Making Sukkot and Simchat Torah Meaningful for Children

21 09 2010

Bringing Torah To Life: Sukkot & Simchat Torah #2
Based on a 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.

Rebbetzin Heller is Helping Parents in Teaching Children To Be Givers

2 08 2010

Based on a shiur (Torah class) by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller


By nature, children do not enjoy giving. Babies know nothing about giving and everything about taking.  This is because very young children only hear their animal souls. You, as the parent must awaken within them another more elevated voice.

We live in a materialistic society where giving is undervalued. What counts is physical reality. In the material sense, the more you give the less you have while in the spiritual sense, the more you give, the more you are. Therefore, the first step in educating your child to give is to question your own attitude towards giving. Do a bit of introspection. How do you feel when someone asks you for a favor? What is your immediate reaction when someone asks you for a significant loan? If your attitude about giving is negative, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s normal not to want to give because we live in a very materialistic society. However, be aware that the language of the soul is giving; and the language of the body is taking.

By allowing yourself to be a taker, you commit yourself to your body. The body is journeying towards death which is why it yearns for repose. It’s root is death. Conversely, the soul is eternal and desires to give and to do for others. If you have your own inner crisis about giving, you will need to resolve it first before attempting to resolve your children’s’ crisis.

Ask yourself initially, “How can I come to enjoy giving?” There are various ways to reach this level. First, learn to identify with the recipient. Use imagery to cross a bridge that may be hard to cross otherwise. Suppose someone asks you for money to help pay for therapy. Picture someone who isn’t coping with life and imagine what will happen if you pay for therapy. Picture the person back on his feet, getting married, starting a family, and holding down a steady job. The more you see yourself in the recipient’s shoes, the more you awaken empathy within yourself for others, the more you’ll love giving.

Secondly, learn how to give with perfection. There’s a huge difference between making a complicated cake for a bar mitzva and handing over a box of store bought cookies. The cake signifies hours of effort and perfection and you can identify your higher soul in the gift.

A child’s desire to take and not give is much stronger than an adult’s. With very young children don’t expect much. They aren’t mentally developed enough to understand spiritual pleasure. Therefore, laying down the law is the way to go. You have to say, “We share here. Look at the clock. You get five minutes and he gets five minutes.”

Starting at about the age of five, it is possible to build empathetic understanding. This can be accomplished through storytelling. Have the hero stem from a different culture or use animal characters. This helps take pressure off the child. Your goal in storytelling is to have the child empathize with a hero who gives something to someone in need after which they both end up feeling good. You can use this basic storyline in endless variations for young children. The hero can either give honor, clothing, help with homework or assistance with understanding a new language. It is essential that the hero be a winner and not a loser, otherwise the child will not connect with the story. Your aim should be to teach them the joy of giving.

Give your child a sum of money and teach him about maaser. Initially, he won’t want to give the money to tzedaka.  Although he didn’t work  for it and does not as yet have a clear picture of what money can buy, he will still be loathe to give anything of his away. Try to open his heart by saving some of the Vaad Harabbanim booklets and reading him the stories.  Tell him how he can make a difference by donating his money. Once he’s experienced the pleasure of giving, you can move up a notch. Take your child to Geulah or the Kotel where collectors are wont to be found. Give him money to drop into a beggar’s cup. Then say, “Look what a mitzva you’ve done, now this woman can go home and buy a cake for Shabbat.”

Once you’ve passed these steps, you can then introduce the concept of giving as a part of the child’s personal life. A good place to begin is at home.  Tell your child, “The baby was so happy when you brought her a cookie,” instead of, “You were so good, you brought the baby a cookie.” This creates empathy.

How to Handle Chutzpa in Children

13 01 2010

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on

Can you give me guidelines on how to handle chutzpa in my growing children ages ten to thirteen? What should I say if
my otherwise sweet daughter keeps saying to me, “I can do whatever I want!”? Should I force her to comply or teach her negotiation skills?


You should teach her negotiation skills. You also have to teach her the laws of Kibud Av Va’em. Preferably your husband should show her these halachot in a sefer so that she sees that the same Hashem who commanded us not to kill or stealcommanded us to treat our parents with respect. She has to see that you and your husband take these laws seriously in your relationship with your own parents. If a child says, “I can do what I want,” you should say, “Can you go to the store and take what you want without paying? Can you get on the bus and not pay the fare because you just feel like riding on the bus?”  Hopefully she will answer no and you should ask her why. She will tell you that if she gets caught, she’llbe in big trouble, and that the Torah forbids it. You have to tell her, “My dear child, the Torah forbids you to behave with chutzpa. And since I care about you, I can’t allow you to continue acting this way, just like I can’t allow you to do anything else that will harm you.”

As children move towards adolescence they need greater autonomy. So while you can’t tolerate chutzpa, you should foster opportunities for success by giving them more responsibilities. Let your child prepare some new salads for Shabbat or allow her to visit a friend without having a specific curfew. Inform her that you trust her to come back early enough to get a good night’s sleep. Convey to your child that you have confidence in her and that you see her as an adult. This should not preclude the fact that she views you as a parent, just as you view your own parents as parents. Teaching your children negotiation skills is good because it is a respectful way of stating your needs in a way that the other person doesn’t lose out. But it has to be presented as a way of fulfilling Kibud Av, not as a way of manipulating a parent into doing what the child wants.

