Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Themes in Depth: High Holidays Part 1

We've just recently entered the Jewish month of Elul, the final month in the Jewish calendar. This month precedes the month of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and the onset of the High Holiday season. I love Elul! Spiritually, it is one of the most special times of year. We are told that the King is in the field--meaning that rather than being hidden away in some lofty palace, G-d, our King, is right here with us, his subjects, close and accessible. It is a time to focus on the special mitzvot of giving extra tzedakah (charity), doing teshuva (apologizing for and correcting past mistakes and working on self-improvement), and tefillah (praying for our needs and desires in the year to come). The High Holiday season is full of meaningful and joyous holidays for Jewish families. It can be a busy time, for sure, but also such a fun and special time together. Including little ones in preparations as well as celebrations can instill a lifelong connection to these beautiful traditions and I am sure that it was activities done at home, school or synagogue as I was growing up during this time of year that fostered my own love of this season.

We're big on countdowns here as we anticipate and prepare for special occasions. Elul comes with its very own countdown in many Jewish homes--the blowing of the shofar each weekday (we do not blow shofar on Shabbos) until Rosh Hashanah. Here's a peek at some of the ways we used play and crafting at home to welcome the month of Elul and the onset of this special season:

In addition to hearing his Tatty blow the shofar, we allow and encourage our son to touch and try it for himself! From prayer books to family heirlooms to a variety of fragile objects used for prayer and holidays, Jewish homes are often filled with things we keep above child level. That said, we try to make time and opportunity for the little hands in our house to learn how to handle things like this with care and respect rather than always keeping them out of reach. In my teaching and parenting experience, children have a natural sense of reverence and awe for "grown-up" materials like this and they learn so much through touching and exploring them. 
We also adapted and laminated a calendar from this wonderful collection of Elul printables to use as we chart how many days this month we hear the shofar being blown. (Incidentally it's also a great reminder for us!)

And because we don't keep my husband's shofar out and about for unsupervised exploration, I did take the opportunity just before Rosh Chodesh Elul to make a cute little shofar craft with my son. We used party blowers found in most party supply sections and covered them with brown construction paper cut to be shaped like a shofar. The staples and tape required a bit of mommy help, but he had a great time using markers and stickers to decorate it--and even more fun exploring how to make some noise!

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