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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
This post is culled from an email I sent to the prestigious and well-dressed PT:

One of my biggest pet peeves is talking in shul. I'm not saying I never do it, but it annoys me nonetheless, on general principle. So when people do it at especially obnoxious times, like when they are finished with shmonei esrei but not everyone else is (and the repetition has not started), it really, really bugs me. These people are trying to daven! You are distracting them! And the people I sit near talk a whole lot (no, I don't sit near Bean). But I don't do anything about it. I have been known to shush at times, but I don't want to be a "shusher." And I've never moved to another seat because I don't want to insult anyone (in general these are really nice guys) and besides, I really like my seat. It's a good seat. So I just kind of stew. After all, these guys should know better!

Anyway, one shabbat a couple of weeks ago, the talking was especially galling. I don't recall why exactly. But after davening is done, after adom olam and the whole bit, the rabbi goes onto the middle bima to make kiddush as usual. But it is just too noisy. He's waiting. And waiting. Everybody is talking, doing their own thing, barely even looking at the rabbi. That was it. I got up on the bima and slammed the shulchan a few times. That's usually all it takes, but I was really angry and found myself screaming, "Kiddush!" The noise settled down to a dull roar, and the rabbi thanked me and made kiddush.

At kiddush everyone asked my wife what was wrong with me, am I going crazy, etc. Someone came up to me and nicely asked if I had yelled, "Shut up!" Apparently someone thought I'd said that and this woman, who knows me (sort of), said I would never do that. She's right, but just barely.

If I had said something nicely to the talkers earlier, would I have cooled down and ultimately saved myself some embarassment? Possibly. But I'm getting worked up now just writing aobut it. Will I say something the next time? Probably not. Because I'm a ninny. A self-righteous ninny. A self-righteous, fishing-for-compliments ninny.

Cross-posted at The Jewish Connection.
People talk during the service? That seems really disrespectful. Then again, if it happens all the time, maybe its just what people do. What does the rabbi think of this? It seems to me that he's the leader, and he should set the standards for how people should behave.
You should send everyone in your shul a copy of this post

And/or write something personal to make them feel bad -- about how you are too shy to say anything in person but you really need to pour your heart out to Hashem and they are messing up the transmission.
This post isn't really about talking in shul. This post is really about keeping things bottled up until the pressure makes you explode. I know because the same thing is happening to me (not about talking; thankfully my shul is very quiet--except when Dr. Bean visits), but about other issues in the minyan.

Ralphie and I are similar in this regard--we'd rather keep it to ourselves and simmer than confront people early on. But I think it's been counter-productive for both of us.

I had an opportunity to share my concerns last night with some of the minyan men and although I'm not sure how much got resolved, one thing I can say is that I feel much better about it.

And of course, if you still feel like the pressure is building up, might I recommend some violent video games?
I was thinking of hitting an indoor batting cage, but video games sounds good. Actually I think a nice movie will do the trick. Now if only I had some free time for any of those things...

Oven - talking during any part of the service is forbidden. A no-no. Not allowed. And the rabbi often stops the service to get people to pipe down. Unfortunately I think this phenonemon has been going on for ages and won't change anytime soon. I even know of one synagogue in the neighborhood where everyone knows that one side is where the talkers sit. At least in that situation, you know where you stand. Or, um, sit.

But PT is right - this isn't really about the talking issue. It's about my (and PT's) inability to express a grievance without alienating others. Or maybe to find a solution without sounding like we're airing a grievance at all.
I haven't left a comment in a while, but being that I am the wife of a rabbi, this issue is often at the forefront of our conversations and I think it affects just about every shul I know.

There is no one good way to get the really intrusive 'kibbuters' to stop disrupting tefillot. We have yet to find a truly productive way that doesn't end up alienating a whole bunch of otherwise really decent people. My husband has taken to placing 'ringers' stratigecally around the sanctuary who model appropriate behavior and politely "shush" when necessary. We have found that when it comes from respected congregants such as you and PT, it is far more effective than coming from the Rabbi, who everyone expects it to come from. It is kind of like if you live near a fire station, your first couple of weeks or months living there you hear the sirens all hours of the day and night, but eventually you tune them out. But when you are at a friends house, and you hear a loud siren, it startles you and you pay attention. Same kind of thing. Most people have unintentionally just tuned my husband out at this point about this issue, but when a respected congregant makes a statement, they tend to listen (at least for a few weeks :-)) My only advice would be to try to keep your tone congenial - kill 'em with kindness is what we say!

