My mission...and I chose to accept...was to teach a brand new preschool class for Religious School in our synagogue.
I have six and a half little kids...one comes over just for craft time and snack time from the second grade since he's the only kid in that room. My six kids though...I have had them nearly every Sunday since the beginning of October. Together we're travelling through holidays unknown as we explore the Jewish year.
This month we have focused on Shabbat. Out of the six, only one, I believe, even remotely has any idea what Shabbat even IS. The other five tend to look at me like I have grown a third eye when I talk to them about pretty much ANYTHING having to do with Judaism...which, of course, makes Miss Z.'s job that much harder. I have to not only teach them what something completely alien to them IS...I have to make them WANT to do it!
Now, I am not a teacher by trade. At best I am an engineer who lives a second life as a non-profits contracts manager. But I do have my own kid...whom I have brought along with me on my journey to Judaism. I know what memories I want HIM to have.
We start our days in preschool by coloring. This week we colored pictures of a family eating their Shabbat meal. Last time we colored pictures of a mother lighting Shabbat candles. While they color, I talk to them about what it is they're coloring...and of course, none of them have any idea really, only one family even lights candles much less has a Shabbat meal. But I talk and I explain and I try as hard as I can to get them to remember - to grab hold of something in this foreign language I am speaking to them and want to know more.
This week we made spice boxes and colored another picture about havdallah while I walked around and explained it to them. I told them that Shabbat is just such a wonderful time, that when it's over we're all so sad to see it end. And smelling the pretty spices makes us happy until we can have Shabbat all over again!
When the principal came down to see them and asked them what the spice boxes were for...they looked at her like a herd of small deer caught in her headlights.
I really felt like a failure.
Our final activity of the day was a book called "The Shabbat Box." It was all about a grade school class who shared a Shabbat Box - a box filled with candles and candlesticks, a kiddush cup, challah rolls and a challah cover - everything each family would need to celebrate Shabbat. The students took turns each week taking it home.
My kids became ANIMATED! "THIS!" they exclaimed. "THIS is a GREAT idea!" And they were all over the idea of making a Shabbat box that each one could take home and actually have all this wonderfulness that I have been telling them about every single week.
So next time...we'll be making our class Shabbat Box.
When the day was done and I was rounding them up to take them to meet their moms and dads upstairs, they were still talking about this Shabbat Box. Now don't forget, I have two kids each of 3's, 4's and 5's. The fact that they were ALL all over this idea...well, it was huge to me.
And just when I thought they never WOULD understand havdallah, one of my 5's ran to his dad and handed him his spice box. "Daddy!" he was breathless with excitement. "This is a spice box and you use it after Shabbat is over to make you feel happy again because you're so sad it's over!"
I couldn't help but smile and feel exhiliarated all at the same time. They're getting it...isn't that wonderful?