- Question: [Wednesday, 25th Teves 5783]
My wife is out of town and left me our toddler to babysit for a few days. The first day I took him with me to Shul and nothing happened. However, the second day he began crying and screaming in middle of Shemoneh Esrei and ended up disturbing everybody. After I finished my Shemoneh Esrei I took him out of the Shul, and brought him back in when he was quiet. However, one of the congregants told me that is not right that I brought my baby with me to shul, and that it is better that I Daven at home by myself as it is a disturbance to the other people there and I not obligated to Daven with a Minyan since I’m babysitting. Is this correct?
A person who is babysitting is not to leave his children alone at home in order to Daven with a Minyan, and is likewise not to bring his children with him to Shul if they are not of age to be able to sit quietly and not disturb the other people. Hence, one who is babysitting an infant or toddler is not to bring them to Shul, and is rather to Daven alone at home.
Explanation: Although it is a Mitzvah and obligation upon a parent to educate his child to go to Shul and participate in a Minyan and to answer Amen as from the moment that a child answers Amen he has a portion in the world to come, nonetheless, this only applies once they have reached the age of Chinuch. However, children who run around in Shul for fun, [and make noise and] disturb their parents [and others] in their Davening are not to be brought to Shul at all. Bringing such children to Shul, asides for it disturbing the prayers and it being a desecration of the holy place, also educates them to treat a Shul improperly, and makes them continue their ways even when they become older. Accordingly, children who are below the age of Chinuch and are unable to sit still in Shul without disrupting, are not to be brought to Shul at all.
The words of the Shlah:
In today’s times, there are children who come to Shul who cause those who bring them to get punished, as they come to desecrate the holiness of the Shul, and play in it like they play in the streets. One kid laughs with another, another kid hits another, another sings, another cries, another shouts, another runs around and chases a friend. Some children even do their needs in Shul and are required to be cleaned and removed. At times, the father gives his child a Sefer and the child throws it on the floor, or tears it. To summarize, in conclusion these children disturb the worshipers and desecrate the name of Hashem. One who brings such children to Shul should not aspire to receive reward and is rather to worry of the punishment that is befitting him. This is similar to a master who brings his retarded slave with him to speak with the king, and the salve mocks and disturbs the entire conversation. Surely the king will release his wrath not on the imbecile slave, but on the master who brought him along. Furthermore, at times the parent begins playing with the child during his own prayer. The greatest evil of all this is that the child will grow up accustomed to his ill treatment of Davening and a Shul and continue to do so when older. Accordingly, one is not to bring very small children to Shul as he only loses out by doing so.
Sources: See Admur 98:1 “Children who disturb their parents, are not to be brought to Shul at all” and 124:10 “Children who run around in shul for fun it is better not to bring them to Shul at all”; M”A 98:1; Elya Raba 98:2; Shlah p. 256 in name of Derech Chaim; M”B 98:3; Kaf Hachaim 98:13