The Tefilla Shuffle

Davening on Yamim Noraim with small children is always a challenge, to put it mildly. There are many configurations and arrangements one can make to accomodate both parents. Growing up, my large suburban shul always employed non-Jewish babysitters for small children and they had "Junior Congregation" for older kids, although I just remember wandering around with my friends those long hours till I was old enough to get into davening. But babysitting was a lifesaver for parents, since children sitting quietly or davening were welcomed into the "sanctuary" (American shul terms are so funny), but noisy kids running in and out were not (there were actually ushers standing at the doors to keep order).

Here in Israel, such luxury does not exist. When I lived in Jerusalem, my neighbor and I shared a secular babysitter on the Yamim Noraim, which was nice, but I felt funny about employing a Jewish person on the holiest days of the year. Although we still go back to J-m for Rosh Hashana, I don't live near that neighbor anymore, and that babysitter has moved on anyway.

Another arrangement is tag-team davening. This is where one parent goes to a very early (vatikin) minyan and then takes care of the kids while the second parent goes to daven. I did this on Shabbat this year, although usually it's the husband who does this, and the wife goes late. I went to a five am minyan on Shabbat morning and left in the middle of musaf so my husband could make a 9 am minyan. Although I didn't get the entire davening in, I, at least, got some quiet, alone davening time to myself. And the early morning walk through the streets of Jerusalem was truly heavenly, in every sense of the word. The minyan took place in the Ramban shul in Katamon, where they have just finished a room downstairs, but had to leave half of it unfinished since they found Byzantine-era ruins as they were excavating.

The problem with the tag-team is that it's hard for kids to feel like it's chag- I didn't take them to shul at all later in the morning, since there was no shofar blowing. I took them to the park, they played and then we came home. The park was packed and there were many mothers wandering around with machzorim in their hands, trying to keep an eye out for falling kids and davening at the same time. Now that my girls are 4 and 6, I do want them to get used to being in shul, get a sense of what it's about and slowly learn to sit for longer periods of time. You have to start somewhere!

So the next day, I davened Shacharit at home and took the kids in time for shofar blowing and musaf. I wasn't worried about the girls going in and out, since they are pretty well behaved and after some shushing, my little one learned not to run into shul shouting about what she needed. My 15 month old was going to be the problem. He stayed pretty well in my arms for the silent Amidah and enjoyed clapping and singing along for the first part of chazarat h'shatz. But then he got antsy, so I took him out. He wanted to go into his stroller, so I put him in. I tried wheeling him into shul, since there was room, but he wasn't interested anymore. I rocked him back and forth outside, and just as I was about to give up and go home, he fell asleep. A really really sound sleep. Score! I was able to wheel him in next to me and he slept through the entire musaf and shofar blowing. Aside from some small issues with the girls, I was actually able to daven the whole time, which I was really excited about. And the girls stayed in with me for short periods of time.

This shul is a young families shul, so there were lots of kids, and they had a short children's service and some toys and mini mitkanim. I was very pleased with how it worked out.


tesyaa said...

It's great that you made the effort and that you and your kids were all able to benefit. That was one well-timed nap!

Commenter Abbi said...

tesyaa- yes, only with Gds help did it work out as well as it did. I'm sure it was all His doing that E napped when he did!

lillian said...

I love your unique way of expressing your life experiences--which relate to so many young moms. All of us have experienced the issues of caring for our kids on Yom Tov while still being able to 'care" for ourselves spiritually. It is a comfort and joy to read.

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