Here are some practical suggestions:
Contact your local Bikur Cholim organization, and ask what you can do to assist hospitalized children in your community.
Include your children in deciding how do allocate your family’s tzedakah dollars. Seek their ideas. Set aside some tzedakah money and create a “board” comprised of your children, and have them vote on what chesed project they would like to fund.
Fathers, take your sons to prepare or deliver Tomchei Shabbos packages.
As noted above, don’t be disappointed if you do not see instant results. But hopefully, with the passage of time, your children will become more decent, considerate and sensitive human beings. Along with their spiritual growth comes appreciation for the daily gifts they may be taking for granted. And with that comes more meaningful tefillah.
When our two sons were younger, the three of us would go yearly to the Monsey Tomchei Shabbos distribution center a few days before Pesach to help prepare packages for the needy families in our community. One year, as we got into the car after three hours of physical labor in the Tomchei Shabbos warehouse, one of our sons – about 12 at the time – said that he felt that the minchah tefillah he davened that day “felt like a Yom Kippur davening.”
My son was stating that he felt extremely “connected” during that tefillah. Why? He may not have understood it himself but, in all likelihood, placing food staples in boxes for needy families allowed him to experience the spiritual feeling that comes with helping others – while also making him feel vulnerable. And vulnerability leads to enhanced tefillah.
On a communal level, children ought to be presented with opportunities to participate in charity projects that are child-centered, age-appropriate, and easily understood. There are those (especially boys) who take the attitude that these projects are at best a distraction from limudim. I beg to differ. In my opinion, these projects breed a sense of communal achrayus (responsibility), teach true ahavas Yisrael, and engage children spiritually.
In Yeshiva Darchei Noam, where I serve as menahel, we conducted a chesed drive each year – geared to engage our talmidim in this activity. Over the past six years, we sent 400 toys to the children of Gilo in Yerushalayim, built a playground for them, created a laptop lending library in partnership with the local Bikur Cholim for use by bedridden children, sent 150 Israeli terror victims on an all-expenses-paid Chol Hamoed Pesach trip, and distributed hundreds of $20 Toys “R” Us gift certificates to Tomchei Shabbos families to purchase afikomen gifts for their children. We also “adopted” a Gush Katif school, sending them money for school supplies, sports equipment and bicycles. In each of these projects, our talmidim wrote cards to the recipients of their gifts – and received many thank you cards from them in return.
These chesed projects exceeded all my expectations. My talmidim are very invested in them, and feel proud to have touched the lives of their brothers and sisters in so many different ways. Do my talmidim have an enhanced appreciation for their tefillah as a result of these projects?
I often daven that they do!
© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved.
Note: I recently released a 4-CD Parenting set, “What Matters Most II.” Disc #1 in that series is a one-hour CD titled, “Raising Respectful Children.” It discusses many of the topics mentioned in this column. E-mail email@example.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133 to order the set.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and program director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. To review and download a free pre-publication copy of Rabbi Horowitz’s “Bright Beginnings Chumash Workbook,” please visit his website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.