It is the time of year we are reminded of the sin that destroyed the Second Temple: sinat chinam, baseless hatred of our fellow Jew. It is during these days that we are asked to focus on achdut (unity), shalom (peace) and v’ahavta l’reicha komocha (loving our neighbor).
We all feel compelled to do something, but we may feel like this is a tall order. The trick is starting small: in our own home. We can work on helping our kids get along.
Here are three simple ways to promote unity, peace and love in your own home:
- Repeat as needed:
When our kids fight, we often resort to yelling: “Stop fighting already!” “Can’t you guys just get along!” The conflict just escalates because we have just entered the fray. It’s best if we stay calm and have some catchy phrases on hand to promote peace. Instead of yelling, try these phrases:
“We can figure out a solution to this problem!”
“Use your words not your hands!”
“Let’s find a way to calm down!”
These phrases invite cooperation and peace. They might not always work, but at the very least they can keep you from joining the argument
- Be Positive:
Oftentimes in our frustration, we say to our squabbling children: “You guys are always fighting!” or “You guys never get along!”
This paints a negative picture of their relationship. If we think about it, they may seem to be constantly at each other’s throats, but every pair of siblings have moments when they do get along. (No, I don’t mean just when they’re sleeping!)
Instead we can be more positive and say:
“I know you guys can get along.”
“I know you can play together nicely.”
“I have seen you share your toys.”
The more we focus on our children’s positive behavior, the more positive behavior we are likely to see.
- Use the Words:
We often hear of the concepts of achdut, shalom and v’ahavta l’reicha komocha in abstract ways, as a way to describe some unattainable character traits. It’s best if we use these words in our home to describe our very normal, human actions.
“You stuck up for your sister when her friend made fun of her, that is achdut.”
“You gave up your computer time because your brother has a report due, that’s v’ahavta l’reicha komocha.”
“You saw your sister was upset and you got her some ice cream, that’s making sure we have shalom bayit.”
This works best with younger kids, and though I get a lot of rolled eyes and smirks from my older kids—I still use it with them as well.
We can learn to combat Sinat Chinam, by starting small, using catchy phrases to promote the peace, being positive and giving real life examples of what it means to act on the precepts of achdut, shalom and and v’ahavta l’reicha komocha. It all starts at home.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.