December 31, 2004

Kiddush Hashem - Don't Talk During Prayers!

I have written about this important issue before. Whole communities have been destroyed and countless disasters have befallen us because of needless talking during davening. You would not talk to your friend if you were standing before a judge in court. Why would you talk to someone else when you stand before the Judge of the world?

This Shabbos is the 800th anniversary of the death of the Rambam. Let us honor him and his memory by honoring G-d and his House. Please see the following great article by Rabbi Bulua:

From Arutz Sheva

In Shul, Jews Who Shmooze - Lose
Dec 30, '04 / 18 Tevet 5765

Shmoozing in shul, especially on Shabbat and Yom Tov when the davening is longer and people don't have to go to work, is a major problem. While most people who go to shul know of the Halachic prohibition against talking during davening, still much talking goes on anyway, most probably from force of habit. That is no excuse, however.

The Rambam (Hilchot Tefillah, Perek 11 Halacha 6) says that a shul is not a place for engaging in idle conversation. The Sefer Chareidim (9:19) notes that this prohibition is in force even not during davening time; he concludes by quoting that one should learn in this regard from the behavior of non-Jews who stay completely silent when in their houses of worship. According to the Aruch ha-Shulchan (124:12), it is a chillul Hashem to talk during davening, since it unfortunately gives credence to the widely held perception that non-Jews are more careful than Jews to maintain proper behavior in their house of worship.

Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller (Tosfot Yom Tov) maintained that the terrible massacres of Chmielnicki (gezerot tach v'tat), in which tens of thousands of Jews were murdered by Cossacks, was a punishment for the lack of decorum that prevailed in shuls at that time. Rabbi Heller composed a special "Mi She'berach" prayer for those who refrain from talking in shul, which our shul proudly hangs on the wall. The Vilna Gaon, in Igeret HaGra, said that speaking in shul is like playing with fire.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124:7, says: "It is forbidden to engage in frivolous conversation during the reader's repetition of the prayer, and if one does talk, he is a transgressor, and his sin is too great to bear, and we must rebuke him." This applies during K'riat HaTorah as well. Beiur Halachah 146:2 (starting "v'hanachon...") remarks that even talking with your neighbor between aliyot is forbidden (and according to some poskim, even where one speaks words of Torah!) because you might continue talking during the aliyah. (Mishna Berurah 146:2, Sif Katan 6)

Other obvious problems with talking in shul include distracting your neighbor who wants to listen to the chazzan or daven with kavannah, and setting a terrible example for your children.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 151:1, says that one who engages in any form of idle conversation in shul (even when not davening) violates the rabbinical extension of the commandment of "Et mikdashi ti'ra'u." - "You shall revere my sanctuary." We must conduct ourselves with awe and respect in a shul or beit medrash, today's "miniature Bait Hamikdash," as it says in Megilla 29a: "And I have been for them a Mikdash M'at [a little sanctuary]." (Yechezkel 11:16) Says Rabbi Yitzchak: "These are the shuls and batei midrash in Babylon."

For almost all of davening, it is forbidden to talk. For example, on Shabbat morning, from the beginning of P'sekui d'Zimrah till the conclusion of the Amidah, it is forbidden to speak. (Even if you want to speak to a friend after both of you have finished the Amidah, you should walk out of shul so as not to disturb others.) During the Torah and Haftarah readings, one is forbidden to speak. Finally, during Mussaf and its repetition, talking is forbidden, so that leaves only the end of the service, a very small timeframe, in which it is permissible to speak.

The following remark, penned by Rabbi Shimon Schwab, sums up the Torah viewpoint: "For Hashem's sake - let us be quiet in the Beit Haknesset. Our reverent silence during the tefillah will speak very loudly to Him Who holds our fate in His hands. Communicating with Hashem is our only recourse in this era of trial and tribulations. There is too much ugly noise in our world today. Let us find peace and tranquility while we stand before Hashem in prayer."

There's a sign hanging on the door to our shul. It reads: "Fellow Jew, if you came to shul to talk, where do you go to daven?" You can't have it both ways.

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