Recognizing that Yom Kippur is a long and challenging day, even for the seasoned Jew who spends the month of Elul and the “days of awe” in preparation and that the normative Yom Kippur rituals (i.e. fasting, prayer, personal and communal atonement) are not necessarily engaging or developmentally-appropriate for children or pre-teens, Rabbi Vicki Tuckman z"l began this Yom Kippur ritual with her family years ago to ensure that no matter what stage of life they were in, each member of the family could seek to fulfill the sacred duties of the day.
Here’s how she described it:
After a beautiful morning t’filah at our synagogue, we ended our day not in front of the Aron HaKodesh for N’ilah, but simply the five of us standing in a circle in the woods near our house. With an ode toward the Tashlich ceremony of Rosh HaShanah, we stood by a pond and read parts of the N’ilah liturgy. Even though our prayers told us the “gates of Heaven were closing,” we discussed the importance of keeping our hearts open—open to growth, open to forgiveness, and open to change.
And whether one is six or 60—living in ancient Jerusalem or modern America—this message has remained constant since our ancient words were eternalized in our Torah. As we had read earlier that morning:
“This Instruction… is not too baffling, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, neither is it beyond the sea… No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)