From the Rabbi's Study
Prologue: Rav Yitzchok Cohen used to love to speak about the impact of a baby.
You see, according to Rav Cohen, everyone stops to stare at little children. Their innocence and wonderment, curiosity and tenacity make us all stop and watch. He would remind us constantly that we have much to learn from a baby.
But, from this week's Parsha we also learn that we have much to learn from those watching the baby. Indeed, when Bas Pharaoh opens the basket with Moshe inside, the Torah (Shemos 2:6) highlights the fact that she saw the baby and heard his cry, TOOK PITY UPON HIM and then noted his Jewish origins. Rav Aharon of Sanz once asked why the Possuk ceased its discussion of her observations in the middle in order to note that she took pity on Moshe? Would it not have been more correct to note that she opened the basket and noted the Jewish baby and took pity on him?
Rav Nissan Alpert (Limudei Nissan) answered that the Torah is teaching us a critical lesson in Chessed. The proper human attitude must begin and end with Rachmanus – a default of compassion – followed perhaps by the question of whether the person seeking our compassion is worthy of receiving it. All too often we act in the opposite manner – we see if the person's views are similar to ours and only if similar do we agree to show compassion. Bas Pharaoh didn't check Moshe's lineage, she first had compassion, only then, noting his origin, realized the difficulty that saving him entailed and how she was going to proceed.
Rav Nissan ztl. added that for this reason we recognize that Hashem is Rav Chessed and then Emes. For if we started the world with Emes – with the worthiness factor, the world would never get to Chessed. No, Mah Hu Af Anachnu, we must learn to demonstrate compassion and love for fellow humans first. In that light, we present this week's Chaburah entitled:
Showing the Love
The Sefer Agudah (Perek Keitzad Mevarchin, See also Shut Binyamin Ze'ev 163) notes that one is not supposed to demonstrate his affection and kiss his children in Shul. The reason, he notes, is that one is supposed to utilize Shul as a place where one declares his love for Hashem. Since that love is supposed to be matchless, any other demonstration of love would be inappropriate. Rav Yehuda haChassid (Sefer Hachassidim 255) makes a similar point as does the Rema (O.C. 98:1). The Ben Ish Chai (VaYikra, 11) makes a similar comment, forbidding kissing relatives in Shul. And, it seems that this ruling should apply to both kissing one's children in Shul (whether young or old) and to offering other forms of affection to any other Shul-goer (See Orach Mishpat Orach Chaim, 22).
The trouble with the Psak, is that it sounds like the Chachamim of previous generations didn't adhere to it. Indeed, Shimon Hatzaddik (Nedarim 9b) kissed a Nazir on his forehead in the Beis HaMikdash. Certainly this was more serious a place to declare love for a person than that of a mere Shul?
Moreover, The Talmud compares Mora Av (the fear of parents) to Mora Shomayim (fear of God – See Bava Metzia 32a). Kissing one's parent is a sign of respect (see Rashi to Avodah Zara 17a), so why not allow it in Shul? The Rashba (Shut HaRashba, V:14) notes that one must demonstrate respect to his parents, even in Shul. Why not allow the kissing of one's parent in the same way?
The difference might be found in a line in the Sefer Rokeach (end of Siman 369) where the author note that one sitting in Shul reciting Pisukei DiZimra or Kriyas Shema must still rise if his teacher or parent enters. He should not argue that this is Osek B"Mitzva Patur Min Hamitzva (I'm involved in a different Mitzva and am therefore exempt from this one) for one can fulfill both Mitzvos. Similarly, says the Ben Ish Chai
(Vayikra, 11), when one is obligated to honor a certain relative, he SHOULD kiss the relative EVEN in Shul. This act is not antithetical to the love he is demonstrating to Hashem but rather part of the demonstration of that very love of Hashem. This is dramatically different from the love shown to another relative or from a parent to a child where the Chiyuv of Mora does not exist.
L'halacha, Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shut Yichaveh Daas IV:12) and Rav Kook (Orach Mishpat, 22) strongly caution against demonstrations of love between family members in Shul. The author of the Piskei Teshuvos (O.C. 98:1) adds that the fact that kissing an Oleh L'Torah is not universally performed for each Oleh is an indication that when it is done, it is likely to be due to familial ties and love. Thus, he cautions against it.
It should be noted that HaGaon Harav Yitzchak Zilberstein clearly distinguishes between these reasons and demonstrations of love and kissing a child's wound in Shul. While the former raises the issues of demonstrating love to someone other than God in Shul, kissing a wound is not a demonstration of pure love but rather of pain reduction.