Dear Emuna,

My husband and I are invited to the anniversary party of a couple my husband does business with. He really wants me to go with him but not only don’t I know them at all, it’s in the middle of a very busy weekend for me with a big work project due on the following Monday. I’m trying to convince my husband to let me stay home but he insists that I accompany him and says they’ll be insulted if I don’t show up. I find that hard to believe since they don’t even know what I look like! What do you think I should do?

Whose work comes first?

Dear Whose Work Comes First?

I appreciate that you presented your case in such a calm and reasoned fashion. The only hint I have that you’re not as calm and cool as you appear is the way you sign your letter. This suggests that you feel resentful of your husband’s demand on your time and that it’s a little bit of a competition between the two or you or that you believe he doesn’t fully appreciate you. I don’t think the question here is whose job is more important but whether your marriage takes precedence over your work. At least perhaps that’s the question.

You don’t explain your husband’s motivation for requesting your company. Does he feel it’s a business commitment and it’s necessary to have you there for business reasons or does he want you because he doesn’t want to go out without you? Certainly if it’s the latter, then that in general takes precedence over your business commitments – unless it would truly be impossible for you to get your project done otherwise. If it’s solely for business purposes, then it’s a little more complicated. Even then, it’s always better to choose the option that is supportive of your husband (your are in this together and what benefit him benefits you) unless, as stated above, you really need the time for your work (which also benefits the two of you). The most important thing of all is to have the conversation in a loving and respectful manner which demonstrates good will and a desire on the part of each of you to please the other.

Dear Emuna,

I had a confusing experience at shul this year. There are a lot of young families where I go and there are a lot of young children running around. Many of them are adorable and it’s wonderful to see that the younger generation cares about synagogue, but they don’t seem to discipline their kids. They make a lot of noise, run in and out of the synagogue and disrupt my concentration. Am I just a grumpy old man or should I say something to the Rabbi?

Unable to Focus

Dear Unable to Focus,

Concentrating in synagogue is hard enough without the additional distraction of rambunctious children. I think you are in the right here. I’m sure the kids are cute but they don’t belong in the synagogue and it is not a good education for them to think that the synagogue is a playground and treat it so. They need to learn to behave in a respectful manner towards the shul and the adults praying in it.

Many synagogues have child care programs these days where the children can be taught and entertained while their parents attend services. This is the first thing I would suggest to your Rabbi. It seems like a solution that would keep everyone happy. If, for some reason, this is not possible, then I think it would be appropriate for your Rabbi to give a talk that may frustrate some people but nevertheless needs to be said. “Since there is no child care and the children are too young to sit quietly, they should not be brought to shul.”

Obviously it’s not this statement that’s problematic but the underlying implication. Someone (usually the mother) has to stay home to watch the children. Some parents chafe against this restriction. But it’s just part of the responsibility we accepted when we undertook to have children. It’s part of the price we are willing to pay. No one would think of bringing young children to a movie theater and letting them run around talking during the movie and disturbing the other patrons. Shouldn’t we treat a synagogue and praying to God with at least the same courtesy?