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In last week’s column, two parents asked how to better motivate their children (a 12-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy) to improve their davening. In the response, we discussed four prerequisites for inspired tefillah – for adults – and some of the ramifications as they pertain to the chinuch of our children. They are:
1) A rudimentary understanding of the Hebrew text of the davening and, preferably, an appreciation for the context and deeper meaning of these tefillos.
2) A feeling of vulnerability or a void/need in our lives that we hope tefillos will fill.
3) A feeling of connection to Hashem and the faith that our tefillos are answered.
4) In the case of children, age-appropriate settings and expectations for tefillos recitation.
Last week, we dealt with the first of the tefillah components. In this column, we will address the second one:
A Feeling Of Vulnerability Or A Void/Need In
Our Lives That We Hope Tefillos Will Fill
Every challenge we face contains an opportunity for growth, and every blessing comes with inevitable challenges.
One of the challenges with raising our children in the United States – in the security, comfort and relative affluence that our ancestors only dreamed about – is that they rarely feel a compelling need to daven for anything. Let’s face it – our children are, for the most part, well fed, live in comfortable homes and play in safe neighborhoods.
While conducting parenting classes in diverse communities, I usually get a pretty good handle on the challenges people face by fielding questions in an open forum after the lecture component of the classes. One of the more common questions that parents in North America ask is, “How do I get my kids – usually my sons – to daven better?” I was never posed such a question in the more than 25 parenting classes I conducted in Eretz Yisrael over the past 10 years.
The lack of the language barrier in Eretz Yisrael is certainly a factor in more inspired tefillah, as children and adults understand the Hebrew words they are davening (see last week’s column for more on this subject). A greater reason, however, may be that life is more “real” there. When you are trained at a very young age (as Israeli children are) to be vigilant 24/7 for suspicious-looking packages that might contain bombs, you tend to feel far more vulnerable. And vulnerability leads to far more concentration and focus on tefillah. (Just think of the expression, “There are no atheists in a foxhole.”)
Our chazal (sages), in their timeless wisdom, understood that a central component in inspired tefillah is this sense of vulnerability. Perhaps this is the reason that a preferred quality for ba’alei tefillah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (see Mishnah Berurah, Hilchos Rosh Hashanah 581:1) is that the individual be above the age of 30. It is at that point in life that people begin to feel vulnerable, as their children reach pre-adolescence and they become more aware of their mortality.
How does all this answer the questions posed by the two parents regarding their children’s tefillah? Is there anything parents can do regarding this matter?
My response would be that it is always important to understand the issues at hand, even if there is little you can do in a practical sense. For along with knowledge comes awareness, and the enhanced ability to solve problems. In this instance, however, there is much you can do pragmatically to improve your child’s tefillah.
These suggestions are not “quick fixes,” and you should not expect to see instant results. But then again, all forms of sustained personal growth are incremental in nature.
In the long term, one of the most effective things parents can do to engage their children in meaningful tefillah is to involve them in hands-on chesed activities.
Think of it this way. If you accept the notions that vulnerability leads to inspired tefillah and that, for the most part, our children don’t seem to be, Baruch Hashem, vulnerable or needy, it would be quite logical that engaging them in helping those in our community who require assistance would aid our children in developing a moral compass. This emphasis on chesed would further their spiritual pursuits.
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
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Woe to us that we have to be put to death like common heathen and murderers!
The world sees the hand of God through us, and does not like it.
“I realized early on how really vulnerable Jews felt around the world,” you said.
Some educators today believe that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder falls into an executive function category.
It’s ironic that the reality of death is often the greatest force steering the affirmation of life.
The theme of the event was “Together Let us Rebuild our Holy Beis HaMikdash on Tisha B’Av.”
Chaya Aydel Seminary has already established a close connection with France’s Jewish community.
All attendees left with fervent wishes for a swift and lasting peace in Israel.
Is God apologizing for taking away my Father? Is God telling me that He is sorry?
Those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public regarding the accusations against Nehemia Weberman. This case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of the victim, a courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did.
These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic, a”h, whose first yahrzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshamah.
All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim.
A surefire way to gauge the generation in which a person was raised is to have him or her fill in the following sentence: Where were you when ?”
Baby Boomers would ask, “When President Kennedy was shot?” Thirtysomethings would respond, “When the space shuttle exploded?” Today’s teenagers would reply, “On 9/11?”
One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/on-davening-part-ii/2007/06/20/
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