What does toothpaste have to do with Yom Kippur? A lot, it turns out.
For the last week at Fig Tree, as we traverse the Days of Awe towards the inevitable finale that is Yom Kippur, we've been talking about how apologizing for our unkind words and actions has power- and how it can help us shape who we want to be, in the coming year.
How to do this experientially? How to give it depth and meaning in an hour on a fall Sunday morning, or after-school?
For 2nd to 5th grade Fig Tree kids, the answer could be found in a tube of toothpaste: an empty tube of toothpaste, to be exact.
Let's take a step back. Yom Kippur is a beginning, and it is also a reflection on past actions; in many ways, it can be challenging to convey this complex duality to children. That said, kids of all ages can relate to the concept of making a fresh start. Yom Kippur is an opportunity for kids (and their grownups...) to reflect on past behavior, and atone for their own wrongdoings. This can be very empowering.
Here's where the toothpaste comes in.
After engaging in a brief mindful meditation, Fig Tree kids were invited to squeeze out all of the toothpaste from a travel-sized tube. The toothpaste, they were told, represented unkind words uttered or negative actions taken in the previous year. Students were then challenged to put all of squeezed-out toothpaste back into the tube, using toothpicks. Sounds fun, right?
Trust us, it gets old after about 3 minutes of trying.
In short order, our kids got it. We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. We can’t un-do negative words or deeds. But we can and should take responsibility for our actions, apologize for them, and avoid making those same mistakes in the future.
Yom Kippur enables us to take these steps. Yom Kippur is about acknowledging that we were wrong- in community- and then committing to be our very best selves in the New Year. And that's a heck of a lot harder than getting toothpaste back in the tube- but much more rewarding, in the end.
G'mar chatima tova. May we all be sealed in the book of life for a healthy and joyful 5777.