Saturday, July 01, 2006

Women in Shul

A man brought two of his children to shul for Mincha, the older one 2 1/2 or so. The younger one behaved, but the older one did not. I'm all for bringing children to shul, provided they don't misbehave. Having grown up in a neighborhood where I was one of the youngest children (the place no longer has a Jewish community) I appreciate, perhaps more than most, what having small children in shul can do to the atmosphere.

After a couple of minutes of misbehaving, the father took the child outside to the lobby and placed him in his stroller before returning to shul. That's when the child started screaming. Nice set of lungs on the kid too. The wailing didn't stop, and though slightly muted, was easily heard through the thick wooden doors that are the shul entrance.

A short while later (remember, this is mincha, so everything is short) another man in the shul heard the child screaming. He didn't know why. So what did he do? He walked over to the ezras nashim (the shul is set up with the men in front and women in back, the man was sitting in the last row) and said "There's a child screaming outside, I'm not sure why. Could you go over and take a look. I don't know who he belongs to, but maybe you could go look."

First I thought he was speaking to his wife. But he wasn't. All three women put down their siddurim, walked out and checked on the kid. The father, who saw them leaving, followed, and presumably explained the situation, for the women were back in their seats within a minute, the child still yelling.

I wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, he cared enough to get someone to check on the baby. But, he didn't do it himself. He went to the women. Something about that just doesn't sit right with me. After all, they didn't come to shul at mincha to babysit someone else's child. Or to have some strange man ask them to check on a third person's child.