I am one of these people who enjoys being in shul (synagogue) on Rosh Hashanah. I enjoy the davening (praying). I like the melodies, I like the liturgy, I like seeing people I have not seen there in a long time (probably since last year around this time).
It was such a thrill for me to go to shul with my son, whose age has not yet reached double digits. People turn around and look at him, the listen to him daven and hear him sing the melodies. It is not uncommon for people to ask him if he is enrolled in the local yeshiva (he is not. He’s good, but not at that level. Still Judaism means a lot to him).
On the first day of the holiday, we got there towards the end of Torah reading. It is a long day and while I would enjoy being there for longer, he will not hold up. Still, from the point we got there, he only briefly stepped out once to use the restroom. He stayed in for the sermon and all the appeals, and of course, all the davening. It is a Conservative Synagogue we attend and the Hazzan, the cantor (who leads the singing of the prayers) mixes in traditional Rosh Hashanah melodies with some of his regular Shabbat (Sabbath) morning tunes. There is my son, following along. There are the other congregants sitting around us, looking at him admiringly.
It is a good feel in general, but for me, it is also vindication. I have been bringing my son to services pretty much every Saturday morning (and holiday morning) since he was about one month old. He would, at times run around the shul. He would, at times (when he was younger), make baby noises. He could even at times be disruptive and that was when I would take him out (but simply because he is making happy sounds, or talking quietly to other people, I would let him stay. After all, many adults can do similar things).
While congregants always admired the fact that he was pretty much a regular on Shabbat morning, some also resented him. It was a change from the old guard who insisted on absolute quiet in the shul. Even as that started to change (and really did significantly change from before I lived in the area and before my son was born). People did not always like the fact that a child was making noise.
I still remember one time when the Hazzan was on vacation and one of the lay members of the congregation was leading services. My son was playing quietly with a friend of his, same age, in the back of the synagogue. Word was sent back to me and the parent of my son’s playmate, that since he wanted to be able to concentrate on leading the service, we were to take them out. I was not happy.
Now, I see that my insistence about bringing him has paid off. There were times I wondered if I should continue or if he actually got anything out of it because often times he was being noisy and we were out for most of the service.
Obviously, this has paid off. Of course, the child(ren) need to see Judaism practiced in the home as well; it has to be reinforced. Still, I am thrilled with the way this all turned out and it is quite a change from High Holidays gone by. I remember the first such service he was at. He cooed at one point and the people in front of my wife, my son and me, turned around and asked if he was going to be doing that the whole service?
Well, it is important to start teaching, and even programming at an early age. Doing that leads to the feelings of joy and nachus I experienced earlier this week.
To one and all, Shanah Tovah (A good year) and a G’mar Hatima Tovah (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year).