Making Sukkot and Simchat Torah Meaningful for Children

21 09 2010

Bringing Torah To Life: Sukkot & Simchat Torah #2
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Yom Kippur, Succos, and Simchat Torah for Children

Sukkot is a colorful holiday full of meaning for children. A good way to get kids involved is to have them decorate the sukkah. Sometimes the whirlwind of activity can take on an energy of its own. Therefore, it’s important to take time to explain that the sukkah is holy, that we are beautifying it for the Shechina, and that we are working hard to make it pretty in honor of Yom Tov.
Very young children won’t understand the deeper concepts behind the four species. Try to bring some ideas down to their level by talking about how the species are different. Compare this to how Hashem employs myriad ways to help us in varied situations and how he created all kinds of people that make up the Jewish nation.

Older children already have the ability to grasp the kedusha related to the arba minim and the sukkah. Try to listen to shiurim that explain the depth of the holiday, such as Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg’s sichot. You can then simplify it for your children. Tell them about the love between the Jewish people and Hashem, the encompassing nature of the Shechina, and about the concept of Hashem Hu Elokim, He is with us in every possible way of being.

Sukkot is about bitachon and about Hashem’s love and care for us. Tell them how Hashem acts like our sukkah and constantly envelops us in His protective embrace.

Chol hamoed looms with the big question of what to do with the children. Spend quality time reading stories to your kids about bitachon. For young children, the thin blue Machanayim books are great. For older children, stories about overcoming obstacles, such as Marcus Lehman’s book, are wonderful. Visiting friends and relatives is a good way of spending time together. If you live in Israel or close to Yerushalayim, touring holy sites such as the Old City and the Kotel with the children is a superb option. If you don’t live in Israel, you can take them to a nature reserve, the botanical gardens or the zoo to keep them satisfied.

Entertaining teenagers takes a little more thought. Prepare before Sukkot and plan how you will keep them busy and happy. Make sure whatever they do is appropriate and is appropriate for the extra kedusha inherent in Chol hamoed.

Sukkot is a time of love. Do everything you can to make your teenagers feel beloved and important. Give them freedom and let them choose what they would like to do. If you don’t feel you can trust them, you may need to go to places that may not interest you all that much to make sure they stay in line.

Whatever you do let this message flow through. Sukkot is a special time because Hashem made it so. Let us be grateful to Him for protecting us through the year and bringing us to this point.  Let us tap into the kedusha of the holiday and elevate our joy to simcha shel mitzva.

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