My husbands collegues (it is a large shul with 4 full time clergy) each chose a different route; we have found ours to be effective for us, most of the time. I don't know how the others feel or if what they have tried works out. Good luck!
A slight tangent, but, I think, related. At my shul they make announcements at the end of davening. For a while, this got out of hand, as anyone with an announcement he/she thought was important would just stand up and make it. It would sometimes go on for 15 or 20 minutes, while hungry people were practically passing out waiting for kiddush. About a year ago they cracked down on this. But occasionally it still gets out of hand.

Here's why I raise this here: About a month ago, a woman got up to make an announcement about a minor fundraising thing that was important to her. She was very gentle about it and went on just slightly too long. Just as she was saying, "On a personal note, let me say..." a guy in the front absolutely exploded: "[NAME]! It's enough! It's not an appropriate use of announcements!!" He completely humiliated her. (It turned out the "personal note" was about her mother recently dying.) In the end, she probably got more donations than she would have otherwise. But the real question everyone had was: What's up with that guy? Where did all that anger come from? And if he does that in shul, in front of 150 people, I wonder what's going on in their house?

Yes, better to confront people in person, and in a controlled way than to wait until you either (a) have a coronary or (b) blow up at the wrong time, embarassing yourself and undermining the very purpose of being in shul in the first place.
Respected congregants...you weren't talking about me, right?

Seriously, our shul in Milwaukee is quiet. If anyone would start jawing in the middle of tfila or layning it would be instantly noticed and everyone would turn their heads. There is a very distinct reverance for the Rabbi and for the tfilla in the shul, maybe because so many of the congregants are TRUE baale tshuva--they are really into being spiritual, and that's what drew them to our shul and for many of them to Milwaukee itself. As opposed to me who became a baal tshuva through peer pressure.

However, I seem to be a magnet for talkers for some reason. Maybe because I'm a doctor, or because I'm a musician, or because I don't seem to be one of the "fanatics". Usually the people who talk to me fall into two categories: The mentally ill, and the disaffected. (I'm not sure which category DB fell into).

I usually smile and refuse to answer. And then when they persist I nod alot. And then I put my finger up to my lips for the universal shut up gesture. And if that doesn't work I tell them, "I'll talk to you after the service".

And then I try to escape before the end of the service.
I'll echo PT's sentiment - I wouldn't call myself a respected member... I mean, I don't think I'm necessarily disrespected, but still..

It is definitely easier dealing with someone talking to me directly. I do the same thing PT does, it seems. The hard part is when people are just gabbing away amongst themselves. Especially when you're still davening (praying)...
Talking in shul drives me crazy. I am a moderate shusher. The rabbi of our shul asks and asks for quiet, gets it for a minute, then everything goes to pot again. Its actually embarrassing. The problem is the talkers are the machers. Well, and a lot of other people too. Including a friend of mine who unfortunately has to say kaddish, and winds up talking through davening except for kaddish(most people talk through kaddish and are more quiet during davening.) Its hard to avoid the temptation. However, you gots to try. And when the spirit comes over you, shush 'em with both barrels.
I do remember a few years back that there was this pair of guys who sat in the row behind mine (before they downsized my row and moved me) who used to speak very loudly to each other during layning. I used to turn around and glare at them from time to time.

They pretty much just ignored me.
It's soccer season... maybe I should red-card 'em? Print up some business cards on red paper and hand them out as necessary? What should they say?

..hmmm, maybe this thread really is about talking in shul.
Ralphie: I sit in the "talking" part of the women's section. People come to shul for different reasons, after all. That being said, I never speak during the Amidah (silent prayer) or the Rabbi's sermon and I keep my voice way down.

Oven: remember our services are three hours long, more on a holiday. What's a friendly person to do?
Ralphie: you go girl! (or something like that)
Unless one davens in a shteibel perhaps, and people are even more sincere about their davening, I've noticed that talking has become quite an issue at the two shuls to which we belong.
At one of them, a smaller shul, the rabbi stops and stares at the talkers till they hush up, or he might give a snarky remark, ie. "Sorry we have to interrupt you in order to continue..."
At the larger shul, the board has taken a pledge -- and made it public -- that they will not speak during services.
Oftentimes I've seen that the ones who talk the most, be it men or women, will be the ones who also shush others the loudest.
Ah, the sad, sad irony of it all.
Doesn't the word "sanctuary" mean anything to anyone anymore?
I was talking to someone who used to go to our shul, and I asked where he was davening now. He said it was a new little shteibl that was "very black-hat, you know, they get to shul on time and don't talk during davening."

