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3 Ways to Give Your Family a Spiritual Makeover

September 21, 2016 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

The High Holidays are an ideal time to strengthen the spiritual well-being of your home.

The High Holidays are an ideal time for us to think about the spiritual foundation we are building for our homes. It’s never too late to rethink our goals and figure out the best way to reach them.

Where can we put our energy as we contemplate our family’s spiritual direction?

1. Create a Plan

Years can go by before we realize that while we have renovated our home, updated appliances, and put thought into schools and camps, we have not contemplated our family’s sacred path. Just as children grow physically and require nurturing, so too do their souls require nourishment.

When we get by with the ‘same old same old’, children grow uninspired. Judaism is rich with wisdom, traditions, daily mitzvot and joyous holidays; this is our awesome heritage.

Our goal is to imbue our children with a clear identity and immerse them with Jewish ethics and pride. What is the best way for us to reach our destination?

Here are some questions for us to ask ourselves:

  • Has our Judaism grown along with our children?
  • How can we engage our children to love their Jewish identity?
  • Do we rely mainly on others (teachers, schools, religious leaders) to give our children their spiritual education and connection?
  • Do we involve our children in rituals, traditions and holidays?
  • Do I celebrate my Judaism or do I seem resentful/indifferent when it comes time for prayer, daily commandments, synagogue, Torah study and Shabbat or holidays?
  • Do my children see me study, care for my fellow Jews and for the land of Israel? Do they observe me upgrading my Jewish knowledge? (Some parents think that only children should study and grow; adults are past the age of learning. This is untrue. All of us, no matter our age or background have an obligation to study Torah’s wisdom.) Parenting is as much about my child’s journey as my own.
  • Do my children think that if there is inconvenience, we allow our Judaism to take a back seat?

Once I focus on where I need to improve, I can create a plan that will communicate a stronger spiritual bond. What can I do today to help introduce a more positive Jewish experience? The challenge is to find the courage to stick with the plan so that there is real change.

Determine the path you desire, set clear goals, and think about how you will deal with obstacles and disappointments.

2. Embrace Traditions with Joy

We want to raise children who are connected to God in real, everyday life. Traditions and rituals are the key. From the moment we wake up in the morning to our last moments before falling asleep, Judaism guides us. The Shema prayer, blessings over food, clothing and new experiences, the Shabbat table, lighting the Chanukah menorah, Seder night, the blowing of the shofar, sitting under the stars in the Sukkah, are all incredible opportunities for us to create a legacy for the next generation.

The first step is gaining the knowledge and discovering how to maximize these beautiful rituals. Next, it is important to embrace the mitzvot with joy. When children associate traditions with joy they acquire a love for their Judaism. Too many children have become turned off when they witness parents treating mitzvot with apathy and disinterest.

Mitzvot and rituals are crucial to our children’s spiritual identity. They learn a sense of community, continuity, security and love. They become anchored in our beliefs and draw upon their heritage to stay fortified in a world that challenges our values.

Our children also come to learn the Jewish concept of elevating time and things. Friday night metamorphoses into Shabbos. Waking up becomes a moment of gratitude with the Modeh Ani prayer. Shema allows us to reaffirm our faith before we fall asleep. A doorpost is encased with a mezuzah. Eating ice cream becomes an opportunity for blessing. Dollars are transformed into tzedakah. A home becomes a mini sanctuary.

We can fill our children’s lives with passion for all that is sacred. We can teach our sons and daughters how to elevate the mundane into the holy. But we must wholeheartedly embrace our Judaism and all its traditions if we want the connection to endure.

Make Meaningful Memories

When I ask parents to think about their happiest childhood memories, no one ever remembers things or great gifts that they received as a child. It is always recollections of visits to grandparents, bike rides with cousins, or family vacations that warm our hearts. Our children require time together. Be sure to be both physically and emotionally present when you celebrate Judaism with your family. This means that we try to communicate at our Shabbos table and don’t fall into moodiness or tired silence. We don’t transmit legacy through long speeches or harsh discipline. Spirituality can only be conveyed through love and true life role modeling. Hypocrisy turns children away.

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs should be more than a night of impressive décor and partying. Children should understand that this is the beginning of Jewish life and not the end. This is a perfect moment to engage children and teach them about their obligations to help bring healing into the world by doing a ‘chesed’ project in honor of their special day.

The key to our survival is the spiritual strength of our homes.

Stories are a powerful vehicle for us to teach our children about the greatness of the Jewish nation. When my children were small, instead of reading them fairy tale books I would tell them about the giants of our people. The courage of King David, the compassion of Moses, the tambourine of Miriam and the wisdom of King Solomon embedded in my children a wonder for their past. When they’d have a Shabbos sleepover my mother would imbue them with tales of triumph of the spirit. I’d watch their souls being nourished. This mother’s milk of faith remains deep within their hearts until today.

There are myriads of books, cds and beautiful Jewish music both English and Hebrew that can transmit a warm and spiritual environment in our homes. Retelling the stories of our people forges a spiritual identity and creates strong roots. It is important for us to find ways to spend enjoyable time together so that our children conjure childhood memories with positive Jewish experiences.

The key to our survival is the spiritual strength of our homes. Judaism invites us to embrace the Torah and its commandments, discover the power of prayer, create light in a world of darkness and live emboldened with faith. The High Holidays are coming. Now is the time to reinforce our spiritual foundation and give our children strong roots to endure.


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