לא ישיח שיחת חולין
לא ישיח שיחת
חולין בשעה שש"צ חוזר התפלה.
ואם שח, הוא חוטא, וגדול עונו מנשוא, וגוערים בו!
(שו"ע או"ח קכ"ד ז')
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!
(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124:7)
It is likewise forbidden to engage in frivolous conversation at any time during the prayer service, or even while in the synagogue (as specified elsewhere in the chapter), but here the Shulchan Aruch only mentions "during the reader's repetition". This is because it is assumed that during the rest of the tefillah, the congregation is engaged in prayer, not conversation.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most ignored halachot of our generation! And its repercussions are widespread. Besides showing gross disrespect for the synagogue and Hashem (המקם והמקם), constituting a great חלול השם for anyone observing such behavior, it teaches our youth and "newcomers" sinful behavior by example, prevents those who do wish to pray from doing so, and (according to חז"ל) is responsible for the destruction of many synagogues and Jewish communities.
Additionally, a major factor (if not the major factor) which "turns off" potential ba'alei teshuvah is the atrocious behavior found in many "orthodox" synagogues, which (not coincidentally) is also a severe violation of halacha!
Imagine a secular, reform, or conservative Jew who enters an "orthodox" shul, and views a significant number of the congregants loudly discussing their business affairs and exchanging "shmaltzy" stories. The reader can barely be heard, making it impossible for the uninitiated to follow the service, and equally impossible (for the few who wish to do so) to concentrate on their prayers. And then, there is the pushing and shoving (with nary an "excuse me") that occurs during the service (e.g. when the torah is brought out), and after the service (as congregants flee the synagogue, having "performed their duty", at least in their minds). Not to mention the grabbing of all the food from the tray, before everyone has received a portion, during any "Kiddush" that may be offered. And the loud conversations during birkat hamazon.
It's difficult to consider "more religious" those who treat their "house of worship" as a public bathhouse, when proper decorum is observed (and demanded) at the reform and conservative synagogues.
This simple improvement would do more for kiruv than all the other efforts combined. It would also make it easier to obtain a minyan (as there are many observant Jews who do not attend synagogue for this reason), and lessen the incidence of violence directed toward Jewish communities.
And, it would be a mitzvah.
Q: How would observance of proper decorum in shul reduce violence against Jews?
A: According to Chazal, talking in shul during davening is responsible for the destruction of many synagogues and Jewish communities, e.g. the frequent pogroms in Eastern Europe. It seems logical that such behavior is also responsible (at least in part) for the current troubles in Eretz Yisroel, and the renewed wave of violent anti-Semitism throughout the world.
The power of Esav is by means of the sword. The power of Ya'acov is by means of prayer. When Ya'acov relies on the sword, and neglects prayer, we lose the Divine assistance that sustains and protects us, and we fail. When we turn our prayer into an abomination [or by inaction allow others to do so], the forces of evil are unleashed against us.
The following was contributed by R' Solomon Perlman:
The story is told about two Tzaddikim of the Besht's students were having a discussion. They were pondering which sin had led to the destruction of Polish Judaism during the 1648-1649 Cossack rebellion (and the subsequent Swedish invasion and wars against Turkey). One of them said it was lack of tzniyus among the Jewish girls and women --- the other said it was chattering in Shul (plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose).
Not being able to come to a consensus, they decided to seek Divine counsel and opened a Chamash randomly. They came out to Beraishis 35:31 (They said; "Will he then make our sister as if she were a prostitute?"). The first one used this as a proof that he was correct --- the sin was lack of tzniyus. The other pointed to the Targum Yonasan "It is not right that it should be said in the Synagogues and Study Halls ----" SO it seems that both were right.
The fact that this sin is so prevalent ---- and has been over the centuries ---- demonstrates how important the whole issue is. Look how much dedication and effort the Soton is devoting! (True about tzniyus as well.)
The fact is, we must not lose hope. Shuls CAN clean up their act --- person by person, table by table, section by section. I have seen it happen. Dedicated, caring leadership is essential.
