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A son asks to go to temple and his mom's religious enthusiasm grows, too

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Melanie Stetson Freeman

(Read caption) A son asked to go to temple after seeing challah bread with his dinner.

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My husband was working late, so my son and I had a thrown-together dinner of leftover pasta, yogurt and carrots. I added one touch, store-bought Challah, to give our table a semblance of Shabbat.

The sight of the braided bread was enough to spark my 4-year-old son’s interest.

“Is the temple open?” Simon said.

“Yes, they’re having a service tonight,” I said, glancing at the clock on the wall. It was 6 p.m. The service on the schedule was at 6:15 p.m.

“Is it a grown-up service?” Simon asked.

“It’s for everybody, but not a Tot Shabbat,” I said.

“Can we go? I want to go to temple,” he said.

Part of me wanted to immediately shake my head no. I was tired. I had just gotten a magazine assignment with a tight deadline. In a few days, I was about to start teaching again part-time at local university. I was not really in a Shabbat service kind of mood. I had barely had the time to buy a challah. A year ago, I sometimes made my own challah.

Braided challah ready for baking

Not to mention, I was in shorts and a T-shirt with scraggly wet hair because we went swimming in the afternoon. But my son was actually asking to go to a Shabbat service. And he still wanted to go when he learned it wasn’t the children’s service which featured puppets. He was already at a place that I had spent decades trying to reach – a comfort zone with Judaism, ritual and synagogues. He was always eager to go to a service when we asked, but there was something particularly special about his asking. I don’t think he had ever asked before.

“Yes,” I said, “we can go.”

I rushed upstairs, stuck my hair in a ponytail, and put on Capri pants. We got to temple at 6:20 p.m. and slid into a row toward the back. A few seconds later, the cantor’s daughter, a big smile on her face at seeing Simon, ran over and sat next to us. By showing up, Simon doubled the number of small children in our sanctuary that night. He and the cantor’s daughter soon moved from our row to across the aisle to sit next to the rabbi’s teen-aged daughter.

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