For the week ending 22 September 2012 / 5 Tishri 5773

Tots in the Synagogue

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I am anxious to train my young son in attending synagogue and participating in the prayer services. Since he is only a tot, however, he is more interested in running around and making noise to the great annoyance of the other worshippers. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: As praiseworthy as are your intentions for providing chinuch training for your child at a very young age, you must bear in mind what is stressed in all halachic works about the negative side of bringing to the synagogue children who disturb the decorum which should prevail in such a holy place.

If you insist on bringing your son to the synagogue then it is your responsibility to keep him at your side throughout the service and to take him home if he gets out of hand. Too many fathers with good intentions see the idea of taking restless little ones to the synagogue as a way of giving their overworked wives a chance to rest. They should be reminded that the synagogue is not a babysitting facility.

A final note on this subject is the observation made by halachic authorities that allowing children to run around in the synagogue is counter-productive to chinuch because it trains them in disrespect for the sanctity of the house of prayer.

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