Ask The Rabbi

Hard Work On Shabbat

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Topic: Children, Entertaining on Shabbos

Email@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Our family has a kid-related problem every Shabbat. It starts out great with family activities together and with my husband and I taking turns with the kids, aged 9 and 3. But I suffer from a painful chronic illness that requires rest. By about 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoon I am exhausted and need about 3 to 4 hours sleep. My husband finds it difficult to keep the kids occupied for this amount of time with acceptable Shabbat activities such as books, blocks, and playing in the yard or going for walks. At most, this amuses the kids for an hour or two. There are no other Shabbat observant families nearby and we cannot afford a baby-sitter. Do you have any ideas to help us with shalom bayit (household tranquillity) under these circumstances? My husband suggested that we turn on a small TV in an out-of-the-way spot before Shabbat and that we let the kids watch without changing the channel during the time that is difficult for him. But somehow this doesn't strike me as kosher.

Dear Email@Withheld,

I sympathize with you in what sounds like a difficult situation. And I agree that letting your children watch TV on Shabbat is "not kosher," as you wrote. The analogy may sound harsh but if your children were a little hungry you wouldn't feed them non-kosher food. Shabbat is soul "food" and shouldn't tainted, even if your kids are a little bored.

But what to do? As a parent, my experience is that children don't need to be entertained every moment of the day. Perhaps your husband is spending too much energy in trying to keep your children entertained. I think they would entertain themselves if he also had a rest. I realize that your children's ages are too disparate to allow them to really play together, but, nevertheless, children have a tremendous talent to adapt themselves to different situations.

Try to think creative solutions. Offer your nine-year old a special prize or privilege for "baby-sitting" the three-year old for an hour or so. Keep favorite toys and books separate and make them available on Shabbat afternoon when you want to nap.

May Hashem grant you a complete recovery, and may your children be a source of constant joy to you and to all the Jewish People.

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