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Q&A: Priorities in Prayer, Part 4

December 1, 2014

Question: I know of plenty of women for whom it means a lot for them to go to prayer with their children. The children may or may not sit for a short while with a prayer book, and eventually start making noise and need to be brought outside by their mother. However, a temporary disruption is inevitable when bringing a child to synagogue. What quantifiable level of inevitable disturbance would ‘forbid’ a parent from bringing a child to synagogue?

Answer: It depends on the part of the prayer. If it is during the reading of the sh’ma, the amida, the reader’s repetition thereof, or during the Torah reading, any  audible disruption that interferes with any congregant’s ability to concentrate is too much. (The same can be said for idle chatter and other disruptions caused by adults.) If a child can be counted on to do that, he should not be brought to the synagogue. I think our own personal experiences bare this out. You can tell when a father has his hands full and when he does not, when he can pray and when he can not, and when others are disturbed and others or not. Because this has to do with the obligations of others, one in doubt should err on the side of caution (“safeq l’humra“).

Question: Is this threshold higher if it means a lot to the woman to go to prayer and bring her children?

Answer: No. Even though it is meritorious that she so desires to pray with the community, the obligations of others still take precedence (“humra ham’via lidei qula”).

Question: When does this come before potential peace between man and wife issues, i.e., where the husband would have to tell his wife- stay home and she’d get upset, or perhaps should the man stay home with the kids and let his wife go to synagogue?

Answer: I would hope that if the couple desired to keep halacha, they would be willing to make the personal sacrifices all devout Jews make. If a man needs to ignore his religious obligations in order to keep his wife happy, they need some real, professional counsel, and not to just discuss this one, small issue via (anti-)social media. If, however, the husband himself can not be trusted to behave himself in the synagogue, or he does not like attending and his wife really does, he should allow her to attend while he tends to the children, and hopefully he will learn to eventually want to go himself. Perhaps he might even become ashamed of the circumstances, and look to switch places with his wife… 


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