Why should those two traits be only "very black-hat"???

(Just in case the reference slips by anyone, men in more right-wing communities tend to wear black hats - I think they're fedoras.)
I don't know if "black hatters" are less likely to talk, but it's almost universal amongst the Modern Orthodox.

I mean, my shul is pretty black hat and there's little to no talking. I even get annoyed when the rabbi who sits next to me tries to tell me divrei torah between aliyahs.
But can we PLEASE get back to the topic of the post, which is how I can't confront people who annoy me and it leads to me EXPLODING WHEN I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE...I mean, Ralphie's anger management problem.
This is straight from the BAYT (Beth Avraham Yoseph Congregation of Toronto) weekly bulletin:

At the request of the Rabbi, the Decorum Committee and the Board of Governors have begun a Decorum campaign. The Officers and the members of Board of Governors have signed an agreement not to speak during davening.

Please join us in this most important endeavour that will surely enhance the quality of our davening.
TP: Well, it sounds like me and my ilk aren't welcome at BAYT. If we come to Toronto, I'll have to go to the other shul.
As a main-line protestant who likes to read this site, I found this post fascinating.

First, the way you throw in Hebrew (?) words all over the place, and obviously others here understand them. I wonder if you understand how weird it is for us goyem (is that the right word?) to read?!

Second, your temple (?) is having the same issue as many of our churches. It used to be that the mass/service was an extremely weighty time - for contemplation and praise, but not for conversation. Then, lib churches started bastardizing the "sign of the peace". It's now a huge distraction in many services that has people looking for quieter churches (we tend to vote with our feet in protestant churches.)
TP: If your shul officials take this vow of silence, who will do all the shushing?
Pearl - do you pronounce BAYT like bait or bite? Just curious.
Birdwoman: I try to remind these Hebes to speak English here, but they don’t listen to me. I hope this helps. (In order of appearance in the thread.)

Shul – synagogue.
Shmonei esrei – also referred to as the amidah. The central prayer of Jewish services, said silently and frequently then repeated out loud in unison by the congregation.
Daven – pray. [The use of this word when otherwise speaking English particularly irks me since it adds not one iota of meaning or nuance to the English word. Why switch languages to say the same exact thing? Answer: because you’re so used to hearing it you forget that you’re switching languages and you don’t realize how you sound like a Martian to those who don’t understand you.]
Kiddush – a blessing said over wine at the end of Sabbath morning services, also refers to the light meal served thereafter.
Minyan – congregation, also refers to the quorum of ten necessary to have communal prayer.
Kibbetz – [Yiddish] chit chat.
Tefilla [plural: tefillot] – prayer
Layning – the chanting of the weekly Torah portion
Baale tshuva – those who were not raised religiously and became religious as adults. (Usually just used for Orthodox.)
Macher – big shot, respected venerated person
Kaddish – mourner’s prayer
Amidah - see shmonei esrei above
Shteibel – a very small synagogue
Divrei Torah – literally, words of Torah. Sermons.

Shush – shush.

Let me know if I missed any.

PT: I’m definitely in the disaffected category. Big time.
for someone so disaffected, you sure know a lot.
IN answer to your question, it s/b BAYT (as in the Hebrew word for "house of") but I and countless others often pronounce it BAYIT (as in the Hebrew word for "house")
Ahh, that post made me laugh...
Nothing worse than people talking when they shouldn't be.
Maybe you won't have to worry about having to say something 'next time', maybe people will be to scared to talk in shule with you around!! lol
I don't think you should feel embarassed, the talkers are the ones who should feel embarassed because they should have a little more respect and not be talking in shule in the first place.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall though!!
This is not limited to shul.

My teacher and I went to the Hindu temple for the special Saraswati puja a couple of weeks ago. It's only done twice a year, for the high school and college students and graduates, so it is kind of important, even more so than a regular service...the kids' families are usually all there to see them participate.

People talked through the entire puja. About stupid things. I wanted very much to hear the congregant who was giving the talk on Saraswati. Instead, I got to hear about the new cell phone the girl behind me got, and why it was better than her old one. For twenty freakin' minutes. While people the row in front of me were trying to follow the responses.

But I didn't feel like I could shush anyone, because it's not my temple. But no one else was shushing, either. It is crazymaking, I feel for you.
I'm puzzled with lots of exercises. I was afraid I could not do the right time despite my hard work. I need a support person.

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