As the school year starts many little ones will be embarking on their first taste of formal Jewish education, and for many that begins at two years old in a preschool classroom. If your Jewish preschool is anything like ours, I want to warn you that you may find something large and surprising on the Shabbat table your first Friday morning there. A dinosaur.
There’s a very popular Jewish children’s song about a “Dinosaur, knocking at my door […] and he’s come to spend Shabbat with me.” The song is so popular that in my son’s preschool class a stuffed dinosaur toy is literally part of the Shabbat experience. He knocks on the door, he comes in to light the candles and he gets to sit next to a different child each week to eat challah.
At first I found this new custom especially adorable, it was an added element that heightened the excitement and joy around learning to celebrate Shabbat in the classroom. However, as the weeks went by, I began to wonder if this big green dino was doing more harm than good. Does Shabbat really need a dinosaur to make it attractive to the next generation? What would I find in his kindergarten classroom…a Hanukkah bush? Or was I just being a Shabbos grinch?
I decided the test would ultimately be how the Shabbat learning experience in the classroom translated into how things were practiced at home. On Fridays we usually listen to our favorite Shabbat music in the car and at home (Rick Recht, Isaac and Melita etc.) and I made it a point one particular Friday of playing the dinosaur song on repeat just so it was really top of mind. That evening I asked my son to help me gather everything we would need to celebrate Shabbat.
First we went hunting for our kiddush cup (which somehow ends up in a different place each week), next we took out our challah board and cover, and finally we spent about 10 long minutes placing the candles in and out of the candlesticks, because #thisistwo. Afterwards I double checked with him to see if anything was missing. “Max” I said, do we have everything we need for Shabbat now?” “Nope,” he answered… “Dada isn’t home yet.”
Phew, after all the distractions and dinosaurs he somehow had figured out what Shabbat is all about.
Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLife channel 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 NatGeo and has an MBA from Georgetown University.