Talking In Shul:
One of the serious flaws in our society today is the lack of proper decorum in shul, especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov. While socializing in shul is not a new problem (1) and certainly most, if not all people who go to shul are aware of the prohibition against talking during davening, still a great deal of talking goes on anyway, either from force of habit or out of disregard for the Halachah. Today, when the power of prayer is needed more than ever, we must find new ways to eradicate this scourge from our midst.
Ideally, there should be no talking in shul from the beginning to the end of davening. This should be the long term goal of every congregation. There are a number of halachic reasons for this:
In the following paragraphs we will discuss the various sections of davening, the degree of the prohibition against talking in each section, and the reasons behind the prohibition. We will follow the order of the davening: Note: During certain sections of davening, as will be noted, there is no specific prohibition against talking. However, the aforementioned reasons for prohibiting talking in general apply to these sections as well.
Note: From a halachic point of view, it is important to distinguish between those portions of the davening where talking is prohibited because of hefsek (e.g. Birchos Kerias Shema and Shema, Shemoneh Esrei, Kedushah, Hallel), where not even a single word is permitted to be uttered regardless of "need," and those portions where the prohibition against talking is based on the requirement of paying attention to the davening or because of shul decorum (e.g. Kaddish, chazaras ha-shatz), where an exception can be made when a special need arises, allowing one to quietly utter a few words. (32)
The following statement, authored by Harav Shimon Schwab, (33) sums up the Torah viewpoint on this subject:
"For Hashem's sake - let us be quiet in the Beis Haknesses. 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!"
(1) R' Avraham ben Rambam reports that this problem was so widespread in Egypt during his father's time that he decided to eliminate chazaras ha- shatz altogether; See Yechaveh Da'as 5:12.
(2) O.C. 151:1.
(3) Mishnah Berurah 151:2.
(4) Aruch ha-Shulchan 151:5.
(5) Rama O.C. 68:1; 90:18. See Shulchan Aruch Harav 124:10 who writes that talking while the congregation is praising Hashem is a form of blasphemy.
(6) Aruch ha-Shulchan 124:12.
(7) Mishnah Berurah 44:3.
(8) Mishnah Berurah 56:1.
(9) O.C. 51:4 and Mishnah Berurah 6 and 7.
(10) Mishnah Berurah 54:6.
(11) O.C. 57:2; Mishnah Berurah 236:2.
(12) O.C. 65:1 and 66:1 and Mishnah Berurah.
(13) O.C. 66:7.
(14) O.C. 104:1.
(15) Mishnah Berurah 104:25.
(16) O.C. 123:2.
(17) It is permitted, however, for a rav to answer an halachic question that is posed to him during chazaras ha-shatz; Aruch ha-Shulchan 124:12.
(18) O.C. 124:7.
(19) Mishnah Berurah 124:27.
(20) Rama O.C. 123:2; Mishnah Berurah 56:1.
(21) O.C. 128:26, Be'er Heitev 46 and Mishnah Berurah 102.
(22) See Mishnah Berurah 51:9 and 131:1.
(23) O.C. 146:2. and Mishnah Berurah 5.
(24) Beiur Halachah 146:2 (s.v. v'hanachon), who roundly condemns such people.
(25) Mishnah Berurah 146:4. See, however, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 23:8 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 146:3 who disagree.
(26) O.C. 146:2; Mishnah Berurah 2 quoting Eliyahu Rabbah; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 23:8.
(27) Bach, as understood by Mishnah Berurah 146:6 and many poskim.
(28) Machatzis ha-Shekel, Aruch ha-Shulchan, and Shulchan ha-Tahor maintain that the Bach permits even idle talk between aliyos. See also Pri Chadash who permits conversing bein gavra l'gavra. Obviously, they refer to the type of talk which is permitted in shul and on Shabbos.
(29) O.C. 146:3; 284:3.
(30) O.C. 422:4 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. aval).
(31) O.C. 268:12; Mishnah Berurah 56:1.
(32) See Salmas Chayim 38 and written responsum by Harav C. Kanievsky (Ishei Yisrael #206), based on Mishnah Berurah 125:9.
(33) Selected Writings, page 230.
Links to additional discussion of the subject:
Talking During Tefillah
Let's Shmooze About Davening
Noo-Noo, How Bad Can It Be Already?
(המשך יבוא בעה"י)