November 19, 2019

Santa Claus Comes to Kol Nidre

In the lead up to Yom Kippur I was curious how I could teach my preschooler son about the importance and meaning of the holiday. In school he learned about apologizing and how to say ‘I’m sorry.’ At home we talked about how we could be kind to each other and the Earth in the coming year. 

The morning of Erev Yom Kippur arrived and we talked about how Dad was going to fast and how we were going to think about how we were sorry for some of the things we had done wrong this year. I asked my son if he had anything to say sorry for or if he had been a good boy. As soon as the words had left my mouth I instantly thought of Santa Claus.

On Yom Kippur we think about the spiritual scale, the balance of how we have measured up and where we have missed the mark. Or in other words, were we on the naughty or nice list? In many ways the concept of Santa Claus is a much kinder explanation of a morality judge. A jolly old guy who gives gifts based on how good you are vs. The Almighty God who weighs our sins and repentance and decides if we should live or die in the coming year. Not exactly something you can imagine being a theme of a Daniel Tiger episode.

If the point of teaching our kids about teshuvah is to inspire them to be ethical and moral humans, is Yom Kippur too harsh a concept too swallow? In an age of everybody wins and trophies are for participation, how do we explain the severity of Yom Kippur to our children in a way they would want to embrace. 

In the family services we attended they taught the children about how saying ‘sorry’ not only heals the person we have hurt but it also makes us feel better. Being kind is a blessing to others and for ourselves. That felt good to hear, that was something I felt I could continue discussing at home without tripping over my words. In the coming years we’ll have to decide how to tell the full story of Jonah and how to explain the solemnity of Kol Nidre. For now, we’ll begin and end with kindness, and we won’t invite Santa Claus into the synagogue just yet!


Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLifechannel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLife page where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is currently writing a book on Judaism and pregnancy titled ‘Expecting Jewish!’ to be released Winter 2019. She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeoand has an MBA from Georgetown University.