Sunday, February 03, 2008

Abolish The Candyman!

Note: Of course, not halacha lemaaseh. See note on the bottom.

My brother sent me the following email, from a neighborhood yahoo group list. Since I am criticizing it, I will edit out all identifying information, which I will restore upon request of those involved. Here is the email my brother forwarded to me:
] I am looking to contact shul candy men.
] I have an offer for them to save them money
] on lollipops.

Dear [Redacted 1], {Update: See comments. This is the person associated with KosherGourmetMart.}

I do not understand the synagogue candy man.

So far as I know, he is never mentioned
by any Jewish holy book.

Great Rabbis prohibited bringing young
children to the synagogue, including:

{1} Sefer Tanna DeBei Eliyahu
(from Eliyahu HaNavi, according to Ketubot 106A)
{2} Maharil
{3} Rabbi Isaiah ben Avraham Halevi Horowitz
{4} Magen Avraham
{5} Mishnah Berurah (Chafetz Chaim)
{6} Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD said:

"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.

The prohibition against bringing young
children to the synagogue is clear, but
we look for heterim (permission) because
we love our children more than we love G_d,
and we look for kulot (leniencies) because
our loyalty to our children is greater than
our loyalty to the Torah.

This past Rosh HaShanah, I personally
witnessed a synagogue mechitzah being
torn down by young children during prayers.

Need I say more?

Sincerely,
[Redacted 2]

Oy.

It is easy to assemble a bunch of sources against some practice, especially since they cite each other down the line. It would, however, be nice to provide people with explicit sources, such as where to find these rulings. Where does it say this in Tanna deVei Eliyahu? Can I look this up and see whether this is an accurate characterization of what it says there? Where does it say this in Mishnah Berurah? People might want to look it up for themselves. This article in Ten Daat gives better attribution, and actually cites some of the words.

What is the level of this prohibition? And are there any mitigating sources? For example, other halachot which talk about how one should not kiss his banim ketanim in shul, assuming the presence of young children? Other halachot which talk about the positive practice of infants kissing the sefer Torah? There are such, but I am not going to source them here.

It is a widespread Jewish practice nowadays, and appears to have been through the ages -- which necessitated these condemnations. (And in many places for years it was practiced without condemnation.) But Minhag Yisrael Torah, except where it comes to leniencies. I will not attempt to justify the practice here -- though I probably could do so if I wanted to waste the effort. (E.g. shul decorum has different definitions and different precedence in different communities, to try to optimize different things, and there is a mimetic tradition of sorts.)

But assume that it is an absolute prohibition for young children who will be running around to be brought to a shul. And so of course (of course!) there should be no candymen in shul. But given that they exist as part of widespread synagogue practice, and [Redacted 1] will in no way be able to stop them from doing this, what harm is there is [Redacted 1] making a bit of parnassa and giving fellow Jews a good deal on lollipops?

Take this a step further back. Still assume that "it is an absolute prohibition for young children who will be running around to be brought to a shul." But given that there will be these young children there, as a matter of widespread practice, what is the problem of having a candyman present?

Indeed, a candyman can help foster synagogue decorum. Sit through Shema and say the words, and afterwards the candyman will give you a lollipop. Or better -- the kid is chewing on his Laffy Taffy and is not yollering! There is no reason to blast the candyman. With his presence, perhaps there is no longer such a problem with young children in shul.

Indeed, when I was young, a certain fellow in Kew Gardens Hills would have a program in Rabbi Oelbaum's shul, and which children would all gather round during kaddish, and they would say Amen and Yehei Shmei Rabba with all their strength. And he would reward them with bags of candy. A similar thing takes place in Rabbi Freidman's shul, nowadays. In Rabbi Shapiro's shul, apparently, when the kid politely comes up at a specific point in davening to say "Good Shabbos" to the Rabbi, he gives them a candy. Perhaps in some shuls they have youth groups, so they are not romping around the shul, but come in for short periods to do a bit of davening, and while there the candyman gives them a candy. Who says that the presence of a candyman must indicate the presence of misbehaving children?

Also, only Hashem knows the inner thoughts of man. To allege that
"The prohibition against bringing young children to the synagogue is clear, but we look for heterim (permission) because we love our children more than we love G_d, and we look for kulot (leniencies) because our loyalty to our children is greater than our loyalty to the Torah."
is being motzi laaz on one's fellow Jews. Again assuming the prohibition is clear, it is a sociological issue, and people do it because that is how it is done. Do they know this prohibition? Are they convinced of it? Are you a mind and heart-reader, to know that they do this "because we love our children more than we love G_d?" Perhaps they do it because they think that it is a good thing for a child to be in shul, so that the child will absorb the words of prayer and Torah. Perhaps they do not see anything wrong with it, and are giving the child's mother a break. All sorts of alternative answers are possible, rather than that "our loyalty to our children is greater than our loyalty to the Torah." That over-the-top rhetoric also will make people shrug off your words.

