How to make Torah study a family habit

NEWTON, Mass., Oct. 16 (JTA) – Experts say it takes 21 days to make a habit. Do something – run, write in a journal, make a to-do list – repeatedly and consistently every day for three weeks and that action will become yours.

We are what we repeatedly do, Aristotle taught us. Speak of Torah to your children in your home and on your way, our liturgy directs us, in the morning and at night, and it will become a habit as routine as brushing your teeth.

Making Torah study a family habit is something you can incorporate into your family life. Your “Torah Study Habit” can be as informal as making a point to discuss Jewish topics during car drives, or as formal as setting aside a particular time each week for Torah study.

For young children this can simply mean singing Jewish songs or reading a particularly Jewish story. For older children, but even children as young as 4 you can have discussions around the dinner table one evening a week. (Hint: Make it Friday night and you will have started a Shabbat tradition!)

But what if you don’t know Hebrew, never studied the Bible – or if you did, didn’t like it or forgot about it. Fortunately, today there are many resources for families, and many options for incorporating Torah study into our family life. Here are a few of the several resources for family Torah study on the Internet:

• The Reform Movement’s Web site, www.uahc.org, has two sites that provide information and guidance for Torah study with children. One is “Shabbat Table Talk” which provides home study materials on the weekly Torah portion. The other site is the “Jewish Parent Page” which informs and educates about Jewish holidays and their customs.”

• Torah Aurah, www.torahaura.com, an offbeat Jewish publisher, produces several materials that families can use at home. B’Shivtekha B’veitekha provides information, illustrations and discussion questions on the weekly Torah portion. At $45, it is rather pricey so if you affiliate with a Jewish organization – Jewish community center, synagogue, or day school – you might want to suggest to your Jewish educator that he or she purchase and distribute it. Other less pricey options from this publishing house include My Weekly Sidra, which provides a short activity for the weekly Torah portion. This is suitable for families with children aged 5 7. The cost is $9.95. For older children, I would recommend “Torah Toons II and I.” They will love the comic-book approach to Torah study. The cost is $10.95

While the options listed above involve more formal study, you should not be afraid to do something that suits your needs and interests.

There are many collections of Jewish stories that can become part of your family’s Torah study habit. After all, Torah in the broadest sense, includes not only the five books of Moses, but also all of Jewish literature. More important than the actual content of the learning is the process itself.

When you make a habit of Jewish learning with your children, you send a powerful message: that Jewish learning is fun, important, and a regular part of life.

(Jill Suzanne Jacobs is the Jewish family educator at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton, Mass.)

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