Once again, we turn our attention to the great treasure of Shabbos. We will continue to emphasize the need to preserve a spirit of contentment with an absence of pressure and rush during this special day and, in order to identify useful and readily attainable activities, I am continuing with these thoughts and listings of some more “dos” and “don’ts” that I hope you, my dear readership, will find of great practical benefit.
- At the end of the meal, a great habit to get into is to bentch out loud with the entire family. First of all, any time you do anything with the whole family, you’ve already hit a home run. Secondly, it will get them accustomed to saying every word of bentching clearly. Never underestimate the power of a proper bentching. The Mishna Berurah says that whoever bentches with proper concentration will merit a dignified and comfortable livelihood. Thirdly, bentching this way is a precious legacy to give to your children for it is very likely that they will bring into their homes the same custom.
- After the Friday night meal, resist the temptation to immediately collapse into bed. Especially when the children are young, create an activity night where the family does a variety of enjoyable and educational things together. The children will remember this special time all of their lives. Be imaginative, thinking of different things to do with them. Have the children give their input as well, thinking throughout the week of things they would like to do together with you.
- Upon arising Shabbos morning, do not sit down to a festive repast. Remember the pasuk says “Lo sochlu al hadam,” which the Gemara interprets to mean, “Lo sochlu kodem she’hispallelu al iskei dimchem – Do not eat before you pray for your own life.’ Part of the mitzvah of going to shul on Shabbos morning is that we skip breakfast on our day off and put Hashem first in prayer, hearing the Torah before we eat. A coffee or other drink so that we can daven properly is very much in order. However, it is certainly not the time to sit down to an array of bobka and cinnamon buns.
- Try to come to shul even a few minutes early. It’s a great habit to teach the children. Dispel the notion that since we’re in shul for such a long time, we may as well come late. In the same vein, don’t take off your tallis to fold it away until the very last kaddish is finished. You want to be careful not to give the children the wrong idea, namely, that davening is a burden that you want to get rid of as soon as possible. For the same reason, you should try not to complain if the davening finishes late. Even if you are frustrated, by complaining about it, you send out the signal that the time spent in shul is tedious and wearisome.
- Similarly, when you come to shul, don’t hang out in the hall. If you paid money to go to a concert or a sports event, you would not idle the time away outside in the hallway. When you come to the House of G-d, surely it should be no different. Be especially vigilant not to walk out when the Sefer Torah is opened during the Torah reading. The Gemara says in Masechtas Berachos that for such behavior the pasuk warns us, “Ozvei Hashem yichlu – Those who forsake Hashem will be destroyed.” This is because Kudsha Brich Hu v’Oraysa chad Hu – Hashem and the Torah is One,” so if you walk out on the Torah, it is like you are forsaking Hashem.
- It is for this reason that the very bad habit of the ‘kiddush club’ should be mightily discouraged. Besides the serious problem of alcohol parties, leaving the shul to indulge in a bottle of Blue Label or single malt scotch is very disrespectful to Hashem.
- If the ‘kiddush club’ takes place during the Rabbi’s sermon, stop for a moment and think what type of a message you are displaying to your children and others about respect for a rabbi and the Torah. For the same reason, you should never learn from a sefer while a rabbi is speaking. Such learning is generated by the yeitzer hara, the evil inclination, and is to be compared to learning illegally in the bathroom or on Tisha b’Av. It is no wonder that we see children text messaging or listening to their iPods during class, since they’ve witnessed disrespectful behavior during shul.
- Included in such disrespectful behavior is talking during the davening or the Torah reading. We must constantly remind ourselves that the Shulchan Aruch states that such a practice is categorically forbidden. It further says about people who talk in shul, “Gadol avono mn’so – His sin is too heavy to bear.” If you find that the people around you are engaging you in conversation, switch your seat to a more quite area in the shul.
In the merit of continuously working on every aspect of Shabbos, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
(To be continued)