Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly

















Home and Family
Parsha With Your Youngster
by Elisheva L. Nadler

Knowledge of parsha themes is a very relevant issue in the education of our children, not only as a training in mitzvos, but also as an avenue into family discussions. Even three and four-year-old children can derive tremendous satisfaction from being able to answer a question or add information when the parsha is on the agenda.

How an we create enjoyable and fruitful parsha discussions with our pre-schoolers? The first thing to bear in mind is that attitudes are contagious. If you are interested in the parsha and find it meaningful in your life, you may be able to ignite a spark of interest in your child. Try to prepare yourself. If you can, open a chumash, even for five minutes, to refresh your memory. There's always a sefer on the shelf that deals with parshal themes if the chumash intimidates you. Find one you like, and dedicate a few moments to adult education. Depending on your schedule and personality, maybe school notes, tapes or simple mental review would do the trick for you. Envision yourself as the full bottle spilling over to fill the cups next to it.

Step Two is to think of your child's development level, interests, challenges in life. Do any connections with the parsha come to mind? For instance, Noach inculcates the midda of chessed by taking care of animals. How could this be relevant to a little urbanite? It would be a good opportunity to discuss tzar baalei chaim with your child. Would Noach have thrown stones at cats and pigeons when he saw them outside? Or, let's take the mitzva of separating challa found in Parshas Shelach. Has your hcild ever seen it done? If you are not a challa baker, it might be the time to start, or to ask a neighbor if your child can observe her when she says the brocha and separates the dough. Or initiate a visit to a local bakery together with a few families.

Resist the temptation to `get it all in'. Instead, selet one or two points that you can imagine your child relating to, and start there. At another point, or if your child expresses further interest, you can add more. Bear in mind that small children can be frightened by hearing about such events as akeidas Yitzchok or the selling of Yosef. One teacher mistakenly applied the hands- on approach when she reenacted the burial of Sara Imenu with her class by burying a doll with blocks, for Parshas Chayei Sora. This is not age- appropriate. It's better to leave such topics for later years.

Now the fun can begin. Introduce your parsha mitzva or concept during a cozy, happy time, not when either of you are over-tired or upset. Mealtimes, car and bus rides, walks, and bedtimes are all possibilities. [Ed. Note: An initiated bus ride can be a perfect setup, especially for rainy days, since there are no distractions for mother and child, like the phone and doorbell, and toddlers can look out the window and not disturb. Choose a long route, requisition the back bench and prepare pictures or other look-see material.] Look at your child, smile, use a pleasant tone of voice. He will associate all these with learning parsha! Your work is already half done!

Ask, instead of tell, whenever you can, and then don't forget to wait for your child's answer! Asking questions engages a person's intellect and curiosity and creates an immediate interaction between him and the subject matter. What can you ask, before you've even started to introduce your theme? Just to get things going, you can do a little review of last week's parsha. "Does anyone remember the name of the parsha or what happened to so and so?" We all know that review is an essential part of learning, so you haven't wasted your time. Just remember to keep it short, unless your child has more questions. Also, not to tax the child too much with difficult questions that leave a let-down feeling if he doesn't know the answers. If he doesn't respond to your questions, simply answer them yourself and move on. You've already selected a point of interest. Keep eye contact if you can, and smile.

Children learn best from concrete experience. This enables them to develop abstract understanding in the course of time. After describing in vivid terms how sincerely Avrohom Ovinu desired to honor guests, put hospitality into practice! Make a list together of how to look after a guest. Act it out yourself, with your child and siblings. Invite someone over [for a meal, overnight] and let your child put himself out like Avrohom Ovinu did. These events could be documented in a parsha journal or with photos and used for later review.

Small children will be keenly interested in the story of how Moshe Rabbenu's family struggled to protect him from Paroh's decrees. Describe how, before putting him in a basket in the Nile, they made sure it was waterproof by tarring it. Look for waterproof vessels in your house together and see if they really float. If you pass a building site, you might actually see tar being used for waterproofing exactly as it was in the chumash! Don't forget to mention that even after Batya took Moshe to the palace, his mother came to feed him every day! This is very reassuring, since abandonment is a common childhood fear. Teach your children a song about the names of the Tribes and the Ten Plagues, or make one up together. Children love to learn through songs, and can store large amounts of information this way.

For parshiyos dealing with the Mishkan, look together for photos, samples of fabrics and metals that correspond with those that were used. This could develop into a household treasure hunt! Animals used for sacrifices are often depicted in children's books and even on their clothing. Reminisce about a trip to the zoo, or plan one together. You will be showing your child that nothing in our world has to be mundane. We can use it all for Hashem!

When a parsha like Kedoshim comes up, with so many mitzvos that apply on a daily basis, you could write a number of them on small slips of paper and let your child draw out of a hat. Whichever mitzva is drawn will be the one to discuss. This is a kosher way to let children be the boss, and it will certainly heighten their interest in parsha.

Since food occupies so much of our time and attention, make sure to take advantage of those parshiyos dealing with milk/meat and kosher vs. non- kosher animals. Ask your child to show you where milk and meat dishes, cutlery, pots and pans are washed, dried and stored. Together, look for kashrus symbols as you shop or put away the groceries. Explain that Hashem wants us to keep kosher because it has a purifying effect on our neshomos. Express, in simple terms, you own feelings of gratitude that Hashem gave us a neshoma which can be elevated. [Note: Perhaps, as an example, you could use the idea of a car, and the fuels that make it run: better fuel makes it run better and keeps it in better condition.] You will be helping to develop your child's awareness of his own neshoma and its potential.

As time goes by, you will find yourself developing a reservoir of parsha- based middos and attitudes such as chessed, gratitude to Hashem, the importance and effectiveness of prayer and yiras shomayim. Refer to these ideas in conversations with your child as daily challenges arise. Talk about how the lessons you learned together are helping you decide how to act in according with Hashem's will. Your child will very likely follow in your footsteps and his passion for parsha will take root.


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