When my kids were young, I made up a joke.
What’s the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?
On Mother’s Day, Dad takes everyone out for dinner; on Father’s Day, Dad takes everyone out for dinner!
Yes, they’re the same. It’s a joke.
In 1978, the first Sunday after Labor Day officially became Grandparent’s Day in the United States.
So we have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparent’s Day.
What about Children’s Day?
That was made official a very long time ago, for Jewish children world-wide.
V’shomru vnei yisrael es haShabbos, la'asos es-haShabbos l’dorosom bris olom. (Shemos 31:16)
V’yinterun Bnei Yisroel yas Shabbeso, le’me'evad tafnukei Shabbeso l’doreihon keyam alom. Bnei Yisroel shall guard Shabbos, to make Shabbos delightful for the children, in order that it continue as an everlasting statute. (Targum Yonasan ben Uziel ibid. with Pairush Yonasan)
Children’s Day is not observed by sending greeting cards or going shopping at sale events. Unlike the other “Days,” the purpose of Children’s Day is not to tell children how much we appreciate them. The purpose of Children’s Day is to encourage our children to appreciate Hashem and Yiddishkeit.
Shabbos is Children’s Day, the day we show our children the gift Hashem gave to us and the beauty of Yiddishkeit.
Why is the word ledorosom written without a vav? The word ledorosom without the vav can be read l’dirosom meaning their dwelling places. The Torah is teaching that la'asos es-haShabbos means that we make Shabbos beautiful, l’dirosom, in our homes by creating a wonderful environment for our children. (Iturei Torah on Shemos 31:16)
Sabbath and Yom Tov is meant mainly for you. Not only are you to rest from physical labour, you are also to reflect about your better selves, your spirit... Look upon your selves, upon your wife, upon your home, upon the greatest treasure of your home-upon your children. On weekdays you gain for them food for their bodies, payment for teachers and schools. But bread, teacher and school are of little avail if you do not yourselves become for them priests and priestesses of life. At least devote yourselves to them on the Sabbath and on Yom Tov. On the Sabbath and on Yom Tov consecrate your house into a Divine temple in which your children make a covenant with G-d and in which they become strengthened for their task as men and Israelites. On Sabbath and Yom Tov consecrate yourselves to the task of priests of mankind and of Israel, and with your exaltation, with your consecration, with your strength, lift up the children and the home to G-d. (Horeb, pages 98-99)
And on the day of your simcha, these are Shabosos: This implies that even though on Shabbos there is no mitzvah of Simcha, only of Oneg, nonetheless there is simchas hanefesh. (Eimek haNitziv on Sifre, Bamidbar 10:10)
And on the day of your simcha: The [Sifre] says this refers to Shabbos. The commentators question this based on the premise that the mitzvah of Simcha applies only on Yom Tov. On Shabbos, there is a mitzvah of Oneg, not of Simcha.
It appears that on Yom Tov, a person has to make himself b’simcha by using food and drink, meat and wine. Shabbos brings simcha intrinsically. One who tastes the kedusha of Shabbos experiences spiritual simcha without material pleasure to bring it upon him. (Ta'am VeDaas Al HaTorah, Bamidbar 10:10)
Rava said: life, children, and sustenance are not based on merit, rather they are based on mazel. (Moed Katan 28a)
The kedusha of Shabbos is called Mazel...which brings life, children, and sustenance. (Noam Elimelech, Parshas Trumah, page 290 in P’eir MiKedoshim edition)
This is the inner meaning of Mazel of the highest level; from it comes children. (ibid., tzyunim u’mkoros, 24)
The Noam Elimelech understands Rava to be teaching us that Shabbos is the source of the brachos of life, children, and sustenance. We announce our agreement with this idea every Shabbos, every Friday night. Ki hi makor habracha. Shabbos is the source of bracha.
But we know that Hashem is the only source of bracha. Baruch ata Hashem, we acknowledge You, Hashem, to be the source of bracha. (Yesod Malchus Siddur). How can we say that Shabbos is a source of bracha? And how do we give brachos to our children?
Hashem is the only source of bracha. Shabbos, and we as parents, are a braicha, a conduit of bracha from Hashem. Our role is to keep that braicha, that conduit, freely flowing so that the bracha is fully realized.
The basic meaning of the verse is to encourage people to prepare for the Sabbath in time so that they can enjoy the day when it occurs. (Rabbeinu Bahya, ibid.) You are people who are encouraged to prepare so that they, the children, can enjoy the day of Shabbos.
Rabbi Ackerman, what about me? I would like to have Shabbos for myself. I need some time for my own shavas v’yeenafash, to recharge my nishama.
This parent makes a valid point. So does Rav Nisan Alpert, Z”L.
What does la’asos es haShabbos, to do Shabbos, mean? Isn’t it just about not doing work? The answer is found in the gemara Shabbos 130a.
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Every mitzvah that they accepted upon themselves with joy...they still perform with joy…
Rabi Shimon ben Elazar says... Any mitzvah for which the Jews sacrificed their lives at the time of the decrees of the wicked empire...is still steadfastly observed.
[Rav Alpert writes] we see from here that in order to strengthen and maintain a mitzvah we must always perform it with simcha and self sacrifice. (Limudei Nisan, Ki Sisa, vol.1, page 409)
We have to make sure that Shabbos is joyous for our children even when it requires self-sacrifice.
Hashem gave us Shabbos as a mattanah. Gifts are special, they make us happy and we look forward to receiving them. Make sure your child experiences Shabbos as a gift, a day of happiness to look forward to.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.
He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575.