How do I get my kids to have a greater love of G‑d and belief in Him? And, do you have any suggestions how to make Shabbat more special for them?


This is something that parents have struggled with for thousands of years, so don’t feel it’s something unique to you or your children.

Often when we have something truly valuable, we take it for granted. And when children grow up with advantages—whether they are material or spiritual—those advantages lose value as they are taken for granted. We seem to yearn for and desire what we don’t have, even while being immune to the intrinsic value of what we do possess.

I’ll share a short anecdote with you: For many years, while my children were young, I’d spend my summers in a small community of friends and neighbors out of the city. Every Friday I’d give out little trinkets to the little girls—plastic bracelets or necklaces, stick-on earrings, that kind of stuff—to make their Shabbat beautiful. Among the little girls was one whose parents were in the precious jewelry business, and one summer she appeared with beautiful little diamonds in her ears. Imagine our chuckles when this little girl went crying to her mother that she wanted to discard her diamond earrings because she wanted to get the plastic, glittery stick-ons!

I often think of this little girl . . . we are so often in that place. We have diamonds in our possession, but we’re attracted to the glitter of the plastic.

So, how do we make our children recognize the diamonds we give them at birth? It’s an ongoing, and sometimes not easy, task.

(First, let me point out that there is a great deal of literature on this subject, how to make Judaism exciting and fun. There are also websites that children can visit towards this end—start here.)

But at home, the most important thing is modeling. Modeling for our children our own attachment to, and reverence for, the Torah. They see your love for it, they see how you live by its rules, they see your pleasure, and sometimes even frustration—that’s okay, too. They hear phrases like “thank G‑d,” “with G‑d’s help” and “G‑d willing.” They hear you dialogue with G‑d—like, “I don’t understand why this is happening, G‑d, but You’re the ruler.” Along those lines . . .

When you create enhancement for a mitzvah . . . getting a really nice mezuzah case in order to be able to say to your child: a mezuzah is holy, so I want to put it in something really beautiful. Or, when preparing Shabbat, they hear you saying out loud, “Ah, beautiful holy Shabbat—I hope this soup comes out really delicious.” I’m sure you get my drift.

And then, stories. All kinds of stories, depending on the ages of children.

Realize that none of the above can be expected to suddenly create within the child love for and belief in G‑d—it is a process. And ultimately, the goal is not to have G‑d-fearing children, but to raise a child who’s been inundated with your own feelings and actions, and who will grow up to look back on a childhood where this was a pleasurable part of his growing up: a child who will grow up to be a G‑d-fearing adult.

With regards to Shabbat, what helps a great deal is the “special” stuff of Shabbat: nice clothes and, especially, good food. For children—and adults too!—this makes Shabbat special. If they’re not old enough to appreciate “nice” clothes, find nevertheless some special item of clothing that they love, and designate it for Shabbat. Do that as well with food: get some treats, and they are called “Shabbat treats”; books that they love that are read solely on Shabbat; toys and activities that they enjoy which are marked “Special for Shabbat.” Just like your candlesticks and kiddush cup, the children have their “Shabbat Only” items. Make them desirable and attractive.

Of course, the above could get costly. Keep in mind that all of our financial sustenance is predetermined by G‑d at the start of every year. And we’re taught that the expenditures for Shabbat and Jewish holidays—nice clothes, delicious and plentiful food, etc.—is not included in the accounting of what we’ll earn. That means that whether we spend more or less, it will not impact our final earnings. It’s a nice thought to consider while in Toys-R-Us seeking those special Shabbat toys . . .

See also How do we add a special ambiance to our Shabbat meals?

Bronya Shaffer for