Not Your Typical ‘Ninth of Av’ Reading Material

Posted by mwallach on August 9, 2011 in My Kids, New To You |

Dear That’s Life,
A principal I once worked for joked that G-d was clearly not a school administrator. If He was, so many major Jewish holidays would not have been scheduled in the first month of school. As it is, between all of the days off, you can often count the number of days in school on one, maybe two, hands. The joke is also that the holidays are either late or they are early. Never, are they on time.

As a result, teachers scramble to adequately prepare their students for the upcoming holidays in the finite time available. Last year, there was only one day of school before vacation started for Rosh Hashannah. There was a lot intense song singing and project making in the few hours they were in school that day, lest a child come home without a handmade honey dish or the song “Dip the Apple in the Honey” revolving round and round in his head. Suffice it to say, they job got done.

During the summer, camps have no pre-holiday prep for which they are responsible. Rather, there are two fast days and a period of mourning which they must cover. The plus-side is that there are no songs to teach, no projects to make. These fast days commemorate times of tragedy in Jewish history. Today is Tisha B’Av which marks the destruction of the Second Temple, sending the Jews into an exile from which we have not returned. Unlike Yom Kippur where we refrain from eating and drinking as part of our penance, these fast days during the summer are sorrow-filled. They are sad, depressing days. Luckily for the camp art department, there are no projects or dioramas to be made around these events. Campers do not look forward to making a model of the Temple covered in flames or a paint-by-numbers map depicting the various lands to which the Jews were sent. It is just not done.

Reality is that children receive the majority of their education from their schools. That is why we send them there. On occasion, messages get lost in the process. They do not always understand exactly what they are being taught. Some of the lesson is received and processed, but the details may be lost in the execution. When my son and daughter decided to put some coins in the tzedakah box on SHABBOS, they could not understand why I was less than pleased, with no intention of writing a mitzvah note to their teachers. While they knew giving tzedakah was a good thing, there was clearly a disconnect about the timing.

There is still, however, plenty of educating that takes place in camp to ensure campers understand what the two summer fast days are about, the meaning behind not eating or drinking for almost 25 hours. The education staff works hard to get the message across so that the campers know it is not about having a day off. Lessons and programs highlighting their importance are taught for days before each fast. Not missing an opportunity, campers are also taught some of the laws surrounding each day, as fasting is only one of the prohibitions. Judaism is not just a religion – it is also a culture. As such, nothing happens in a vacuum. Every chance to teach a child the greater importance or impact of a particular point or moment in the scheme of our people’s history and belief systems needs to be taken.

Maybe that is why the evidence of my son’s latest educational disconnect was such a shock to my system. At the end of the day, he is just a little boy. He knew today was a big and important day. He knew I was not eating or drinking. He knew I would not be going to the gym. Since he, however, was still going to be having a snack or twelve at some point, was going to be playing Wii and watching TV, he was not going to really get it. Someone must have also referred to today as a holiday, which deeply affected his understanding of the day, sending things into a tailspin.

When I came out of the bathroom, he was waiting for me in my room. Throwing his arms up in the air, he screamed, “Happy Tisha B’Av!” expecting me to thank him for the good wishes and extend them in return. Stunned, however, all I could say was, “Um, no.”

SO close…
MLW

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