Under the Radar Ways to Contribute to Your Shul

From Shua

~ In many shuls hundreds of siddurim are taken from the shelves on Friday night and, despite pleas to the contrary by the gabbai, are not returned. On Shabbos morning arrive early and return some of them.

~ The electricity bill is usually onerous, yet people often leave shul lights on. Shut the lights off when they are unnecessarily on and wasting money.

~ After daily post-Shacharis libations, many people leave their dirty plates and cups for someone else to clean up. Clean them up when you see them.

From Nathan

~ don’t talk unnecessarily

~ arrive early, not late

~ do not bring disruptive young children

~ don’t litter

~ keep the bathroom and your hands clean

12 comments on “Under the Radar Ways to Contribute to Your Shul

  1. According to many authorities, children should not be brought to the synagogue at all.

    I could provide the sources for that claim, but it is not worth the effort because the parents will not listen to me, and they will just hate me for revealing an unwelcome truth.

    This is on addition to the fact that every parent thinks that the rules do not apply to their child, because their child is the most special child ever born.

  2. I take a middle approach to kids in shule. (Full disclosure: for many years, I was the Candy Man. It is the best job to have in the whole shule; you meet a better class of people.)

    We don’t want to make the shule experience a negative one, yet we want to train our kids in the proper decorum. Our shules should be a solemn, quiet, place, yet they should be comfortable, warm, and welcoming. Somewhat competing values.

    If my kid started to get out of hand, even if I was in the middle of Shemona Esrei, I’d scoop him up and take him out. Immediately. I’d explain later what he did wrong when I could talk again. I only required him to sit by me and daven what he could sit though at his age. I would try to send him outside to play before he became disruptive. Our shule had a playground for the kids, with the parents taking turns supervising. The noise and tumult was outside. All the kids knew that, when the rabbi was speaking, I would not give them any candy; they had to wait for the rabbi to finish speaking. If I saw them throw a wrapper on the floor, I admonish them. I would also remind them to not thow the wrappers and the sticks on the floor or on the ground outside. When my son was about eight, and he brought his snakes and salamanders to shule, I went ballistic on him and immediately sent him home. I went back into shule and had a good laugh about it.

    With a little common sense, taking into account what is reasonable to ask of a kid at a certain age, and making some accomodations, kids can have a place in shule and a positive experience at shule.

  3. Another way to contribute to the shul is to train your children to give up their seat in shul to an older person. This past shabbat there was a bar mitzvah and many ladies did not have seats, but kids were sitting in seats. (this excludes handicapped children who need to be seated, of course.)

  4. PLEASE DO NOT bring shtenders to crowded synagogues!!

    Many people do not realize how much space shtenders occupy.

    One year on Yom Kippur, the addition of shtenders made the already overcrowded sanctuary area so overcrowded that I was not able to fit my body into the room, so I was forced to pray Yom Kippur mincha in another room WITHOUT a minyan!!

  5. David,

    The first one is related to the second because people feel by leaving their stuff on empty seats they have claimed the seat throughout eternity (or at least to the end of the retreat.) And then the newcomer who is on time gets to play musical chairs throughout dovening.

  6. Do not put seforim, tallis bags, etc on empty seats in a crowded shul.

    If you come to shul late and someone is in your seat, sit somewhere else.

    If someone new comes to the shul, help him/her find a seat.

  7. Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD:

    Small children sometimes romp around the synagogue.

    “Let them feel at home in the synagogue,” goes the argument.

    But the synagogue is not a home, and it should not be a playground.

    ALL halachic authorities state that children who are too young to be able to sit quietly in shul, should NOT be brought to shul.

    SOURCE: Reading for Shevat 22 (page 142) from Wisdom Each Day by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD, year 2000, Mesorah Publications.

    COMMENT: Notice the word ALL; it means 100%.

  8. From Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD:


    SOURCE: Reading for Shevat 22 (page 142) from Wisdom Each Day by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD, year 2000, Mesorah Publications.

    Rabbi Joey Haber:

    There is nothing more annoying that watching someone else’s rowdy kids.

    SOURCE: CD-ROM # 151 Am I the Judge? from http://www.LearnTorah.com

    Tanna DeBei EliyahuRaba, Chapter 13, Paragraph 8:

    It once happened that one man and his son went to synagogue, and everyone there was answering AMEN and HALLELUYAH after the prayer leader

    But his son answered words of nonsense, and his father said nothing to him. The people told the man to protest to his son, but the man answered them: What can I do? He is a child, he will play.

    The child and his father continued this way the next day and the entire Sukkot holiday.

    Before that year ended, his wife and children and grandson all died, 15 people in that family died. Only two members of that family survived: the first was lame and blind and the second was stupid and wicked.

    NOTE: The Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ketubot, page 106A teaches that everything in Tanna DeBei EliyahuRaba comes from Eliyahu HaNavi [the prophet Elijah].


  9. And if a child makes noise and the parent does NOT bring the child out of shul? I personally did not bring my young children to shul until they were old enough to behave and understand that shul is not a play ground. There are times that you must here every word being read (megillas esther or Parshat Zachor) and I go to shul and wonder if I am yotzei because a child was crying during the laining. The young mothers seem not to care if they were yotzei or not (according to those I asked).

  10. Pinchas,
    Consider this:

    משנה ברורה סימן צח ס”ק ג

    (ג) בניו הקטנים – בשל”ה קורא תגר על המביאים ילדים לבהכ”נ והיינו קטנים שעדיין לא הגיעו לחינוך מטעם כי הילדים משחקים ומרקדים בבהכ”נ ומחללים קדושת בהכ”נ וגם מבלבלים דעת המתפללים ועוד גם כי יזקינו לא יסוקו ממנהגם הרע אשר נתחנכו בילדותם להשתגע ולבזות קדושת בהכ”נ אבל כשהגיעו לחינוך אדרבה יביאנו אתו לבהכ”נ וילמדהו אורחות חיים לישב באימה וביראה ולא יניחנו לזוז ממקומו ויזרזהו לענות אמן וקדיש וקדושה עי”ש בסוף עניני תפילה וקה”ת. ועיין בתנא דבי אליהו ח”א פי”ג גודל העונש שיש להאב שמניח את בנו לענות דברים של הבל ותפלות בבהכ”נ:

    I.e, do not bring disruptive young children to shul

  11. “do not bring disruptive young children”

    Wow. As if shul is no place for kids.

    Sometimes people have kids. Sometimes they feel it is in the child’s best interest to come to shul, though they are young. When the kids make noise, the parent takes the kid out of shul. It’s a part of communal Jewish living. Deal with it or go live alone in the woods somewhere.

  12. in general, arriving early to shul activities and functions (shiurim, hhanuka parties, purim se‘uda, etc.) and offering to help set up, and/or staying afterwards and offering to help clean up, are simple ways to contribute to your community.

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