Shalom Kavod haRav,
I recently attended a well established shiur in my home city, outside eretz yisrael, that is given on a week night by a prominent rav and attended by many men, and woman as well. In the ezrat nashim I noticed what struck me as something very unusual, quite a few ladies, I saw at least 4-5 or more were stitching/crocheting bags while they had been sitting in the shul, listening silently to the Rav’s shiur.
Since there were several women doing this, it would even appear to be something that has been established and I gather they come to hear the Rav’s shiur regularly and do this.
The bags these women were stitching were clearly all beautiful bags made specifically to hold talis/tefilin.
I was wondering if it’s a problem of zilzul bet knesset and does the fact the craft work they were doing while in shul was something specially for a tashmish mitzva/or tashmish d’tashmish mitzva help?
When I first noticed I was very taken aback that one would do this in a shul and furthermore I thought it was a lack of kavod haTorah to be occupied with stitching while the Rav was speaking. Meanwhile it is the kind of thing that can be done while still paying attention to the shiur.
I felt like saying something at first, thought I wanted to first look in to it further, in the end I feel that it may not be received well if it’s an established practice for these nashim, perhaps they asked a question.
All that said on many levels I would think it’s far better than stam talking in shul… But it just doesn’t feel right to me to do that in a shul, especially when a talmid hacham is speaking, and I am sure they are very good ladies and have the best intentions, they were not making noise or anything and clearly there to attend and listen to the shiur.
The ezrat nashim is above the main level where the Rav speaks so it is not directly in his view that they are doing this but I think he still could be aware. But it just seem like proper kavod.
Your sensitivities are very correct, and ideally it isn’t proper to be involved in other activities while a Rov is talking, and also in a shul. This is especially true if it becomes a group of people that are sitting together. On the other hand it is possible that their intentions are correct, and that they are doing it in order to help their concentration. If that is indeed the case, it could be that the Rov would prefer that they do come and listen, even though they are crocheting. As far as kavod for the shul, if it is assisting their learning, although it looks disrespectful, I can’t say that it is for forbidden. It might be an idea if you can ask the Rov what he feels. If he is alright with it, then leave it because he understands his crowd, but if he isn’t alright with it, you can ask him if you should do something about it or not.
Regarding those who are crocheting during the shuir, if they have to do it, and he Rov doesn’t mind, they should still be careful that it is done in an inconspicuous way as possible. Even though it is being done with good intentions, nevertheless, to others it does look disrespectful, and a zilzul of kavod hatorah.