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!
3/24/2017 11:14:49 am
It's so hard to write an article that includes all types of Yidden, but you do a wonderful job!
3/24/2017 11:15:39 am
Many great suggestions. I like to visit friends on Shabbos - half the day is getting ready and walking.
3/24/2017 11:20:35 am
As a more "Right" parent, I appreciate this article. I'm frustrated by the kids that play ball, but as per your article a few weeks ago, I am understanding that we're all alike. However, ideally, Yidden should not play ball on Shabbos.
3/24/2017 11:21:14 am
Number one. Ha. Great pointer. Really funny.
3/24/2017 11:23:17 am
My kids dress in shorts. I don't fight with them, since they will grow out of this stage. Sometimes, you simply need to know when to argue.
3/24/2017 11:26:28 am
I enjoyed this. I think some people might disagree, but that's because the're black & white.
3/24/2017 11:46:52 am
I am still not sure what the term right wing means. Yes my kids go to a more modern school, and they might dress a little more modern, but they still respect Shabbos. Isn't that OK?
3/24/2017 11:47:44 am
Sore topic in my house. My husband hates when the kids aren't in Shabbos clothing, and they hate wearing suits. I feel like I'm the mediator.
3/24/2017 12:11:53 pm
Having less fancy, more comfortable, Shabbos clothing, so long as it's designated for Shabbos gives the impression that they are wearing Shabbos clothes. So buy something that isn't sweatpants, but not Armani either for them to keep as Shabbos afternoon clothing. It's all in the sell. Another option for Shabbos afternoon is to find people in the neighborhood to visit that can use a visit and hopefully have what to teach your children. When there is something meaningful scheduled for Shabbosim, then Shabbos in general becomes associated with positive and meaningful activities. Changing out of clothing back into shul/Shabbos clothing becomes easier when you say "wash up from outside and change back into clean clothing so we can have Shabbos party." Sweaty clothing isn't nice during the week after all.
3/24/2017 01:10:59 pm
You hit this out of the park. Every Jew is different, but we need to make sure that in every house the kids appreciate Shabbos.
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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.