Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
No Talking in Shul
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2021 02:41:52 PM
Number of views: 364

“My Shabbatot you shall observe, and My Sanctuary you shall revere.” (Vayikra 19:30). Rashi comments that giving the proper respect to the sanctuary (Beit Hamikdash) is expressed by not entering with ones walking stick, or while wearing shoes or a money belt or with dust on ones feet. Today we have no Beit Hamikdash, but the Gemara in Megillah 29 teaches that our shuls are מקדשי מעט which means mini sanctuaries and must be treated with great respect and reverence.

Tractate Derech Eretz Raba chapter 3, one of the 14 so called “minor tractates”, records an incident at the end of the life of R. Elezar ben Azariah when he was seriously ill, his students came to him and asked him “How can we be worthy of life in the World to Come?” He answered them “Go out and be careful with the honor due to your friends, and when you are standing in prayer, know before Whom you are standing. This will earn you life in the World to Come.”

Chavos Yair wonders why R. Elezar ben Azariah prefaces his advice with the words “Go out”. It seems out of place and irrelevant to the advice he offers.

He explains that R. Elezar ben Azariah’s comment for addressing the great difficulty some people have avoiding talking during davening. This occurs mainly on Shabbat when friends see each other and have time to catch up on news of family, community or business. This is especially true now that many of us are back in shul, after a year, and some of us feel that we have to catch up with our friends, so we must be conscious of this.

Unfortunately this talking often takes place during davening or Kriat HaToah and leads to a desecration of Hashem’s sanctuary. At times a person feels that it is impolite not to respond to a question or comment from ones shul friend and feels compelled to talk, even if it is in the middle of davening in shul.

In this light, we can understand the message of R. Elezar ben Azariah. If you want to be careful in the honor due your friends, then GO OUT of Shul and talk there. When you are davening in shul, be aware before Whom you are praying. This will earn you life in the World to Come!

If only people would take to heart the words of the Chavos Yair and thereby bring about a marked improvement in the decorum in our shuls, they would then merit the great benefits that come from sincere prayer.

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