The Matzav Shmoooze: Looking for Some Quiet in Shul


quietDear Editor,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your wonderful website. It is obvious that you and your moderators try very hard to maintain a high standard and try not to publish items or comments that are not in line with our Torah hashkafah. I am sure I express the sentiments of others when I say thank you for a job well done.

I am writing with a problem I have. There are several people in my shul who talk during the course of davening on Shabbos. I am a very tolerant person and usually look aside when it comes to other people’s problems, issues or challenges. But in this case, these people make noise week after week. Amazingly, one of them is busy shushing his kids at different points of the davening, but at other points he seems to feel free to talk as loud as he wants. It’s funny how this guy seems to have opinions on everything in the world, and always knows the right way to look at things, but he surely doesn’t know the right way to look at talking in shul.

I am not a kanna’i. I don’t tell people what to do. I hate shushing people. It’s just not who I am,

But I do feel that if someone wants to talk in shul, let them whisper. Why do they have to yell? It’s not fair to people like me. I am not even coming from a frum standpoint. I am coming from a peace-of-mind and headache standpoint. I don’t come to shul to hear you having a conversation with your friend. Want to talk? That’s your problem, but whisper.

Someone in the shul has tried to tell these people to be quiet. I have seen their reactions, and they weren’t pretty, which is what prevents me from approaching them. The rov has tried. I believe he has given up. And because of the realities of the shul, which I cannot get into, he can’t throw them out. Nor can anyone else.

To be clear, these aren’t bad people. In fact, they are pretty decent people. But the talking-in-shul issue is a problem.

Why do I do?

Flustered in the Pews

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  1. I commiserate with you. I know the feeling.

    It’s an old problem. The president (hopefully he isn’t one of the talkers) and a committee needs to address this group of talkers as representatives of the shul.

    Much Hatzlacha on a sticky issue.

  2. if the rav has given up as you say – if it his private shul – let him close up – if he is a paid rav let him resign
    it is a rav’s primary responsibility to maintain the proper decorum in shul – drashas – shailos – advice are all secondary.

  3. Might I suggest printing out this piece and distributing it on all the tables prior to Shabbos. That way no one will know it came from you and the message will be sent.

    You can continue this campaign once a month or so, with various menschlich pleas written out and put on all the tables or chairs before Shabbos. You can print out the part in Shulchan Aruch that denounces people who talk during davening, etc.

    If nothing works, you may have to change shuls. My shuls – both growing up, and the one I go to now – are always quiet.

  4. 1. peak to the rav about it. I went to one shul where the rav would speak about talking in shul every week for several weeks in a row. I stopped davening there but he wouldn’t give up.

    2. In another shul the rav would go stand in the back next to people who were talking

    3. Show them the halacha inside.

    4. move seats, there is often less talking in the front of the shul. Or switch shuls.

  5. Whispering is not a solution — especially when the room is quiet as between the silent Shmoneh Esraiand the Chazzan’s Shmoneh Esrai.

    People ARE capable of staying quiet during davening for extended periods of time — think about how people can refrain from talking between Tekias Shofar at the start of Musaf on Rosh Hashanah and the final Tekios, hours later. Or during Megillas Esther. It’s not a matter of ABILITY to keep quiet, rather it is a matter of EDUCATION — people need to realize that it can be just as important not to talk (including whispering) during parts of davening ALL year — especially during times when it will disturb others.

    I would be willing to work in a campaign to make zero talking the norm during the following parts of davening:

    1. From when the shul (not just the person in question) starts Boruch SheAmar through the kaddish after Shachris Shmonah Esrai.

    2. From when each Oleh to the Torah starts his brocha before his aliya until after the shul answers Amen after that Oleh’s brocha after that aliya.

    3. From the start of the Haftarah brochos before the Haftarah until after the last Amen after the last Brocha after the Haftarah.

    4. From when the shul (not the person in question) starts Musaf until the last Amen of the Kaddish after Musaf Shmoneh Esrai.

    The total amount of time that these parts of davening add up to is less than the amount of time during Musaf on Rosh Hashanah.

    If people were to realize that it it just as important to remain completely quiet at these times as it is during Musaf Shmoneh Esrai on Rosh Hashanah, they will find it just as easy — even second nature — to refrain from talking at these times, as they do on Rosh Hashanah.

  6. As a gabai for many, many years,I can assure that the only method that works is to stop the service until it’s quiet.As many times as necessary. I guarantee you, they will not want to be in shul for 4-5 hrs.
    Methods, I have seen that don’t work include:
    The Rabbi asking them to leave; The Rabbi threatening to call the police and the Rabbi suggesting to build a sound proof section

  7. Oy! How I sympathize with the writer of this post!

    I can’t take it anymore the way people show no respect for Hashem and his places of worship. The behavior described in this post is typical of the commentator that goes by the name “Normal.” People like him who claim to know what Hashem wants, but deep down they don’t really care because they have no emunah in daas toirah. They are always the ones that are talking loud and smirking as though they are not doing anything wrong. Besides for disrespecting the shul, they are a nuisance to those of us who want to actually daven and hear our rabbanim speak. EXCUSE ME?!? The purpose of my coming to shul is to actually connect to hashem and his gedoilim!!! I hope these people do ????? before it’s too late!

    ????? ????

  8. The previous ger rebbe said the reason the morrocon and sefardic jews did not get affected by the holocaust was because they had proper respect and decorum in the shul and did not talk during davening.
    That may be the zchus klal yisroel needs for yeshuos and refuos

  9. I sympathize with you. Thanks for expressing your distress and concern.

    You may have to switch to another Shul or minyan if it doesn’t stop.

  10. … and for Anim Zmiros the Aron Hakodesh should be kept closed so that all the devarim beteilim don’t go up to where they are not desired.
    Can’t believe people start talking just when the Aron is opened

  11. I was recently pushed out of my position as gabai since I was too strong on the talkers

    now they run the place that I help build paid for items out of my own pocket cleaned it when cleaning help was a no show etc etc

    maybe when life shows its not a bowl of cherries will they realize what a huge avaeira it is

  12. you should daven in the bobover shul on 48 st – it is quiet during the whole davening and leinen. i’ve davened there a few times and it is very enjoyable and uplifting

  13. I just listen to a cd from Harav y. Sorotzkin ,given in a sefardic shul

    He tells of great miracles that happen to people who don’t talk in shul.
    As quoted from great Rebbes Shuls were destoryed because of talking.
    My advice to you is Don’t give up the zechus is so great, even you stop one person. BH my Rav is very strict about talking. And true pleasure to Daven there.

  14. ex gabbai, sounds like you are suffering from sour grapes What did you put money into your shul for? So that you should be able to shushka people?

  15. Imagine a shul…
    Where hundreds of people come to Daven…

    Where there is zero talking during davening – even between aliyos…
    Where upon becoming a member one signs a pledge not to talk or disrupt…
    Where everyone know, when Davening starts, no one talks,
    People don’t talk even at a Minyan where the Rav isn’t present…
    The above is true Shabbos and weekday…

    The Davening is very inspriring and uplifting…
    People actually come to Shul, to Daven…
    All types of Yidden Daven there- brim ups, streimels, brim downs, kippa srugas,

    Sounds unreal?

    Visit Aish Kodesh in Woodmere
    I did. Once. Years ago…and have davened there ever since….

    P.S. The effect the Shul has had on my children is incredible.

  16. In the old days (pre-Holocaust) in the USA, the main agitation in observant shuls was re 1) the propriety of “sermons” and 2) siddurim/machzorim with translations. The S”A is very very specific about shul decorum. It is very specific about allowing anything, besides t’filah, in a maqom muqdash-l-t’filah. Generally, this is ignored except in some shtib’lach. Is this because too much emphasis is given on socialization in “shul”, in the Land of the Pursuit of Happiness? As well as the Amellicanization of the role of the Rov?

    I grew up in a town of dying shuls. The alt’e, frum’e yidden were dying out. The “Rov” was expected to address the problems of attendance and decorum. His solution was a better located and architecturally superb new shul. Just about any psychologist could have come up with a more realistic solution.

    A few people realized that their anxiety about the situation could not be addressed in those circumstances. They started a minyan in an area where there were few yidden. I won’t tell you how the “public” viewed this revolution. I certainly won’t repeat how they were criticized and libeled. The Bolsheviks created a perfect environment for true ahavas-yisroel and the b’khina of yir’ah in t’fillah. We few boys who went to that minyan remained shom’rim. Our “buds” did not. The minyan endured, while the palace shuls closed one after the other.

    I believe that persons who are impervious to q’dushas bays-ha-knesses are beyond rational or halachic rejoinder, as is the q’hillah that tolerates this. Find the right type of bays-t’fillah – or create one – or MOVE. If only for your children’s sake.

  17. To ex gabai, sound like an angry fellow, perhaps look into your own actions and dont concern yourself with others, youll be shocked how much you find!

  18. Although I do not favor talking in Shul, I do agree that it is a prevalent issue in our time.

    Frum people talk in Shul because they come every day and feel comfortable and see each other on a daily basis. It is the Reform and Conservative congregations that are like mausoleums.

    Go ahead and try to manipulate people’s behavior:

    Tell them to turn off their cellphones (during the week). Yet, one is always going off during Shmoneh Esrei. I once actually saw a person answering their phone during a levaya!

    Tell people not to leave a mess. Yet those areas of the Shul are nevertheless messy.

    Tell people to leave the chairs, tables, etc. where you found them. Yet, these things are still strewn around and need rearranging.

    Tell parents to not let their kids picnic in the Shul during the Kiddush. Yet, plates and cups and food are found in the Shul come Mincha time.

    I can come up with more examples. Still, why should telling people to stop talking be any different result-wise?

  19. I think talking in shul is the biggest threat frum people face. If we can’t show proper respect to HaKodosh Baruch Hu in His house in the time we’ve set aside to speak to him, how can we ask HaKoBaH to respond to our requests?