Chicago Community Kollel Interactive Parenting Column #1
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
My eleven-year old son becomes a little bit impatient during the Shabbos meals.
Generally, we try to include all the children in the conversations at our Shabbos table. We discuss thought provoking Divrei Torah and we ask each of the children their opinion about various questions on the Parsha.
Nevertheless, this child tends to become bored at some point, especially if there are guests at the table or if the girls begin discussing what is going on in their schools. He leaves the table and begins to read on the couch or one of his friends who has finished the Shabbos meal earlier than us comes to pick him up.
Should we insist that he remain at the Shabbos table the entire time, or is ‘early dismissal’ acceptable?
Thank you for addressing my question and I look forward to your response.
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
Shabbos seudos (meals) are very important components of our family life as well as unique opportunities for the transmission of our mesorah (heritage). And in the increasingly hectic lives that we lead, Shabbos meals afford families invaluable ‘quality time’ to bond with each other and catch up on the week’s events.
Equally as important is the warmth and simcha (joy) that an enjoyable Shabbos seudah exudes. It is probably fair to say that far more non-observant Jews became attracted to Torah and mitzvos through the Shabbos-table experience than by listening to a stimulating shiur (lecture).
And, from your letter, it seems that your Shabbos tables are enjoyable and wholesome. However, one of your children is asking for an occasional ‘waiver.’
Here are some thoughts:
1) Your eleven-year old probably spent 40-50 or more hours in minyan, school and doing homework in an average week. With that in mind, he would be entirely justified in wanting to unwind on his ‘day off’.
2) From your comment that “one of his friends who has finished the Shabbos meal earlier than us …,” it seems that your meals run on the longer end of the spectrum. I assume that the adults in your home thoroughly enjoy the laid-back nature of a long, relaxing meal. However, a restless eleven-year old may find that a bit difficult to endure. So, the best way to go just may be for you to continue enjoying your tempo, while allowing your son to enjoy his.
3) You noted that when there are “guests at the table or if the girls begin discussing what is going on in their schools, ” your son finds it especially difficult to remain at the table.
Honestly, why would that surprise you? Most children (and most adults) would be bored listening to conversations that have little relevance to their lives. If I can ask you to consider doing a role reversal, how much would you enjoy having lunch with ten of his friends while listening to their conversations?
To sum up, I would most definitely grant his request – especially if he makes it only sporadically.
I would also suggest that you consider ‘front-loading’ the zemiros and divrei Torah component of your Shabbos tables, so that your son can participate in those important aspects before he gets antsy and opts for ‘early dismissal.’
Best wishes for continued nachas from your children.
© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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