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 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.