By Rabbi Mordechai Lipsker / The Beis Medrash
How do you feel about bringing young children to shul?
It is, of course, a broad topic and this essay by no means intends to cover it entirely, rather to offer some perspective based on Torah.
In last week’s parsha Moshe tells the Jewish people about the mitzvah of hakhel. After every shemita year, all Jews-men women and children-would gather in the Beis Hamikdash to hear the Torah being read by the king.
Chazal ask, why bring the children? It makes sense for the adults to come because they will learn Torah, but why the children? Chazal answer that it was in order to reward the parents for bringing them and to reward the children for coming. Tosafos notes that this is the source for bringing children to shul.
But why do we need a source? Isn’t it something we’d naturally do on our own?
We can ask a similar question on the Torah itself. Why is it necessary to specify bringing children? If both parents are going to the Beis Hamikdash, with whom would they leave their children? Of course they must bring them!
But that’s precisely the point. It would be quite natural for parents to bring their children along for lack of a better arrangement, but Hashem wanted them to bring the children for a purpose, and not just because it’s convenient.
Our “source” for bringing children to shul is neither our schedule nor our lack of other childcare options. It’s the fact that Hashem specifically wants us to. And He wants us to because it’s spiritually good for them and spiritually good for us.
When bringing children to shul we should see to it that they get the most out of the experience.