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Thought for the Day: Standing for ברכו and What Will the Children Think

In my youth, we used to enjoy Art Linkletter interviews with children.  "Kids Say the Darndest Things" was a regular segment on his TV and radio program and also the title of a series of books.  Good, clean fun.  Ah... for those idyllic days when TV was just bitul zman.  As it turns out, kids also ask the darndest questions and model our darndest behaviours.

This stroll down memory lane was motivated by a question by one of the younger vasikin crowd.  (We have a crowd that ranges in age from about five to 70s.  The kids don't run around or even talk during davening because their older brothers, fathers, and zeidys don't talk during nor run out during davening.  We daven; they daven.  Funny how that works.)  One of them asked his zeidy, "I thought we were supposed to stand for ברכו; why do I see some people sitting right after they answer?"  Perfectly reasonable question and deserves a perfectly reasonable answer.

Let's break it down: there are three parts to what we call "ברכו".  First the Shatz/Chazan/prayer leader says: בָּרְכוּ אֶת ה' הַמְּבֹרָךְ/Bless Ye the Lord Who is Blessed.  (Sounds better in ye olde English; no?)  Step two: the congregation answers, בָּרוּךְ ה' הַמְּבֹרָךְ לָעוֹלָם וָעֵד/Blessed be the Lord Who is Blessed forever and ever.  Step 3: the Shatz then repeats after the congregation, בָּרוּךְ ה' הַמְּבֹרָךְ לָעוֹלָם וָעֵד.

Now, if you look in siman 57, called "Rules of [saying] and answering to ברכו", you will find nothing about when or if to stand.  That's because, IMHO, ברכו is in the category of דברים שבקדושה/Holy matters that require a minyan of 10 men to enable their recitation (Hebrew is so compact, no?), and you will find near the beginning of the Rema on 56:1 that one should stand for Kaddish and... drum roll please... any דבר שבקדושה.  So clearly we have an answer, right?  Sort of.  No clear statement, but here's how I read it.  You should stand for the Shatz's call to bless and for your answer.  As far as the Shatz's repetition?  Certainly not required, but probably a good idea.

I say "should", because the Mishna Brura brings that not everyone requires standing for any דבר שבקדושה.  I understand that the same way I understood R' Fuerst when he told us regarding learning during the reader's repetition of shmone esrei that "you can't say it is assur".  As far as during the Shatz's repetition of בָּרוּךְ ה' הַמְּבֹרָךְ לָעוֹלָם וָעֵד; he does that to include himself with the congregation in answering.  That makes it his דבר שבקדושה, but not mine.  Why, therefore, did I say that I still think it's a good idea?  Because the Mishna Brura also brings that one definitely (according to everyone) needs to stand for Kaddish (and, by inference, any other דבר שבקדושה) if is he already standing.  It seems reasonable, then that since one is already standing for ברכו and his response, it's not a bad thing to continue standing until the Shatz finishes his response.  He is trying to be part of the team; let's help the poor guy out.

However -- and this an important however -- the kid who asked the question should certainly be told that anyone who is sitting is not doing anything wrong.  At the same time, though, we would proably like our kids to do at least start out their davening career doing things the best way.  The only way to make that happen (or at least give it a chance of happening) is, of course, for us to model the behaviour we want from our children.

R' Fuerst once say one of his children just running some water over his hands after using the bathroom, instead of using a vessel to wash.  When asked why, the child replied, "Because I saw you do it that way."  R' Fuerst recalled that he had been in a hurry one day and just rinsed his hands -- perfectly permissible, just not best.  He told us that he accepted on himself that day to always wash with a vessel... you never know who's watching, after all.

I'll end with one more "you never know who's watching, after all" story.  A chasid told his rebbi that his two year old son was so cute -- he found him wrapping a ribbon around his arm like t'fillin.  The rebbi replied,  "So that means he's seen his tati miss minyan so often that he has already learned how to wrap t'fillin..."  Yeah... darn kids see and then do the darndest things.


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