Friday, March 16, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Vayikra

In this week's parsha, Vayikra, we learn all about the animal and meal offerings brought by the priests to the Sanctuary. There is a distinction made between "sin" and guilt offerings; the former is for those who have knowingly transgressed and the latter is for those who are in doubt as to whether they have transgressed. (Click here for a more detailed explanation of the meaning and consequences of "sin" in the Jewish tradition.)

We obviously don't expect our children to bring sacrifices to the priests when they make mistakes and hurt friends. But what about saying "I'm sorry?" Is that enough? Is is meaningful? Is it really developmentally appropriate?

The answer to all three questions is "probably not." Giving children words to say doesn't mean they understand those words. Telling them to do something to express regret doesn't mean they feel regret. Expecting them to understand the consequences of their actions doesn't mean they will. We also don't want "I'm sorry" to become a meaningless phrase that a child says automatically when they're afraid they're about to get in trouble, thinking their words are the equivalent of a get out of jail free card.

A better approach is to teach children how to "make amends." The child who has done the hurting asks the child who has been hurt what they can do to make them feel better. The child who has been hurt might say, Give me a hug, or Don't do it again, or Say you're sorry, or even a combination of all three. This not only empowers the child who has been hurt, it teaches both children that making amends is a complex process. It's not enough to simply say, I'm sorry. To really make amends, one has to acknowledge their mistake and change their behavior. In a way, one has to make an offering, and give something of themselves as part of the process.Related image

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