The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, May 13, 2004

What We Do

Recently, I have been attending my shul's hashkama minyan (early Minyan) on Shabbos. The minyan meets at 7:15 a.m. and is usually over before 9:00 a.m. As an early riser I like to go because the minyan is nice but quick and I have the rest of the day to learn, eat and rest. Usually, I am home by 9:15. (Does it get much better than Cocoa Krispies at 9:30 on a Shabbos morning)?

A few weeks ago, I stayed a little later because someone had yahrtzeit and made a little kiddush after davening. Then I got into a discussion with a friend about my planned bike tour in Israel. So, I didn't get home until almost 10 a.m.

On my way home, I passed a few fathers walking their young sons to various shuls none of which started later than 9 a.m.. I also saw a few high school and college age boys going to the teen minyan at one of the local MO shuls. Two of them were brothers, one in a yeshiva high school and one in college. The one in college went to a very fine Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael and currently attends YU. I could see in their faces that the young men were embarrassed to see me because they were almost an hour late to shul.

It struck me then that their father, a wonderful, erliche guy, is notorius for coming very late to shul himself. It got me thinking about how every little thing we do as parents can effect our kids profoundly and, consequently, how careful we must be.

(My point now is not about the merits of coming to shul on time. That is obvious and, perhaps, a discussion for another time.)

What do we expect from kids who see their father come to shul over an hour late virtually every week from the time they are little? What if that same father would never think about being 5 minutes late to a basketball game? How would that effect his kids' perceptions of the relative importance of tefilah and basketball. How do we think kids will feel about the importance of tefilah when they see their parents talk from the minute they get to shul but tell the kids to be quiet during their favorite TV shows? Or when their fathers have tremendous kavanah for a football game but drift lifelessly through davening? What do we think our kids will think about Rabbanim if, at the Shabbos table, they hear their parents denigrate their own rabbanim with sarcasm and contempt? What will kids think about the importance of Shabbos in general if their parents fly through the Friday night meal without z'miros or divrei Torah, the only goal presumably being how quickly they can bench and get to sleep? Will anyone be surprised when a kid whose father smokes starts to smoke himself? What about a kid who sees his father drink to excess at a Shabbos kiddush or seudah? What about a kid who sees his parents transact less than honestly in business or in the market (Do I have to pay sales tax if I pay cash?).

Over the years I have often heard things come out of my kids' mouths that were so obviously originally from me that it gave me the creeps. Conversely, how many times have I heard things from my kids' friends that were clearly coming from their parents?

Obviously, it isn't so simple. Kids, especially teens, are tremendously influenced by many factors, particularly their friends and the popular culture and we have to do the best we can to try to steer them in the right direction. (Ultimately, we have to daven for siatah D'shmaya that they don't fall under the wrong influences.) But if we think that what we do has no impact, think about the yeshivah boys coming an hour late to shul.


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