Who Can Make the Sun Shine? – The Candy Man Can!

No, we’re not taking about Willy Wonka, where the song originated, or Sammy Davis Jr., who made it popular (don’t you just love the power of wikipedia), we’re taking about the man in Shul who makes the kids smile with a piece of candy or three on Shabbos.

Could there be possibly be politics with the candy man? Of course! Now remember our definition of politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. And in the case of distributing candy to children there are actually some real issues.

A story will illustrate. When our Shul moved into a new building the members were putting in their requests for seats. The candy man wanted to sit near the Aron, but the Baalei Tefillah felt that having the kids come up front during davening was disturbing. The candy man agree to change his policy and only distribute candy after davening. Soon thereafter somebody further back in the Shul distributed small portions during davening. The candy man did not mind and was happy with his after-davening slot.

Besides the distribution issue, some parents are not crazy about their kids eating too much candy on Shabbos because it makes some kids wired. However it’s hard to put controls on the candy man if the Shul is ok with the distribution.

All in all the candy man is a good thing. It sweetens the Shul going process for the younger kids who remember the experience for a lifetime.

12 thoughts on “Who Can Make the Sun Shine? – The Candy Man Can!”

  1. And certainly in this case where it’s all done with coordination. Less likely to get a candy man sneaking extra treats to deprived children, and more likely to keep to some requested guidelines if parents make them nicely (though “apples only” would be asking too much…)

    Parents who want to avoid any candy for their kids also set up a trading system where they “buy” accumulated candy in exchange for something healthier and a little more desirable in the kids’ eyes.

  2. Melanie, the healthy snack battle can be difficult. When our first kids were young we tried it, but didn’t have the strength to keep it going.

    I’ll try to remember to ask our candy man how he deals with special requests from parents.

  3. How does your congregation deal with the issue of the children potentially eating the candy inside the shul itself (not the lobby or hallway): prohibit or allow (in either case on what theory) and if you prohibit, how is it publicized and/or enforced?

    1. The permission of eating in Shul is dependent on whether the Shul was built with Kedushas Beis HaKanesses. Because of the many problems of maintaining that high level of Kedusha our shul was built without it, which permits eating in the Shul.

      1. Imagine highlighting this non-Kodesh status with a plaque, so people know kids have a heter to eat inside!

        1. Bob, you should know that some people are bothered by the non-kodesh status. They want to build a Kadesh Shul, not just a building.

          However my Rav consulted one of the biggest poskim in the US and he advised against it. Not just for the eating, but also if you fell asleep or perhaps if you were joking around, it would have a different halachic effect if it was a makom kodesh.

  4. I see my job as candyman as two-fold:

    1- A child brought to shul should grow up to an adult with subconscious positive associations and nostalgia about going to shul.

    2- Fathers who bring their children to shul (whether because they believe in creating that nostalgia or because they’re henpecked <grin>) need to be able to daven. Being candyman means using positive reinforcement to maximize discipline in shul. (“If you can stop running down the aisle and sit down for a moment / play with your friend in the lobby, I’ll give you a lolly!”)

    I stick to lollypops. It means that someone has to clean up the sticks — and that “someone” is more often me than their fathers. (Or so it seems to me.) But lollies have much less potential for mess than candies that lack that extra piece making them easier to find. They don’t glue themselves to the floor like raisins, melt like chocolate, etc…


  5. I do not understand the synagogue “candy man”.

    He is never mentioned by any Jewish Torah book.

    Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD said:
    ;Small children sometimes romp around the synagogue.
    “Let them feel at home in the synagogue,” goes the argument.
    But the synagogue is not a home, and it should not be a playground.

    *** ALL *** halachic authorities state that children
    who are too young to be able to sit quietly in shul,
    should *** NOT *** be brought to shul. >>

    SOURCE: Reading for Shevat 22 (page 142) from
    Wisdom Each Day by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD,
    year 2000, Mesorah Publications.

    Great Rabbis who prohibit bringing young children to the synagogue, include:

    {1} Sefer Tanna DeBei Eliyahu
    {2} Maharil
    {3} Rabbi Isaiah ben Avraham Halevi Horowitz
    {4} Magen Avraham
    {5} Mishnah Berurah (Chafetz Chaim)

    1. There is a custom to give honey to a child when they first learn Torah, so the initial experience is sweet. That is a source for the candy man, the child’s initial exposure to Shul should also be sweet. When sources are quoted by rote, without an attempt to really understand what’s being said, then misunderstandings occur.

      I also think you’re misreading Rabbi Twerski’s teaching here. He does not say that you shouldn’t bring children to Shul, only that children who are brought should not romp around the synagogue. Almost everyone I know agrees with that, but if the child behaves, there is nothing wrong with them coming to Shul. As we’ve discussed here many times, adults also need to behave.

  6. If there’s a new baby at home, taking the other children to Shul may give the mommy a few moments for a much-needed nap. It also gives the kids some private bonding time with Tatty / Daddy / Abba. Sometimes the experience itself is enough of an incentive, e.g. “You didn’t behave in Shul last week, so you can’t go with Tatty this week,” or, “You can go with Tatty to Shul, but only if you promise to behave.” The candyman can be distracting, and it can create a mess and a lot of noise to have a public candy distribution to the kids of the shul. It’s probably better for each individual family to control its own candy / nosh distribution, doling out incentives (“bribes”) when each parent deems it deserved and or necessary.

  7. Please notice item 5 on this list:

    List of the Top 12 Rudest Behaviors (condensed for brevity)

    1. racist or ethnic jokes
    2. using obscenities in public especially near children
    3. loud cell phone conversations
    4. treating waiters or service people as inferiors
    5. allowing children run wild or make noise in any public or private space
    6. driving too fast or changing lanes without signaling
    7. abusing referees, umpires or coaches at sport events
    8. littering the sidewalk
    9. not giving your seat to the old, pregnant or handicapped
    10. pushing through crowds
    11. jumping ahead on line
    12. smoking cigarettes in the presence of nonsmokers

    SOURCE: Etiquette, 17th Edition (chapter 4, page 39)
    by Peggy Post, year 2004

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