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The Family that Prays Together

Penina Pinchasi

On Shabbos, my daughters and I await our husbands and sons’ homecoming from shul — or I should say shuls, plural. Eight males. Five different minyanim

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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I must determine whether they have just left for shul or went ages ago and will be home soon, or perhaps stayed in shul to learn

W hen I was a child growing up in England, there were posters hanging outside many churches proclaiming: “The family that prays together, stays together.” They had pictures of a mother, father, one son, one daughter, and a dog walking together. (I don’t know what they did with the dog when they got to church.)

I often think of that poster on Leil Shabbos as my daughters and I await our husbands/sons homecoming from shul — or I should say shuls, plural. Eight males. Five different minyanim. Obviously, they never saw those posters.

On Leil Shabbos at least, they more or less leave the house and return at the same time. Shabbos morning’s routine is more complicated. My husband is the founder and gabbai of a 6:30 a.m. minyan. It’s what I rather irreverently call the insomniacs’ minyan. You can be chassidish, litvish, kippah serugah, or Sephardic, but if you’re up at that unearthly hour, there’s somewhere to daven. You either love davening at that time, or you… simply can’t get up.

Frequently, members of our family ask to be wakened for the minyan. When it comes to sons-in-law, if requested, my husband knocks quietly on the door. If there’s no response, he just leaves them alone. But sometimes our grandsons beg him to get them up, and then he tries a bit harder as there are no wives or babies in the same room who might be wakened inadvertently.

One recent Shabbos, our 16-year-old masmid asked to be wakened early and my husband had “promised” him hagba’ah if he got to shul. So early the next morning Zeidy spent several minutes gently and then not-so-gently tickling a body well wrapped up in blankets. Until a little eight-year-old head popped out of the folds and said, “Zeidy, I don’t want to go to shul. It was Binyomin — he’s in the bed underneath.” By then, too much time had been spent on the wrong grandson and my husband had to run off to open up the shul for his minyan.

Teenagers don’t like getting up in the morning — that’s a well-known fact — but what’s perhaps less well known is how long a boy remains a teenager. The obvious logical numerical answer is 19, but that doesn’t take into account their ability to sleep.

I well remember my friend telling me that she had to pull her son out of bed on his bar mitzvah morning, likewise on his aufruf Shabbos. What bothered her more was that she still had to do it on the Shabbos morning of his son’s bris. Thirteen years later, she was still yelling, “Shlomo! If you don’t get up now, you and your son will miss his bar mitzvah.”


Fortunately there are many shuls and minyanim near our home in Jerusalem, each starting at a different time, some with a lot of singing, some with less, some starting much later and lasting much longer, some starting later but with a baal korei who seems to be in training for the leining Olympics.

Now, I’m not great at getting up on Shabbos morning, either. When my kids were young, I used to be a regular shul-goer, but now that I’m on my own in the kitchen on Fridays, often catering for a big crowd, I need Shabbos to recuperate.

My main job on Shabbos morning is working out when we might be having lunch. This involves checking in with my daughters and daughters-in-law as to whether their husbands/sons are still in bed or are back in bed. For those menfolk not in the house, I must determine whether they have just left for shul or went ages ago and will be home soon, or perhaps stayed in shul to learn (what, our house is too noisy? They’re your children…) and need to be picked up when lunch is ready. With a fair number of sons and sons-in-law, and an ever growing number of teenage grandsons, it’s becoming an increasingly complicated business.

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