Rabbi Ross. With Purim around the corner, I wanted to share something with you that might be useful to many parents out there. It used to be that many children would be excluded from getting Shalach Manos. Nowadays, many classes get together at one house at a certain time, and all the boys can exchange bags or even better all bring in one type of snack. It’s easier and more fun. Do you want to share with your readers? Shifra – Flatbush
Absolutely I do, but not for the reason you’re expecting. I don’t think this is a very good idea at all. Let’s discuss the history of this fad. A few years ago, there was a very heavy snowstorm on Purim that made driving dangerous. A few ingenious moms came up with a solution to minimize the driving, and all the boys got together in one location.
It worked out wonderfully for that year, giving rise to the question, “Why not do this every year?” Here are some reasons:
I know that driving our kids on Purim is frustrating, and I’ve also spent hours in the car trying to get to Rebbeim and friends only to find out that they left already. However, many Rebbeim and teachers give times that they’ll be home, and when your child gets to the Rebbe’s or Morah’s house and shows off his or her costume, it’s all worth it.
We need to remember that each one of the Yomim Tovim holds special memories for our children. They remember dipping the apple in the honey on Rosh Hashana, lighting the Menorah on Chanukah, and yes, going to their friends and giving Shalach Manos on Purim. I’ve asked a few boys about the class gatherings over the past years, and they don’t have such great memories of the experience. It’s the whole class together. Nothing original, and nothing memorable. Instead of remembering the excitement of giving shalach manos, they remember having class gatherings to share candy.
I’m sure many parents will disagree with this, and that’s fine. The important thing, is that you make sure your child has an unforgettable Purim for all the right reasons. Take your kids to visit their Rebbeim and teachers and bring them to the Rav. Purim shouldn’t only be about getting candy, it should be about giving to others and the excitement of being a Jew.I would like to add one point to this article. I was at a wedding recently of a Yeshiva Bachur who was in his low-twenties. I was astonished at how many of his friends were at the bar, and I’m quite sure that they weren’t getting diet cokes. Drinking is a very serious issue, and I wonder what the Yeshivos are doing to combat this.
When I was a teenager, I was told by a Rebbe “Alcohol can kill! You need to be careful and limit yourself! That being said, you’re all invited to my house on Purim and there will be plenty of alcohol.” Over that Purim, I drank irresponsibly at so many of the Rebbeim’s houses. Looking back, I can’t believe my parents didn’t call the police.
Now. I might not be a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that allowing someone under 21 to drink alcohol on your property is illegal. Furthermore, alcohol can seriously injure or worse Chav V’Shalom. I wish every Yeshiva instituted a zero-tolerance policy on drinking. Until then, every parent should closely monitor where their children will be on Purim. Additionally, parents should make clear to their children (as well as the Rebbeim) that drinking will not be tolerated. If you’re worried about fulfilling the Mitzvah, I can introduce you to many Rabbonim that will list alternative concepts.
Have a Freilchin Purim!
You mentioned the Kiddush last week, and my wife and I wanted to bring up a similar issue. We have no problem going to the Kiddush as it’s easier on my wife. Less cooking is more down time. Our problem is the way the kids act at these Kiddushim. They push to the front, take before the adults, and in general show no respect for their elders. This has become a huge issue. Is this just a part of the weakening generations, or is there what to do? Avi Tauber – Queens
Before I answer your question, I would like to clarify something to my audience. Baruch Hashem, there are many people reading this column, both online and in various newspapers. I receive many emails every day with either new questions, or comments about previous columns. However, I have recently been receiving questions which require professional guidance, and that is worrisome. If your child is threatening to harm himself or others, has an eating disorder or is having odd mood swings, writing to a columnist or blogger is really not the best approach to take.
Back to your questions. Unfortunately, I am well aware of what you’re describing. Not only do children push to the front, some adults even make excuses for them. Here are a few I’ve heard. “It’s a long Davening they must be starved.” “They’re just kids.” “This isn’t such a big issue in the scheme of things.”
The fact is, this is 100% wrong. It has nothing to do with hunger or the length of Davening. It’s about showing respect to those that are older. The real problem is, who’s enforcing this? The Rav and the Gabboim shouldn’t be going around disciplining random children. Obviously, the responsibility lies on the parents, and that’s where it gets tricky - simply because some parents just don’t care. There are many people that would consider this a battle not worth fighting, and I beg to differ. If children don’t learn respect for others in a Shul, where exactly will they be learning respect?
One Gabbai shared an amazing story with me. “In our Shul, the men always calmly took some food, and the kids waited patiently. One Shabbos, a new member came down with his 3 children. The kids immediately pushed to the front and grabbed the ladle from an astonished adult. This person promptly took back the ladle and said, “In this Shul, we let the adults take first!” The father walked over and told him, “Why don’t you let me discipline my own children?” The other person was about to reply, using the ladle as a weapon, when a few other people got between them.”
