During the High Holidays, Jews contemplate their words or actions which may have hurt others. It is difficult for most of us to acknowledge when we are wrong. We may be troubled by feelings of discomfort, embarrassment, or even inadequacy. It is much easier to rationalize or blame others and avoid responsibility for our words or actions. Jewish values for children
According to Jewish thought, Maimonides gave us a description of what we must do in order to establish teshuva. (Teshuvah translates as “return” and is used in reference to repentance.) These terms of teshuva are only acceptable after physical compensation has occurred. The terms are as follows: Jewish values for children
Stop the wrong action Jewish values for children
Admit what we have done wrong and feel regret Jewish values for children
- Express our regret and promise not to do the same wrong again
These teachings are difficult for adults to observe so we must understand that for children they are even more difficult. When we ask our children to forgive someone who has wronged them children don’t always understand exactly what that means. They may have difficulty forgiving because they imagine it means accepting or tolerating the wrong actions of others. They also may be worried about these actions happening again. If someone has apologized to your child you may want to teach them to say, “I don’t like what you did and if you promise not to do it again, I forgive you.” Jewish values for children
Children must also understand that if they have been the cause of someone’s material loss, they need to compensate for that loss. Then are they permitted to ask for forgiveness. Jewish values for children
Help children to practice this by encouraging them to replace objects, belonging to others, that they have lost or damaged. Jewish values for children
Forgiveness from a Jewish perspective does not mean forgetting. We often ask our children to forgive others: their siblings for hitting them or taking their toys, their classmates on the playground for pushing them, their friends for not treating them nicely. We even ask them at times to forgive adults for having broken a promise.
Beginning at a young age, children develop an awareness that their actions have consequences. Our hope is that our children learn to apologize for wrong actions and not repeat them. Jewish values for children
It is also important to let children know that under the right circumstances forgiving others will not only make others feel better but can make them feel good too. It is important for children to learn to forgive, not only out of compassion for others but also for their own emotional well-being. Holding onto anger and resentment can cause children to feel anxious and apprehensive. Practicing forgiveness early in life will help children become compassionate human beings and more comfortable and successful in their relationships.
The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value. Jewish values for children
Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.
All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute
Jewish values for children