First of all, thank you for these wonderful emails. They are a huge part of our Shabbos table. Our question is concerning my son’s choice of Yarmulkas. I grew up wearing a black velvet yarmulke that covered a large part of my head. My son has begun wearing the ones they give out at Bar Mitzvahs to Yeshiva. Should I be fighting this? Will he grow out of it? Thanks for your help. - D & L Far Rockaway
Rabbi Ross. Shabbos has become really difficult over the past few years. My older boys, ages 12, 9 & 7, insist on playing games that I never did as a child on Shabbos. They play football in the backyard, basketball on the block, baseball in the street, and all sorts of boards games that I always thought were forbidden. They also change into regular clothing as per my wife, but refuse to change back for Shul. I’m very unhappy about this, but my wife insists that unless I give them another option, I can’t take it away, since they’ll resent Shabbos. What do you think? David
David, I thought about this question for many weeks, and I am truly stumped. Years back, I remember playing games like Sorry, Monopoly, and chess with my siblings, and once in a while playing outside in the playground. We never played sports. Then again, living in the city, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to play.
Nowadays, kids have easier access to fields, equipment and more. As you pointed out, making an issue out of playing outside can backfire. Your children can c”v come to resent Shabbos, and associate it with frustration and restrictions. In order to simplify the solution, we need to break down the main issues.
A) Is it okay for children to dress down on Shabbos? While some families wouldn’t even consider it, others don’t see a problem. In every community, “dressing down” can mean something totally different. To a mother from one Yeshiva, dressing down means black pants and a white polo. A different Yeshiva might call that Shabbos clothes. They would call a tank top and shorts “dressing down”. In either case, is dressing down OK?
B) Is it OK for children to play organized sports on Shabbos? Whether playing ball in a backyard, or on a basketball court. Is this ok?
C) What are alternative activities for kids to do on Shabbos?
Believe it or not, this actually won’t be a long article, since the solution is really quite simple. There are two main ingredients that we need to juggle. Giving Shabbos respect while not making Shabbos a burden. Our goal as parents is to find the proper balance for each child.
I’ve listed some ideas that might help you find that balance. Wishing you Hatzlacha!
Rabbi Ross. I know you were supposed to be emailing an article about Shabbos afternoon. However, I was wondering if in honor or Purim, you could discuss children and alcohol. I’m worried that my boys who are in high school, might drink on Purim. I’ve heard this can have serious consequences. Should we just keep them home? Sarah L.
I was going to share an article about Shabbos this week, but you are correct. It might be better to discuss alcohol, since Purim is around the corner.
I would like to think that the situation has improved over the past few years. Hatzalah and a few other organizations have been running amazing campaigns to raise awareness on the dangers of drinking.
There are some Yeshivas and Rebbeim that make jokes about this. I had a Rebbe that said, “Drinking is to Purim what oxygen is to people.” I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that alcohol overconsumption can cause serious injury or death, c”v.
I would like to share some Purim tips that I’ve come up with over the years. Enjoy, and as always, please let me know your thoughts.
Children are allowed to drink alcohol for religious purposes in many states with parental supervision and state-specific requirements. You would have to check the particular laws of your state, but if your son’s school gives them alcohol, (or looks the other way) they can land in some serious trouble. It might be a good idea to bring this to their attention.
Anyone (including dads and uncles) who is a bad drunk (violent, abusive, inappropriate, etc.) should not drink.
If you do drink on Purim, it should be as part of the Seudah. This way your children associate the drinking with the Mitzvah.
If you are planning to drink, (and I’m not condoning it), it should not be the focus of the day.
If by drinking, your wife will have a difficult time, you should probably not drink.
If your teenager wants to spend Purim in Yeshiva, you need to make it clear to him and the Yeshiva that he is forbidden from consuming anything with alcohol. Make sure it’s in writing to the Yeshiva.
I would suggest getting him an ÜBER (or a responsible mode of transportation) to and from Yeshiva, if you’re not driving him. Don’t let him go with friends.
If your older teenager wants to have a L’Chaim, make sure it’s after eating a nice amount of bread.
Purim should be a happy day. Try to make it a fun day for your kids.
There is a new concept going around for younger kids. Instead of giving Shalach Manos to a few friends, the class gets together at one house and they exchange bags. Some classes exchange one candy/nosh in lieu of a Shalach Manos bag. As sweet as this sounds (pun intended), I’m not sure if it’s the point of Purim. Although it’s inclusive, it’s also more expensive and possibly inconvenient. I am not sure what to make of it. Many Rebbeim have shared with me that they are uncomfortable with it.
The Purim Seuda should include lots of fun, singing and perhaps even Purim games, which focus on Purim themes/mitzvos.
In anticipation of Purim, let your kids be involved in the shalach manos and costume preparations. It might also be a fun idea to let them make signs or pictures to decorate the door/house.
Any other great ideas? Please feel free to post them on the blog.
Have a Freiliche Purim & a good Shabbos
It was a little over a year ago when Yidparenting began. Originally meant for a small group of parents, it has, Baruch Hashem, blossomed into an article read by many people weekly. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed a certain disturbing trend which I would like to address.
There are many types of Jews. Some men wear a Gartel when they Daven, some don’t even wear a hat. Some women wear a sheitel, some a tichel, and some don’t cover their hair at all. Nonetheless, they’re all still Jews.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and understand that we’re all on the same team. You might be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Allow me to explain. About three months ago, I began receiving emails that really bothered me. Here’s a sample of a few of them:
“I am greatly confused about your Shul article. Who cares if the kids go to Shul? Half of the adults don’t Daven. This is a non-issue. People need to chill out a bit, being overly religious becomes fanatical.”
“I can’t believe you’re advocating kids having smart phones. They are tools of the Yetzer Hara! I’m quite disgusted!”
“Please write an article about girls dressing more Tzniusdik in the street. It’s really horrible!”
“I’m writing regarding your article about music. Do you really think it’s a bad thing for kids to listen to non-Jewish music? What’s the problem with it? What’s next – wearing a shtreimel?”
My Bubby, A”H, used to tell me, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” If other Jews are not 100% like you, does that make them wrong? Aren’t we supposed to be understanding? I have seen Gedolai Yisrael talking to Jews that were not religious. They didn’t seem to be judging them. Does sending your son to a particular Yeshiva make him a better Jew?
On the flip side, if there is a Jew that wants his son to wear a black hat, why does it bother you? I was flabbergasted when I got a call last week from a friend who told me, “Frummies are taking over the 5 towns!”
How does this relate to parenting, you might ask? It’s pretty simple. Good parents don’t judge other people. They teach their children to be tolerant of others, and they lead by example. Making a comment, or even rolling your eyes when someone is different than you, is a horrible idea.
Let’s work together, in unity, to bring Moshiach. Being understanding of others is a great starting point, and smart parenting. Next week, the article will address a fascinating question about Shabbos activities. I hope you all enjoy.
Have a great Shabbos
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.