Bringing Torah To Life – Teaching Children Kibud Av V’Eim

29 12 2009

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The following is one article from this week’s Torat Imecha: Women’s Torah Weekly. To read the rest of the edition and other editions click here.

Also, check out the full length version of this class:

The Mussar Revolution

We continue with our discussion of how to teach children the value of kibud av v’aim, respecting parents. Children from age ten to thirteen are maturing rapidly. You need to move the relationship from imitation to discipleship and friendship. This is achieved by showing the child how much you value their opinion and by sharing beliefs and ideas with them. Inviting a discussion with your child shows him that you think he is important. Recognize that they have their own unique value and that they are not just an extension of you. Rebellion is the consequence of feeling that one can’t have a self. Build a relationship with your child. Nurture bonds of love. The more time you give them, the more affection and intimacy will develop, and the more they will have to lose by disobeying.

Show your child that you value him but expect him to still treat you as a parent. Listen to him and be empathetic. When something about his behavior bothers you, explain it in a nice way and place in his hands some of the authority to correct it. If he respects you enough, he will not want to disappoint you.

At this age, jealousy, lust, and honor are big forces in a child’s life and he will need you to teach him skills on how to handle them before temptation overpowers him. Children may become envious and demand possessions that you don’t think they need. Talk to them about independence and individuality and being happy with what Hashem gives us. If you do a good job at getting the point across with examples and stories, your children will feel less pressured to conform. If you see that they cannot stand up to the test, try not to force them into conflict. Sometimes you might just have to give in. If you really can’t, try to understand them and use your authority to put limitations on how far their resentment takes them.

Kids this age are baalei taava – lustful. Girls should be taught the laws of tzniut and boys should be trained in shemirat einayim. For girls, taavah expresses itself many times in the desire for admiration. Lay down the right foundation by teaching them the joy of discipline. Self esteem comes from self discipline. Stretching yourself beyond your limitations gives you a feeling of satisfaction. Train them to take pride in overcoming base desires. Teach them yirat shamayim by your own example. Listen to them, be willing to extend yourself if possible, and then exert your authority.

Kavod, honor, is much harder to deal with. Children have an insatiable need for acknowledgment and appreciation. If they feel slighted it will be hard for them to control themselves and they may react by saying and doing things they shouldn’t. The Netivot Shalom writes that insulting a child is like pouring oil on a fire. Criticizing and devaluation destroys their self esteem. Always express acknowledgement, validation, and appreciation. If they feel they are being mistreated, listen to them, restate their complaint, acknowledge that you think differently, state the thing they did, and assert your authority. Children who are hypersensitive will interpret any disapproval as complete rejection. Build your ability to acknowledge your child’s inherent goodness. Help them develop a sense of security, value, and trustworthiness. Then you can credibly say, “A girl like you, who I acknowledge and believe in, shouldn’t be doing something like this.”

In summation, in early childhood take advantage of your children’s desire to follow and teach them the basics of kibudav. They should learn to respect and listen to you. In return you should listen to them and make fair decisions with their interests in mind. In mid childhood, be an example for your child in how you treat your spouse and your own parents. Cultivate a relationship of discipleship and friendship in the late childhood and early teen years. Be an empathetic listener but remain authoritative. Get your decision across in a way that the child feels he’s been acknowledged and that it is not your ego speaking, but the Torah. We’ve only touched on this topic which is so broad and complex. Applying these basic principles will get you off to a good start on the challenging road of chinuch.

Raving Reviews for Rebbetzin Heller’s Class ‘Elul, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur for Children’

23 09 2009

Students at are loving Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s newest class series:

Bringing Torah to Life: Deepening our Children’s Jewish Experience

The first class in this series entitled, Elul, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur for Children, is helping parents prepare their children for the Yamim Noraim, High Holidays, in a very meaningful way.

One student writes in:

‘This shiur was FABULOUS!  I especially liked and used her advice about teenagers and all of her specific examples of how to relate to different aged children for Elul. Fabulous and immediately useful. Thank you. I hope you do this again for Pesach.’

Check out the class and make this year’s Holidays meaningful for the entire family!

NEW CLASS! ‘Bringing Torah to Life: Deepening Your Children’s Jewish Experience’ with Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

11 09 2009

Thanks to a suggestion from one of our students, we are happy to present you with a new course by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, entitled Bringing Torah to Life:  Deepening Your Children’s Jewish Experience.  This once a month class will focus on the themes and perspectives of the Jewish holidays and other fundamental Jewish concepts, specifically identifying how parents can enrich their children’s understanding and enjoyment of these unique times.  The first class, on Elul, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur for Children of various ages, is now available for viewing here.

NEW Rebbetzin’s Perspective Class Series

8 09 2009

Rebbetzin’s Perspective II: Questions and Answers for Today’s Jewish Woman

This unique class features Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller answering real questions sent in by Naaleh’s female members across the globe. Rebbetzin Heller continues to address the challenges and struggles encountered by contemporary Jewish women with wisdom, humor, and understanding.

The first installment is NOW available!

Questions and Answers for Today’s Jewish Woman, Part 1

In this Torah shiur (class) Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller responds to real life dilemmas and challenges sent in by Naaleh’s female students around the world.  This class touches on issues such as rewarding children for helpful behavior, dealing with conflicts within a community,  the intertwined destiny of husbands and wives, and understanding korbanot.  Each question is answered with sensitivity and wisdom. This Torah class is available online in streaming video and for download in mp3 and ipod video formats.

Watch a preview of this class: