Question:

  1. It is normative within halacha that there is no talking during Tefillah, drasha, Krias haTorah, shiurim, Kaddish, etc.
  2. I am newly married with a special needs stepchild. Both my wife and stepchild attend a modern Orthodox congregation.
  3. My special needs stepchild is very comfortable and acclimated to this congregation so it is difficult to daven elsewhere.
  4. Prior to my marriage, I davened congregations where members refrain from talking (and cell phone use) during the aforementioned times.
  5. The culture of the majority of the congregation is to chat socially whenever they want. They will go across the room to show another attendee something on their cell phone during weekday services. The chatting is incessant. Board members also participate in this social culture.
  6. I am somewhat of a social outcast in this congregation because I can’t bring myself to join this chatty social culture.
  7. I naively asked the Rabbi and some Board members (thinking that Shulchan Aruch was “the standard”) if they could do something about the incessant chatting.

The Rabbi responded that “congregants come for different things. Why don’t you just have more kavanah so you don’t hear them?”

It isn’t just a matter of personal kavana: I can’t hear anything because of loud chatting; I also consider it an affront to a makom kodesh.

The Board member responded that I should wear earplugs.

  1. I am looking for advice on what to tell the Rabbi as it is obvious to me that he doesn’t follow the ethics outlined below.

I am not a Rabbi myself.

Answer:

Even if you aren’t a Rabbi, your feelings are very correct. Not only is it against halacha to talk in shul, it is VERY disrespectful to H-shem when people come and totally disregard the sanctity of His house of worship. What would one of the board members say if he was in middle of speaking, and someone got up in middle of his speech, walked to the other side of the hall to show someone a text message that he just received, and then everyone would start to chat about it! He would be foaming with anger! During kriyas hatorah it is considered as if H-shem himself is talking, through the baal koreh, and talking then is a terrible insult to Him. Even during the prayers themselves, if anyone is giving a speech, especially if it would be regarding a dignitary, would they want that there should be constant talking to the degree that one can’t concentrate on what is being said. There aren’t many places that the Shulchan Aruch says specifically (Orach Chayim 122-7) that if someone is doing something wrong that he should be publicly embarrassed and humiliated for what he is doing. One of those places is regarding is when a person talks during davening.

The only thing I can say regarding the Rabbi’s reaction is that he might possible feel that if he clamps down on the talking, then the people won’t come to davening at all, (which essentially is better than coming and insulting H-shem) and it might negatively affect their overall religious observance.

Regarding your personally dilemma, maybe you can explore, slowly switching to a different shul, and maybe your special needs child will be able to slowly get used to a different shul.

May Hash-m send you a lot of success, and send you a solution to this problem.

Tags: davening

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