3 simple tips for teaching kids about Yom Kippur

December 4, 2015

Yom Kippur is a solemn and holy day in the Jewish calendar year, since it is the day when people are supposed to atone for their sins. Here are some tips for teaching kids about this tradition:

3 simple tips for teaching kids about Yom Kippur

Explain sin and atonement

While children do not participate in many of the holiday's traditions, like fasting, it is still important for them to understand its significance, and there are many creative and simple ways to inform them about the holiday and its meaning.

  • You don't have to get into an in-depth discussion about the nature of sin, but you should explain to your kids on Yom Kippur that the holiday is a chance for them to acknowledge if they were ever mean or hurt anyone, like their siblings or their friends, and to use this day to say sorry and make it better.
  • Explain to them that people make mistakes and do bad things but that you always have a chance to make it better by saying sorry and making sure the other person is okay.

Explain fasting, and suggest ways for them to participate

Children younger than bar or bat mitzvah age should never fast on Yom Kippur.

  • However, you can explain that people fast in order to focus on the importance of the holiday and to deny themselves things that feel good so that they can say sorry for the things they did this year that hurt other people.
  • Tell them that they shouldn't fast, but if they wanted to do something similar, they could give up candy and sweets for the day, so that they remember that not every day is a fun celebration.

Help set resolutions

Yom Kippur is one of the official starts of the real new year in Jewish tradition.

  • Help them think about their year and behaviour by helping them think of New Year's resolutions for the coming year.
  • Make this a list of ways they can improve their lives and their behaviour towards other people, and explain that each year people have a chance to become better and do more good for the world.
  • You can tell them that the long last blowing of the Shofar at the end of Yom Kippur is the official marking that the New Year is starting, and that they can start following their new goals and resolutions.

Yom Kippur is an important day of the year for Jewish people, and, if this is a day you celebrate, your children should understand the significance. Follow these tips and let your kids get involved in the day.

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