The double Torah portion of Parashat Matot-Masei covers a variety of interesting topics. Last year we focused on kashering dishes. It was fun. This year I decided the focus would be ir miklat, the city of refuge for someone who unintentionally commits murder. Obviously, this theme is very heavy, but there are some very valuable parts of this concept for children.
"Of course we will never kill someone. But have you ever done something by accident you were upset about?" I asked the girls. I already knew the answer.
"Yes," Cohava whispered. "I didn't mean to drop the glass and break it."
"I know. How did it make you feel?"
"I was sad and scared. Sad that there is no more koala cup. And scared you and Abba would be cross with me."
After validating her feelings and explaining how no one was upset with her, I pointed out that someone who was running to an ir miklat feels the same way (and guilty, but guilt is a discussion for another day).
"You don't need to go to an ir maklat, but do you like to go to a place where you feel safe?"
"I am in bed now, with my fuzzy koala, so I feel safe and good," Cohava confirmed.
When I asked Gabi if she had a safe space, she thought about it and replied, "I feel safe when I am with my family."
"I am glad you understand feeling safe. What can you do when you are upset, feeling sad or scared, and can't get in bed or be with family?"
"Why can't I get in bed with koala?" Cohava asked anxiously.
"Maybe you are in class, at school."
"Oh. I'd ask for the pass and sit in the bathroom until I felt better."
"That is a good way of handling it, Cohava. It is good if you can change where you are to feel better. The bathroom would be your ir miklat."
"If I couldn't leave, I would pretend I did. I would pretend I was in our house, but it would be a different house. It would still be [our address] but it would be pink and near the beach. And if I were scared I would pretend to be there," Gabi shared in a rush. I wonder how often she goes there.
We discussed how things are better when we have some time to relax and think about what went wrong and how we can fix it or do it better next time. Or to think about something altogether different.
Initially my plan with ir miklat was to get a group of kids together and play ir miklat tag. Everyone has to run to the Ir miklat base, before it tags them. Or some variation thereof.
But in the end, I think teaching my girls a method of dealing with anxiety is more valuable. Seeking a physical or imagined safe space is an important life skill.