For the week ending 24 November 2012 / 9 Kislev 5773

Kissing in the Synagogue

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: My son is soon going to have his Bar Mitzvah in our synagogue and will be reading the haftara on Shabbat. I have noticed that some fathers are so overcome with emotion on such occasions that they kiss their sons when they complete the reading. I have heard from others that this is improper behavior in a synagogue. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: Mazal Tov on the upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Enjoy your well-deserved nachat but save the kiss for when you get home.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 98:1 in the Rama) rules that it is forbidden for a man to kiss his young children in the synagogue. The reason given is that a Jew must internalize that no love for a human can compete with his love for G-d.

There are, however, occasions when such a kiss is in order. It is well known that when a child falls and cries one of the most effective ways of soothing him is to give him a parental kiss. Since the purpose of such a kiss is therapeutic rather than an expression of love, it does not constitute a competition for love of G-d and is therefore very much in order.

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