At any rate, here is the relevant quote from Tanna deVei Eliyahu {it is perek 14 (13) in Eliyahu Rabba.}
"There was an incident with a certain person, where he and his son were standing in the synagogue. And all the congregants were answering after the shliach tzibbur "Halleluyah." And his son answered words of silliness. They said to him, "See, your son is answering words of silliness." He said to them, "What shall I do? -- he is a child! Let him play." Again the next day he did in like manner, and all the congregants answered after the shliach tzibbur "Halleluyah,"and he [=the son] answered words of silliness. They said to him, "See, your son is answering words of silliness." He said to them, "What shall I do? -- he is a child! Let him play." All those 8 days of Succot his son answered words of silliness, and he did not say anything to him.
They said: That year, the next year, the third year did not pass, until that man died, and his wife died, and his son died, and his son's son died, and 15 souls passed out of his household, and the only ones left to him were one pair of sons -- one lame and blind, and the other one a fool and wicked man."
Now, is this source a source that shows that "Great Rabbis prohibited bringing young
children to the synagogue, including: {1} Sefer Tanna DeBei Eliyahu?"

It seems to me that the issue here was not the bringing the child to shul, but rather that the father did not talk to him to tell him not to say these divrei tiflus. With the implication specifically that the child was old enough to know better and behave, and after being spoken to would behave. And was the problem divrei tiflus in general, or was it specifically answering divrei tiflus to that which everyone else was answering "Halleluya," which perhaps had an aspect of blasphemous conduct to it? Indeed, I would suggest that it may have been mocking mangling of the words, as we find in Shir haShirim Rabba as a derash on vediglo alay ahava as:
תינוק שקורא לְמשֶׁה מַשֶׁה, לְאַהֲרן אַהֲרַן, לְעֶפְרן עֶפְרַן.
אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: "וליגלוגו עלי אהבה"
Unless we take oneh as simply speaking, and so the child was talking through that portion. That is not necessarily the same as running in the aisles. (Though see how Mishnah Berurah takes it, applying it to fathers not allowing children to prattle in foolishness in shul.) Which is why it is nice to see the sources inside, and exactly what they say, and exactly what is a leap in the characterization. The others are more on target, but there still is what to say about them, and how to carefully apply them or not apply them to specific situations.

This story obviously did not occur Eliyahu's time, since it speaks of shuls, but rather in Rav Anan's time (perhaps when Eliyahu appeared to him), or later.

Assuming we don't date this to 10th century, but rather assume it is the same as mentioned in Talmud, and the story as well, then it was taught to Rav Anan, a 3rd century Amora, by Eliyahu haNavi. Whether this is then entirely to be considered direct from Eliyahu, or to be akin to how we might regard Ramchal getting taught kabbalah from a maggid, and Rav Yosef Karo being taught from a maggid who was the essence of the Mishnah, is another story. Regardless, this is not really a halachic source, though it is perhaps something to keep in mind. And we do not really see this punishment of decimation of entire families happening in our days, though the shul candyman is a widespread phenomenon.

I'll admit -- quite possibly this is my failing -- that I side more with the father in this story than the congregants. And I do not believe that the story, with this over-the-top punishment of decimation of the wife, grandson, and many other members of the family, is historical. Or if it is historical, that there was cause and effect in play here.

Finally, in response to "So far as I know, he is never mentioned by any Jewish holy book." I do not know of any Jewish holy book that mentions specifically a synagogue candy man. But first off, do Jewish holy books mention the shul President or treasurer? Certain positions evolve. Besides, if you want a partial basis, see Pesachim 109a: אמרו עליו על רבי עקיבא שהיה מחלק קליות ואגוזין לתינוקות בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו. This is not in shul, but it is distributing candies to children to excite them and make them more involved in a mitzvah. By extension, by giving them sweets in shul, one excites them about going to this place of mitzvah.

Note: I do not intend this halacha lemaaseh, and there is a lot involved, including what halachic works have to say, including accepted synagogue practice and accommodations for children of various ages, including personal situation, and including the particular behavior of the children. Which is why it is good to consult your local Orthodox rabbi, as well as learn through the various sources inside.

9 comments:

Leora said...

Oh. I thought this was going to be an "anti-sugar to children" post. Disappointing.

Some children behave better in shul than some adults. Can we abolish those adults? ;-)

hubscubs said...

http://hubscubs.blogspot.com/2007/12/beit-knesset-tefillat-hadereh.html

Miky Schreiber said...

Great post. My uncle always said that bringing yound children is good. After the holocaust (Sho'a) he didn't see any children in the synagogue...
Indeed, we all need to read and learn the sources ourselves before we take any fast conclusions.
About the thing with pessach: Pessach is different because the reason of the sedder is the transfer of the jewish belief to the children and therefore they are the stars of the evening, so this is not a good example.

Grump said...

How about abolishing the increasingly out-of-control throwing of candy at BM boys, Chatanim etc??

I noticed that our Rav now retreats to his off-bimah 'sanctum' during these displays.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>"is not yollering"

Now that is a great (unintended?) neologism!

joshwaxman said...

"yollering"

interesting point. I am not sure whether to call it unintended or intended. I was operating under the assumption is was an English word, and have been using it for the past few years. But my wife agrees it is not, and Oxford English Dictionary does not have it listed as an English word.

But Webster's does have it, as a Scottish word: "angrily or incoherently, bawl, excitedly, shout, speak loudly."

In my mind, it is a combination of yell and holler, as well as being akin to what you might expect certain people to say: "Stop your yammering." Yollering seems like yammering, but louder and more excitedly.

koshergourmet said...

I am the person who posted the original comment. I have an online food business (www.koshergourmetmart.com) and am looking to help out people who are the candy men by selling them pops and drops at low prices. I am suprised that there is a whole discussion based on my post.

joshwaxman said...

I'll include a link to your website above, if you wish.

Kol Tuv,
Josh

koshergourmet said...

here is a great post about candymen
http://www.torahlearningcenter.com/html/karsh20.html by Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh

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