DAYENU, A SONG sung at many Passover Seders, means “it would have been enough.” This joyous tune celebrates the many blessings God bestowed upon the Jewish people during their exodus from Egypt in ancient times.
“Dayenu” underscores an attitude of gratitude. It speaks to the appreciation a person should feel toward each bit of progress and every little thing. Dayenu reflects the Jewish value of Same’ach B’Chelko — being content with what you have.
The Talmud teaches, “Who is rich? Those who are happy with their portion” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). The Jewish value of Same’ach B’Chelko (pronounced Sah-may-akh Bi-khel-ko) is about counting your blessings and feeling satisfied with what you have.
As Jewish Learning Matters of Philadelphia explains on its “Be Content” page, we must strive to feel contentment even in circumstances during which we need or want more. “There is no limit to what we don't have,” Jewish Learning Matters states, “and if that is where we focus, then our lives are inevitably filled with endless dissatisfaction.”
TEACHING CHILDREN TO BE CONTENT
It can be a challenge for parents to impart the value of Same’ach B’Chelko upon young children.
According to renowned 20th century psychologist Jean Piaget, children between the ages of 2 and 7 years are in the preoperational stage of cognitive development. In this stage, their thoughts and communications are egocentric, meaning they are unable to see situations from other perspectives (Piaget, 1951). The self-centeredness children experience during this stage often leads feelings of entitlement and wanting.
Dr. Christine Carter, a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Great Good Science Center, agrees. As she explains in an interview with UC Berkeley writer Yasmin Anwar, “Teaching Kids Gratitude Instead of Entitlement,” parents can teach children to appreciate what they have by simply counting blessings together in a routine way — at each dinnertime, for example. “My kids tell me about their ‘Three Good Things’ that happened during the day,” she says.
In her Huffington advice column, “11 Tips for Instilling True Gratitude in Your Kids” happiness coach Andrea Reiser reminds parents of the old adage “all things in moderation.” She suggests showering children with too much “stuff” dilutes their ability to feel grateful. “[Children] wind up having so much stuff, they don't appreciate each toy or game or device,” she writes, “as they keep setting their sights on what's shinier and newer.”
The feeling of contentment might be a difficult sensation for a child to master, but it is nevertheless possible. With parents’ help, children can learn to express gratitude for the many amazing blessings in their lives.
BOOKS THAT TEACH CONTENTMENT
Parents and families play an essential role in helping to teach children the value of Same’ach B’Chelko. The PJ Library selections listed below incorporate the notions of appreciation and contentment. Reading such books aloud together as a family can help reaffirm lessons taught in the home.
BABY & TODDER
PJ Library selections ideal for children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years.
||Thank You for Me
Author: Rick Recht
Illustrator: Ann Koffsky
In this book, based on Rick Recht’s song “Kobi’s Lullaby,” a child realizes he has a lot to be thankful for — everything from the moon and the sun to his nose and his toes.
Author / Illustrator: Kyra Teis
Babies have so many blessings — so many things for which to say todah (thank you). Parents do, too. All you need to do is stop and notice.
PRESCHOOL & & KINDERGARTEN
PJ Library selections ideal for children between the ages of 3 and 5 years.
||A Big Quiet House
Author: Heather Forest
Illustrator: Susan Greenstein
What should you do when you live in a very small house filled with children — and lots of clutter? In this retelling of a classic Yiddish folktale, one family gets some very odd advice ... that turns out to be exactly right.
||Just Enough and Not Too Much
Author / Illustrator: Kaethe Zemach
Simon is a fiddler who loves a lot of things — and consequently fills his house with a lot of stuff Eventually he realizes that what he has is just enough and not too much.
PJ Library selections ideal for children between the ages of 6 and 8 years.
||Joseph and the Sabbath Fish
Author: Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrator: Martina Peluso
Joseph always welcomes guests to his Sabbath table, while his neighbor Judah scoffs at Joseph’s generosity. Even as his fortunes decline, Joseph’s door remains open. Times change and Judah turns to Joseph for help. A very special fish helps save the day.
||The Tale of Meshka the Kvetch
Author: Carol Chapman
Illustrator: Arnold Lobel
In this folktale, an elderly woman learns important lessons about the power of words, the effects of exaggeration, and the importance of gratitude for life’s blessings.
April 3, 2015