There is a common misconception that frum people are boring. I’ve seen it often with less religious relatives at weddings, who come prepared for a very serious event with lots of praying and are surprised and delighted to discover that generally there are fewer speeches than at a more secular event and that the dancing is lively, to the point of wildness, and inclusive. A seder guest once remarked to me that there had been concern that our seder would be very frum, but instead it was really fun! Actually our seder is pretty frum, but it’s also a lot of fun.
It’s not hard to see why people think that the two things are mutually exclusive. Looking in from the outside, a religious lifestyle can seem full of constraint and restrictions. However, not only does the Torah provide for many fun and meaningful activities – Shabbos for a start, but there are many other areas of engagement which are compatible with being frum and which are also lots of fun. Whilst I am a bit of a museum geek and enjoy visiting exhibitions, our children are less enthusiastic about them. When we go out as a family, we usually try to go somewhere outdoors as it’s more suitable for a wide age spread of children and everyone can find something they will enjoy doing. (Suggestions for possible outings in another post.)
Thinking about kids, Shabbos and yomtov offer tremendous potential for fun, both in the framework of shul and Shabbos meals, and outside. Without the computer, the children are forced to be creative and when the majority were younger, we often had Shabbos in company with pirates, wedding parties and arctic explorers as the mood (and available props) took them. On a shul front, our shul runs excellent childrens’ programmes, from toddlers up, featuring singing, age-appropriate davenning, games and discussion, and of course, Kiddush and treats.
At the Shabbos table, singing some niggunim/songs without words, rather than only zemiros, enables everyone to participate, while a devar Torah on the sedra can be framed as a discussion, which will engage everyone. Some families go round the table and ask everyone to share something that happened that week – an incident of hashgacha pratis, or something special they saw, etc. The main thing is to capture everyone’s interest and keep it Shabbos appropriate. We had a riotous meal one chol hamoed Pesach featuring practical demonstrations of the amount of wine it is necessary to drink for the Four Cups. (For the uninitiated, it’s a measurement based on how much liquid fits in a person’s mouth…). I’m not sure I would want to do it on Shabbos, but it was certainly memorable, fun and we’ll always remember the halacha!