Chicago Community Kollel Interactive Parenting Column #10
1) Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
My 12-year-old daughter is B”H a well-rounded, hard working Bais Yaakov girl. She takes her schoolwork seriously and she has a nice circle of friends.
Recently, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend. On Shabbos and Sunday morning, when she does not have school, she has begun to sleep in unusually late and often does not daven Shacharis. Even when she wakes up with enough time to daven, she seems to be procrastinating and looking for excuses to avoid having time to daven. This is particularly disturbing to me as her mother, due to the fact that I’ve always made a great effort to daven every day – despite the challenges it entails.
How do I get my daughter to appreciate the chashivos and beauty of Tefillah without making her feel that Yiddishkeit is a burden?
2) Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
My eight-year-old son comes to shul with me Shabbos mornings. I enjoy walking to shul with him and we both like spending the time together. However, he quickly gets bored after about fifteen minutes of davening. What can I do to motivate him to daven better?
My wife keeps telling me that I should ‘lighten up’ with him and not subject him to such a long davening in shul. I keep telling her that I went to shul when I was his age.
We would appreciate your hadracha (guidance) with this.
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
I guess that an effective method for addressing your questions would be to analyze the factors and conditions that are conducive to creating the environment for sincere tefilah – in adults. If you are a regular reader of these lines, you know that it is my strong feeling that many of the issues that we deal with in raising children are, in fact, issues that we as adults are struggling with.
Once we have a better understanding of these factors and conditions, it will be easier to reflect on your child’s unique situation as it pertains to his/her davening. You will then be in a better position to develop an action plan to help with that process.
I would suggest that among the many possible pre-requisites for inspired tefilah, four important ones would be:
1) A rudimentary understanding of the Hebrew text of the davening, and preferably an appreciation for the context and deeper meaning in these tefilos.
2) A feeling of vulnerability or a void/need in our lives that we hope tefilos will fill.
3) A feeling of connection to Hashem and the faith that our tefilos are answered.
4) And, in the case of children; age-appropriate settings and expectations for tefilos.
A careful reading of these factors will reveal that if any of these are lacking, it is entirely possible that the result will be rote, uninspired tefilos or, worse yet, a complete lack of participation in tefilah. Please permit me to expand on each of these items – with some suggestions for remediation in areas that may be lacking.
1) Understanding Our Tefilos
When parents would solicit Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky z’tl for advice on how to inspire their children to daven properly, he was known to ask them if their children understood what they were reading. When you think about it, it is a rather logical question. After all, imagine if we were asked to recite Latin poetry (le’havdil) with emotion and passion – not understanding what we were reading!!
If you find that your child is lacking an understanding of the basic tefilos (and perhaps this is an area where you, as well, are in need of assistance), perhaps consider exploring the meaning of davening during your Shabbos meals. You may also think about approaching the Rav or President of your shul and discuss the possibility of introducing shiurim on tefilah to your shul.
Another way to go would be to purchase some of the superb English-translation siddurim – including the ‘trans-linear’ ones recently released. They are powerful tools in our efforts to increase appreciation for our tefilos. And please do not get hung up about what ‘others’ or your children will think about your need for assistance in gaining a better understanding of davening at this stage in your life. It is a wonderful and powerful statement that you take davening seriously when you invest time, money and effort in personal and spiritual growth. Our children watch us very carefully, and they will be picking up an invaluable chinuch lesson from you when they see that you are willing to face your shortcomings and have the courage to self-assess and shteig (grow spiritually) years or decades after you left Yeshiva or Beis Yakov.
For younger children, there is a series of sequential workbooks on tefilah by Rabbi Mayer Bernbaum that introduces children to birchas hashachar (the morning blessings), shema, and shemoneh esray. They are, in all likelihood, available at your local Judaica bookstore, from the author, Rabbi Bernbaum (973-778-8536), or through the Torah Umesorah Publication office (718-259-1223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Best wishes for a G’mar Chasimah Tova.
© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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