In the past few weeks, and especially in the past few days, many of us have been biting our nails over our campaign for a new building. Part of this process was for everyone to think about and appreciate the purpose of a shul. The shul is a place where people come together to pray. It is not a social hall, but yet it is where we connect with our peers, forming a minyan, and moving forward together in our service of Hashem. This comradery comes with a tantalizing need to just talk or say a few words, which we know is out of place in a shul.
People love to come to shul because they really want to grow in their spirituality. However, many are straddled with an obligation to take care of their young children. Whether it be women or men with smaller children who do not have the ability to sit still for an entire prayer service, there is a question: “Leave them at home, or bring them to shul to be inspired (Even though this may cause the father himself a lesser level of kavana, being that he has to look after his son.)?”
I have heard that the German community has the custom that a child who does not have the ability to keep his body clean in shul is not permitted inside. After the point that bodily functions are of no concern, he is awarded with tzitzis and a seat in the shul next to his father. These young children were able to sit next to their father quietly, until the end of the service. I often thought about this: How are these parents successful in having such orderly children?
In this week’s parsha, there is a discussion between Pharaoh and Moshe as to who should go to the desert to serve Hashem. Moshe says that he is taking all the children with him. Pharaoh counters “Going to pray should be an adult-only affair!”. The Zayis Raanan explains that Pharaoh explained “the little children will take away your ability to concentrate and serve G-d properly, for you will have to babysit. Moshe Rabbeinu countered “the positive experience and excitement will affect our children and children’s children, and the price of distraction is worth paying.”
The German Jews are able to set a fine example, for they themselves stayed put throughout the entire prayer service without fidgeting or rummaging around for something to do. It seems to me that this awesome stature makes an impression on their young, and they too have proper reverence for their shul – a mikdash me’at.
At this time, as we move forward in life and have thought and rethought about the coveted place that a shul fits into our lives, it is proper that we reaffirm our stance and position to not disgrace this holy place, to arrive on time, and to remain quiet throughout, giving a proper example for our future generations and ourselves as well. Bringing our children to shul is a privilege for those who are teaching their children how to behave in a mikdash me’at.