Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shavuot: New twists on Traditions

Shavuot is coming up, the commemoration of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

Typically people celebrate Shavuot with several customs:  Eating dairy food, studying torah all night, and reading the story of Ruth.  While all of these are wonderful ideas, perhaps its time to modernize our approach and really figure out how to involve the kiddos into the celebrations.

Eating Dairy Food (and no, we're not part of the Drink Milk campaign ;-): 
The traditional foods include blintzes, cheesecake and ice cream parties, and I'm not saying don't do those things if that hits the spot.  However, with a little ingenuity we can turn our dairy treat into something fun and interactive too (and healthy!)

Yogurt Cups/Bar:
I did this at EG's first birthday and it was a big hit!  It's super easy to put together, just put out different kinds of Yogurt (vanilla and greek are my favorites!) and some simple toppings for people to put in their cups.  AlwaysOrderDessert has some great varieties if you want to make something totally different too.
Gilit from Shoes-Off-Please (Jewish Blogger!) had one at her daughter's party!
Ice Cream:
I know, I said that was traditional and we're talking about ways to be a bit non-traditional.  But in addition to what you eat, there's how you make it.  We own this Ice Cream Ball, and it's a blast!  It takes a bit to get it going (salt, ice, etc.) but it's a great way to keep the kiddos involved in the process.
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Studying Torah:
While your kids may not be up for a full reading of the Torah, it can definitely be fun to switch up the nightly routine on the night of June 3rd and read some bible stories.  As a Jewish mother it can sometimes be hard to find traditional bible stories that aren't changed or altered or Christian in nature.  Here are a few that we own or have read that are wonderful for reading on Shavuot:

TEN GOOD RULES: This book is wonderful for our younger kids, from about 2-5.  The rules are simple and short, with counting as an extra fun part of the book.  The pictures are also simple to follow along and engaging.  And no, it's not 'do not commit adultery', it's 'Married people should love each other.'  Simple, easy and true to the Ten Commandments at it's core.
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Classic Bible Stories for Jewish Children:  I like this book, but it's honestly too mature for EG.  It's geared more towards 4-8 year olds, those that can really sit through a story without many pictures.  But it's definitely got all the traditional/classic stories in it and without any additional references you may not want.

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The Littlest Mountain:  This is a great story about why G-d chose Mt.Sinai over other mountains and follows a traditional midrash story in the telling of the tale.  It's got great pictures, a traditional Jewish storyline and definitely follows the storyline on Shavuot being the holiday at Sinai.

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The story of Ruth:
Quick review for those of you who forgot:  Ruth is married, her husband dies and she decides to stick with her mother-in-law who is traveling back to Israel.  Ruth is the first 'convert' in that she forsakes her families religion to go to Israel.  While there she takes care of her Mother-in-Law by gathering food, etc. and eventually marries a man there.  Ruth's descendants include King David. 
This is EG's Hebrew name and so it's got a bit of connection for the family.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a decent story about Ruth that's kiddo appropriate.  However, I think it's also nice to focus on what Ruth did, and ways to incorporate that into your life.

This is a great excuse to have a playdate or two!  Introducing our kids to sharing and playing with others really reflects on what Ruth did.  Take a journey to the park to simulate the trip Ruth took with her Mother-in-Law Naomi...

While every child has toys they adore, they equally have toys that aren't their favorite.  I'm a huge fan of toy rotation, but I also believe that kids need to learn to let go early and often.  Maybe your child is old enough/big enough to pick out some toys for needy boys and girls.  If that's too much, maybe bring some to Grandma's house to play with while you're there...?  I'm hoping to get EG to 'give' some toys to B2, so that's something to consider as well.

How are you celebrating Shavuot?  Have you even thought about it yet with all the days between now and then?

I'll be back next week with some deeper thoughts on what Shavuot means to parenting, and how to embrace the 10 commandments in your own life.

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