June 21, 2024
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Spending Quality Time With Our Kids

As our parsha opens, Moshe reiterates the commandment to observe Shabbat immediately before instructing the nation regarding the construction of the Mishkan. However, the commandment of Shabbat at this point seems unnecessary and out of place. The obligation to observe Shabbat was already included in the 10 Commandments, and then repeated twice more in Parshat Ki Tisa. Why repeat this obligation again here, right before instructing them concerning the Mishkan? Rashi quotes a Midrash that suggests that the Torah specifically places the mitzvah of Shabbat directly before the instructions concerning the Mishkan’s construction in order to teach the nation that construction of the Mishkan does not override Shabbat. Despite its overwhelming importance, the Mishkan’s construction cannot take place at the expense of Shabbat.

My father, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his book “Unlocking the Torah Text-Shemot” pgs. 303-305, points out that a fascinating message emerges philosophically from this halacha. The Mishkan and Shabbat represent two different realms of sanctification: The Mishkan represents the sanctification of space, our ability to imbue holiness into the physical spaces around us, while Shabbat represents the sanctification of time, our ability to create moments of holiness during points in our lives. Moshe’s directive to the people to avoid the desecration of Shabbat during the Mishkan’s construction teaches that whenever we have a clash between the sanctification of time and the sanctification of space, the sanctification of time triumphs.

My father adds that “while the clear transcendence of time sanctification over space sanctification remains unexplained in the text, a rationale may be offered from our own experience: the single most precious and tenuous commodity we possess in life is time. Our moments are limited; each moment exists…and before we know it, that moment is gone.

There could, therefore, be no greater expression of our belief in and our loyalty to God than the dedication of some of our limited moments specifically to His service. The sanctification of time—the dedication of time solely to our relationship with God—is one of the highest religious acts possible, transcending other acts of sanctification.”

The message here is extremely powerful. Time is our most precious possession, and how we choose to use our limited time on this earth will determine the impact we will have on those around us.

Simply put, we need to spend much quality time with our children. When we give of our precious time to our loved ones, we give them the message that we love them and cherish our relationship with them. More than the toys or gadgets that we buy for our children, what they want most is spending time with us.

With the approach of Pesach, the Seder night is a favorite time of the year for many children. Why? I would suggest that the inherent structure of the Seder night—an evening when the entire family comes together, and the parents give their undivided attention to their children—provides each child with a sense of fulfillment like no other night of the year.

The greatest gift we can give to our children is the gift of ourselves, our time and our presence:

1) When we spend time with our children, we must be fully present—physically and cognitively. If we sit with our kids but are distracted by our devices, the implicit message they receive is that our device is more important to us than they are.

2) We must pay attention to special moments and opportunities that can help cultivate a deeper connection with our kids. Shabbat, for example, is a time when most other distractions are absent; it is a prime opportunity to spend quality time with our kids. Bedtime is a uniquely powerful time of the day—taking two minutes to tuck in a child every night can create memories that a child will cherish forever.

3) We should spend time with our kids not only doing things that are important to us, but doing things that are important to them. I mentioned in a previous piece that I was once privileged with a personal meeting with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l, during which we discussed raising children. One line that has always stuck with me is, “You have to make sure to learn with your children, and you have to make sure to play basketball with them.” Some may understand his advice to be a tactic—that in order to get your kids to learn Torah with you, you need to first play ball with them. I believe, however, that Rav Lichtenstein was saying something totally different; he was suggesting that we play basketball with our children because that, in and of itself, is important. It is important because spending time with your children is important—and also because you show your children that you value and appreciate the things they care about.

We live in a world that pulls us in many different directions, and it’s natural to struggle to find the proper balance. The Torah’s message at the beginning of this week’s parsha is that our time is our most prized possession, and how we spend our time reflects our life priorities. Given that for most of us our family and our children are the most important people in our lives, it behooves us to express that sentiment by spending time, really spending time, with them.


Rav Yossi Goldin is a teacher and administrator who teaches in a number of seminaries and yeshivot across Israel. He currently lives in Shaalvim with his wife and family. He can be reached at [email protected].

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