Tonight is not only Shabbat, it's also the start of Yom Kippur. It's a time for deep introspection, a time to acknowledge the ways in which you fell short this year and to think about how to do better next year. There is a prayer service tonight, lasting about three hours, followed by a full day of prayer tomorrow. The service starts at 9 am and won't conclude until around 7 pm. There is usually only an hour or so break in the service in the afternoon. It's an intense day, made more so by the fast. From 6 pm tonight until 7 pm tomorrow, there is no eating or drinking at all. Not even water. Fasting enables those in the service to focus solely on their prayers; for many, this is a deeply spiritual experience.
A tradition associated with Yom Kippur is to donate the food that you would have eaten that day to the needy. Our synagogue has a food drive every year to encourage people to give. Especially in light of the natural disasters that have befallen our fellow citizens in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, now is a perfect time to talk with your children about the needs of others and to show them how to give. Another Jewish tradition is to "leave the corners of your fields for the poor." In ancient times, the Israelites wouldn't harvest the grain from the corners of their fields, instead leaving it for the poor to come and gather for themselves. One way to recreate this mitzvah (or good deed) in modern times is to buy a little extra food at the grocery store at every visit and donate it. Your children could help by selecting the food that will be donated. Young children take great pride in helping others. Now is the perfect time to instill in them values of compassion and generosity.