People expect to pray peacefully on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But the shul is overfull and there are distractions. Especially children.
The acceptable level of noise and activity varies according to the community and physical facilities. But one person’s kavanah (concentration during prayer) should not come at the expense of others’. Just because a mother can tune out her children during davening doesn’t mean everyone can.
On Yom Kippur, I mentioned to a friend that her two-year-old had pushed down a child in the aisle. The other child went to his mother to be picked up, without crying, so my friend hadn’t noticed. This happens. But if parents can’t keep an eye on children who wander, the children may be better off at home.
Reports from other communities:
- A dispute over noisy children in Raanana Rambling’s shul led to hurt feelings.
- I heard about mothers in Beit Shemesh (not Ramat Beit Shemesh) who fail to reprimand their children in shul because they are observing a “taanit dibbur” on Yom Kippur. During a taanit dibbur one may not speak except to pray.
- One community’s email discussion on the subject of children in shul pitted old-timers against newcomers. The community hopes to attract young couples, but rigidity about this issue could deter them.
And grant me a moment to kvetch about other annoying things that people do in shul:
My son noticed a family who gave the 5-year-old son snacks to keep him in shul for the davening. After finishing the snack, the child was allowed to go out to play. I don’t believe that kids should eat in shul, especially on Yom Kippur, but I’d be happy for that to be the worst thing to happen.
I don’t understand why a child who just finished seudah hamafseket (the final meal before the fast) needs a bag of Bamba the minute she gets to Kol Nidrei. In this case the child went outside to eat. Was junk food invented as a way to keep kids quiet? (Don’t answer that.)
And one last, cranky complaint: The shul was freezing, so people opened the windows. This wastes electricity and makes the shul even colder, because the air-conditioner must work harder to maintain the pre-set temperature of the thermostat.
So how were things in your shul this year?