I do believe that it is a community’s responsibility to help raise children (or parents, for that matter) that are clueless. Particularly in this instance, it would seem that the Shul should lay down some ground rules. Many shuls already have certain rules. There include not eating until the Rav comes in, not making Kiddush until Davening is completely over, and a few others.
I don’t really have an issue if the child is waiting in line with the adults. In a perfect world, they would wait patiently. I do have an issue with the kids pushing to the front. I also have an issue with justifying childish behavior. Those of you that are OK with this behavior, I have a question for you. At what age does it stop? When they turn fourteen, do we tell them, “Well, now you’re considered older. Time for Derech Eretz. No more pushing to the front.”? Here are my thoughts on this:
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. As long as I can remember, my husband would finish Davening on Shabbos and come home. He never stayed for the Kiddush and explained that my food was better. In the rare event he needed to stay (for a close friend or special occasion), he would have a little herring and crackers, and be home shortly. Our Shabbos meal was fantastic. My boys are getting older, and they now insist on staying for the Kiddush. Nowadays, each Shul needs to have a 5-course meal after Davening, and my boys come home ½ hour later with no appetite. When I tried explaining that I worked hard preparing the meal, they seemed apathetic. Any ideas before this becomes a huge battle? Mimi – Flatbush
I remember going to the Kiddush after Shul as a kid, and you are correct. There was some sponge cake, assorted whiskeys, herring, crackers, and sometimes kichel. It didn’t come close to filling us up, so we ate the full meal when we got home. I would agree that the Kiddush situation has changed dramatically, and I wouldn’t necessarily say for the better. What’s interesting is that your husband does not stay for the Kiddush, but your boys do. Usually, the kids follow their parents’ lead when it comes to Kiddush in Shul.
In any case, I’ll address the question you brought up in the email. First of all, I don’t think this should ever be allowed to escalate into a huge battle. My parenting motto is, choose your battles. Whereas I think that having a family meal is quite important, I’m not sure if Kiddush is where you would draw the line. You seemed to suggest that they come to the meal but have no appetite. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute. So they don’t eat. They’re still participating. And it’s still a family meal.
On the flip side, you’re still the parents. If it really bothers you, I don’t understand why you can’t tell them “no.” I understand that we live in a world where political correctness is the norm, but is it so hard to tell your kids, “no”? I worry for the kids when parents are scared to disagree. I’m not saying to be cruel to them, but you can simply say, “Daddy and I spoke about it and we decided the following. You can go to the Kiddush on Shabbos Mevorchim, but every other Shabbos you must come straight home. We understand that you like to hang out with your friends, but you’ll have to do so after the meal. This isn’t a discussion.”
In the past I’ve explained that although I’m not a psychologist, I enjoy analyzing the emails I receive. When I read yours, something else jumped out at me. You wrote, “When I tried explaining that I worked hard…”, and this seemed off, for two reasons.
Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. My Husband is a wonderful Ba’al Chessed and a Ben Torah. Usually when it comes to Chinuch, I bow to his wisdom, but he and I have been arguing about something that I think is right up your alley. My husband takes our 3 boys to Shul every Shabbos (or Friday night) early, and they always have good seats. Once Davening begins, if someone comes late and doesn’t have a seat, my Husband encourages the kids to give up their seats for the older person. I feel that once Davening begins, they should be staying in their seats. We agreed to ask you. Anonymous – Cedarhurst
A short while ago I had a similar occurrence. When our family went away, I brought my six boys to Shul on Friday Night to a local Minyan. Since it promised to get crowded, I came early and sat near the Chazzan. When Davening began the Shul was already filling up, and a few minutes later it was packed. Someone from the shul “recommended” that my boys sit in a different room to make space in the Shul and I refused. They have as much of a right to Daven as anyone else, and they were on time.
Obviously, there are variables that can change everything. If the person walking in late can’t stand well or needs to be up front to hear better, that’s different. Nonetheless, in most cases, I would agree with you. If your husband and children made the effort to be on time, I don’t think they should be giving up their spots so quickly.
I’m a big believer that it’s better to lead by example. It’s so important to show your children how to act, rather than just telling them. However, we also learn that if one is performing a Mitzvah, he is exempt from doing other ones. Whereas this is not the forum to delve into the meaning of that, my point is fairly obvious. Teaching your children how to Daven is not simple. You need to juggle the actual Davening, while showing them what to say. There might be distractions in the Shul, and it takes a lot of patience.
To ask your children to relocate is just a bad idea. Again, there are circumstances that warrant this, but in most cases I wouldn’t advocate it. If your children are old enough to Daven themselves, and they willingly want to give up their seats, I think that’s fine. If the kids are young enough to sit on your lap without interfering with your own Davening, that’s also fine.
Here are my thoughts on changing seats in Shul:
In either case, whatever you decide to do should be done quietly, without creating a disturbance. It’s certainly not worth getting annoyed over or speaking badly about others. After all, the point of Davening is to get closer to HaShem – not further from your fellow Jews!
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.