By Rabbi Yitzie Ross
Q: You mentioned the topic of the shul kiddush in last week’s column, and my wife and I have a related question. We have no problem going to the kiddush, as it’s easier on my wife; less cooking is more downtime. Our problem is with the way the kids act at the kiddush. 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?
A: 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.”
This is 100% wrong. It has nothing to do with hunger or the length of davening. It’s about showing respect to those who are older. The real problem is, who’s enforcing this? The rav and the gabbaim shouldn’t be going around disciplining random children. The responsibility lies with the parents. That’s where it gets tricky, simply because some parents just don’t care. There are many people who would consider this a battle not worth fighting, but 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 three 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) who are clueless. Particularly in this instance, it would seem that the shul should lay down some ground rules. Many shuls already have certain rules. These include not eating until the rav comes in, not making Kiddush until davening is officially 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 who are OK with this behavior, I have a question for you. At what age does it stop? When they turn 14, 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:
- Children who are old enough to daven in shul should be in shul until davening is completely over (as opposed to eating at the kiddush during Anim Zemiros).
- Children who didn’t daven should wait until those who davened have taken food.
- No child should be pushing to the front.
- Adults who have taken food already should not hang around and schmooze by the kugel. I always felt that was odd and inconsiderate. Get out of the way, and let other people partake.
I would like to end off with one thought. While I do agree with Avi regarding this matter, I don’t think this is a huge issue in Klal Yisrael. If going to the kiddush aggravates you that much, it might be better to just eat at home. Unfortunately, given human nature and how difficult it is to change a single middah, I doubt that this column, or even a derashah from the rav, will alter people’s habits at the kiddush. I can only hope that at least it’s food for thought!
Please note: I would like to clarify something to my audience. Baruch Hashem, there are many people reading this column, both online and in print. I receive many e-mails every day with new questions or comments about previous columns. However, I have recently been receiving questions that 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. ¢
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.