Back to Basics
The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuvah, which literally means “return.” The Jewish approach to relationships—with God, with others, and with ourselves—is that our natural state is one of harmony, and that through a process of seeking repair for missteps we can return to that state.
Dr. Ronit Ziv-Kreger shares this thought when teaching about teshuvah and atonement. Think of the word “Atone.” It is made up of two small but powerful words together: “At” and “One.” I like to think of “At One” to be a state of peacefulness, that all is right with the world, in your world. To be “At One” with God, you must be “At One” with yourself, and to be “At One” with yourself, you must be “At One” with the people in your lives and around you.
So how do we teach teshuvah to our children? Per usual, the best way is to show them by example. Be conscious of when you’ve overstepped boundaries at home, with your children or your spouse, and offer/accept apologies in the way you hope your children will do so in their own lives.
Admitting to mistakes, acknowledging them and the impact/consequences of words and actions on others is not easy, for all ages and stages of people and life. But it is important, very important, and a life lesson we are all still learning.
Tashlich is a ceremony that takes place in the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. We throw breadcrumbs from our pockets into a moving body of water, symbolizing casting/throwing away our wrongdoings of the past year. Tashlich is a perfect time for reflection—especially if you are sitting by a lake and the weather is nice.
ACTIVITY: Attend a Tashlich Ceremony
Tashlich is a powerful, concrete ritual to do with young children. Children from age three can often understand that they make mistakes. To begin, give your child a piece of bread to break into pieces. Help him or her identify the wrongdoings for each piece. Labeling the crumbs helps children to acknowledge the mistakes and concretize the ritual. By throwing crumbs into water and saying (literally), “Goodbye mistakes, I’ll try hard not to make them again,” children will begin to take control of their actions and begin the lifelong process of self-reflection.
ACTIVITY: Practicing Tashlich Indoors
Fill a tub, a bowl, the sink or even the bathtub with some water, allowing enough room to swirl the water around. Using scrap white paper, have your children write some of their mistakes with washable magic markers. Crumple up the “mistakes” and throw them in the water. Move the water around by swirling your hand, allowing the mistakes to submerge and un-crumple. Continue to move the water for a few minutes while you think about your mistakes and how you can do better in the coming year. Take a look at the papers; the “mistake” should have disappeared, washed away.