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I often see young boys going around shul after the Shabbos/Yom Tov morning Torah reading to collect Chumashim and return them to their shelves. Is this an actual 'minhag' with a history behind it? If so, please provide sources.

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    And if not?.... – Double AA Apr 22 '12 at 16:37
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    I assumed it was just good midos. If the boys don't, some men usually do. – yoel Apr 22 '12 at 16:39
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    Does anyone know if a similar custom exists somewhere over the mechitza? – Double AA Apr 22 '12 at 16:44
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    I'm not sure what is meant by "actual minhag". It is certainly the minhag hamakom in certain shuls. A father asks his son whose attention is flagging to help put away chumashim and the son, seeing a purpose relishes this role as it gives him an informal "job". This becomes standard so other youngsters get involved. in earlier eras where people either had their own chumashim or printing wasn't so cheap so shuls didn't provide a chumash for each person (hence the purpose of public reading) this practice wouldn't develop. – rosends Apr 22 '12 at 17:25
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    It gives kids somthing to do and kids like to carry heavy things and feel important.It serves two purposes 1.getting kids involved and 2. Being mechanech them to returning seforim which the Steipler wrote very strongly about. – sam Apr 22 '12 at 17:38
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There is no "formal minhag" written about this that I'm aware of.

But as I heard from a rabbi a long time ago, good "pro active" shuls are extremely in tune with making shul a complete family experience and chinuch as well as a love of mitzvoth is an integral part of all this. So including kids in various functions and tasks such as this, singing "Adon Olam", doing gelilah, opening the ark, etc. accomplishes these concepts:

  • It trains children in becoming familiar and comfortable with the shul layout, and decorum. (You'd be a bit surprised at how many kids have no clue what a "chumash" or "siddur" even is, mainly because they aren't in the shul.)
  • It keeps kids well-behaved and disciplined in the shul vs. running around the hallways making noise or just idling.
  • Practically, most adults are moving on to the remainder of davening and don't want to be distracted by returning the chumash immediately. Though, that's minor compared to:
  • Most adults probably will leave the chumash in the holder or worse, lying around the table leaving the work for someone else to do. (Sometimes, the cleanup is done by a Gentile janitor. That's fine providing that you have one that has proper respect for these books and the shul. Many do, but there are many that don't.)

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