After the power drill is put away and all of the pointy parts of the s’chach that is just right for poking your brothers’ eyes out is finally on top of our little booth, Sukkot transforms into one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with my children. In the Moroccan Sephardic tradition, we leave a chair out for Elijah. This special chair is often laden with books for ushpizin. As the younger of my three year old twins still occasionally chews on the furniture, I prefer to leave more child-friendly books within reach (rather than, say, my favorite binding of Psalms I enjoy periodically weeping over). But which books to pile onto our special chair this year?
To me, the value of inclusion is deeply related to the concept of hachnasat orchim (the welcoming of guests). After all, hachnasat orchim, treating each other with empathy and kindness, is the first step into true inclusion. We particularly celebrate these values at Sukkot, as we welcome both real and spiritual guests into the sukkah. In honor of a holiday in which we greet and happily receive others into our dwellings, here are eight non-traditional children’s stories about welcoming others into our hearts. I included several about narwhals; narwhals are so hot right now.
You could read one a night with the ushpizin who come to your sukkah!
Wendell the Narwhal How do we invite in though who want to be included, but don’t know how and feel overwhelmed?
Not Quite Narwhal How many communities do you belong to? How does belonging to a variety of communities enrich our identity?
Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea Sometimes it is hard to make friends with someone from a different background; but these friendships can be some of the most important. (This is set up in semi-graphic novel style and is the beginning of a series about Narwhal and Jelly’s adventures together.)
Something Else Have you ever felt excluded? What does that feel like? How can you use that experience to prevent someone else from feeling the same way?
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed Authority figures setting the standard to create a culture of inclusion
Can I Play Too? Learning how to find a way to play together might take some creativity, but means that everyone can have fun!
Ada Twist, Scientist Sometimes even the people who we love most (and who love us the most) aren’t quite sure how to acknowledge who we are, celebrate our differences, and include us. Inside a family, how can we figure this out?
Winnie the Pooh Written in a time before many of the diagnoses we now use today, Winnie the Pooh’s friend circle as an example of inclusion of individuals with a variety of dispositions and procivities. No matter which story you choose, note how this community of toys consistently and naturally includes one another, without ever asking anyone to “just get over it.”
Do you have any other books you love to use when talking about inclusion? How do you practice including your Sukkot guests?
Rabbi Lauren Ben-Shoshan, M.A.R.E., resides in Palo Alto, California with her lovely husband and their four energetic and very small children.