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There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
Super Secret Sabbath Soda
By David
Posted August 3, 2009

One the of biggest challenges we face as Jewish parents in the San Fernando Valley is how to make sure our children stay connected to Judaism. At the moment, our children are quite young, but they are already very much aware that they are Jewish, and that most other people are not. While they are about two decades away from marriage, they have already begun their Jewish education and they participate in Shabbos and holiday ceremonies at our home.

As many parents are well aware, it’s not always easy to have your children willingly participate in "required" activities, so we’ve found that a little extra encouragement is needed to motivate our children at times. The idea is to inspire our children to enjoy the arrival of Shabbos and the ceremony of Kiddush. The bigger picture is that we hope to give our children a positive Jewish experience that will last with them over the decades and will provide a solid basis for them to choose to live a life connected to Judaism.

So, it’s Friday late afternoon. The family is assembled at home. The Shabbos candles, wine cups, and challah are on the “island” at the center of our kitchen. The children are happily playing in the family room, which is visible from our vantage point, and my wife and I mill about the kitchen, pulling together the Shabbos meal. Dinner is nothing fancy, as my wife and I place an emphasis on not being too worn out to enjoy our family time together. Still, there are some elements of “specialness” to distinguish the Shabbos from the rest of the week.

As the time for Kiddush nears, we pull out the super-dooper secret surprise soda that the children will drink from their wine cups. Every week, while shopping at the supermarket, we select a can or two of “surprise Shabbos soda” for the kids. Could be an orange-flavored soda, could be root beer, could be ginger ale, or black cherry, etc. In general, it’s the only time of the week that our children drink soda. Otherwise, it’s water, juice, and milk.

There is a sense of excitement that starts to build, as the children are curious to know what flavor soda they will be served for Kiddush. They start to shout off guesses, until we allow them to taste a tiny sip. Children are very curious creatures, and they agonize over not knowing what the pending surprise is.

Photo Of Our Challah Cover
Photo Of Our Challah Cover

There is also a special Shabbos treat awaiting them for dessert, but knowing what that is, will have to wait.

Filled with anticipation, my son runs to bring the siddur (prayer book) out, with special kippot that we wear for making Kiddush. His sister quickly runs to her room to wear a special dress in which she will bless the candles together with my wife. They both look absolutely adorable as they prepare to carry out the traditional role of Jewish women as has been done for thousands of years.

After blessing the candles, the women traditionally close their eyes and make a wish or an extra blessing for the family, and often I do too, silently. I wish that my children will continue this tradition when they become the parents of their own Jewish families. I wish that their children will look forward to Shabbos as my children do right now.

Halfway through Kiddush, we pause to drink from our wine cups. The children relish the surprise soda and they smile at each other as if they’re sharing a secret. I look at my wife, and she looks more beautiful to me than at almost any other time. I feel that life is good, and want to make the moment last longer.

I know that neither I nor any other parent can absolutely guarantee what lifestyle our children will choose, or which path they will take when forming their own families. But, as someone who is stubborn, I make the extra effort to try and sway the odds in favor of our children staying connected to Judaism and only considering Jewish spouses when the time comes.

Ceremonies and food are often at the heart of tradition. Although those things do not hold any magical powers in and of themselves, they can hold the key to family and traditional continuity. When tradition is not imparted with coercion and strict discipline, it can be steeped in love and accompanied by pleasant childhood memories. I want my children to associate being Jewish with a feeling of being safe and loved in a Jewish home. I want them to remember that feeling of excitement at Friday night Kiddush.

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