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.