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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Take your kids to the park!

Daf Yomi Nedarim 37


While technological advances are meant to make our lives better, oftentimes they are unfortunately detrimental to our relationships and ourselves.  Remember the days when if you had something to say, you’d pick up the phone and have a conversation?  Nowadays, it’s all text and email.  Technology is so advanced that we don’t need to talk to anyone anymore.

But there is one recent piece of technology that has in fact improved relationships.  Facetime and Skype now allow you to talk to the other person and see them in real-time.  That’s actually even better than the telephone.  Why?  When people talk on the phone, you never really know if you have their undivided attention.  They might be watching TV, reading the newspaper, checking email.  You kind of feel that they’re not quite with you, but you don’t know for sure.  But with Facetime, suddenly you have to give the other person your undivided attention.  Now that’s an improvement in interpersonal relationships for the twenty-first century!

Children may not learn new material on Shabbos.  Why?  So that the parents of the little ones will be free to attend to their mitzvah of Shabbos.
The Ran explains: Parents should be free to play with their children on Shabbos.  If the kids were to be learning new material, the parents would be worried about disrupting their studies.

One of the first things a parent does on a Friday night is to bless their children with the priestly benediction:
“May Hashem bless you and guard you.  May Hashem shine His face towards you and favour you.  May Hashem turn His face towards you and grant you peace.”
Why do we offer the blessing at that time of the week in particular?  Why do we offer that particular blessing?   What is the meaning of Hashem’s face?

When we are blessed by the cohanim (priests) on yomtov, there are certain verses that appear in the siddur alongside each word explaining the kavanah (meaning) of the word.  Next to the word for “His face,” the verse from Tehillim (Psalms) reads, “Turn to me and favour me for I am alone and deprived.”  In other words, when we seek the blessing of Hashem’s face, we seek His undivided attention.  We are asking Him for Facetime!  Of course, He always gives us His undivided attention.  But just like on the phone, you have no idea what the other person is doing unless you see them, we want Hashem to clearly demonstrate that He is focusing solely on us. 

That’s why you start Shabbos with the priestly benediction.  You are telling your children that while the week may have been incredibly busy – running here and there, working long hours, attending to various commitments – on Shabbos, you are devoted to giving them Facetime, your undivided attention.   You are promising them that the next twenty five hours won’t be about catching up on the New York Times, or even Daf Yomi.  It won’t be about hanging out with your shul buddies, talking sports and politics.  Shabbos is about the children.

Indeed, the Talmud teaches that it’s a mitzvah on Shabbos to play with your kids!  They’re not even allowed to learn new Torah material – that’s how important the Shabbos parent-child playtime is!

Take your kids to the park on Shabbos afternoon.  Play board-games as a family.  Ask them parsha questions at the dinner table.  Read them storybooks.  That’s the blessing of Shabbos.


We all want our Father in Heaven’s undivided attention.  How much Facetime are you giving your own kids?  May you merit a Shabbos full of playtime, Facetime, and family bonding!