScapegoat and allow them to be whisked off into the wilds of the internet–anonymously, of course.
I told both my husband and son about eScapegoat and they were super into it. In addition to writing up our own submissions, we took the time to look at those from others, and found they can be great conversation starters. Many are not-so-naughty admissions, like, “I eat pizza bagels for lunch every single day,” and, “Sometimes my cat pukes on the floor, and I pretend I don’t see it.” Meanwhile, others touch on real life, serious issues like anger, depression, fear, and (self) loathing. Not all tweets are appropriate for children, but a parent can easily sift through to share ones to see what others think about it, like, “I tell my Mom her food is really great, when it’s really not,” or, “I said everything is okay and it’s not.”
With all the heaviness that the High Holidays can bring, trying to find ways to have kids connect beyond apples and honey can be tricky. For me, eScapegoat takes a traditional aspect of the holiday, updates it in a way that is both interesting and engaging, and provides yet more ways to think about our past misgivings and how we can do better in the future.