Speaking about the Synagogue…
By Harry Fishel
The synagogue has been a meeting place for Jews through out generations. Far more than merely a place to pray, it has been a fortress and help center. For centuries, Jews have come to the synagogue to meet old friends and make new ones. Before the invention of the newspaper, it was the chief place to find out what was happening in the world. It has been, and still is, a place that a Jew who was having trouble could come and find others that could give him assistance and advice. Throughout our long exile, it has been the prime institution for a Jew to maintain his ‘Jewishness’.
With all the good that the synagogue does for the Jew, there is one serious evil that the Jew can do to himself there – and that is speaking during services.
The Zohar (Teruma 131a) speaks out about speaking in the synagogue:
“One who speaks mundane words (not connected to prayer or study) in the synagogue - woe to him - since he shows that he believes that there is separating in the upper worlds. Woe to him that he reduces faith, woe to him since he does not have a part with the G-d of Israel. He acts as if he has no G-d (since every one else is praying and he is not) and that G-d is not there in the synagogue and he does not fear from him. He acts lighthearted in regards to the power of prayer.
He should be with the congregation who are praying and should put his mind and heart into speaking to G-d and not to talk to his friend at all. If he does not stop conversing with his friend, the angels above will announce: ‘this man who interrupted his praise of the Holy One should have his life interrupted. He should not see the glory of G-d.’
Speaking in the synagogue, while not one of the gravest sins known, is unfortunately just as deadly. Since G-d desires that we all fear and honor Him, a person, who at the very time the congregation is assembled to give praises to G-d, separates himself from the prayer service and there in the midst of the congregation begins to have a conversation of no pressing consequence (about mundane matters) with his friend is causing himself grave consequences.
The Talmud (Berachot 6a) teaches us that an “a synagogue is the house of G-d.” (Berachot 23a). In addition, “a synagogue is the house of G-d and the divine presence is always there.”
If you speak in the synagogue in the middle of prayers you are denying that He is your G-d and you have desecrated his holy name. You can expect the following problems:
It will have a negative effect your job, your business, your investments and any other expenses you have.
It will bring sickness upon your family, your wife, children, grandchildren.
It can cause a breakdown in relations with your wife and general peace in the house (shalom bayit).
It can cause death of family members at an early age.
It may cause older children to leave home, abandoning the Jewish tradition.
It may lead to intermarriage
Talking in the synagogue is a very serious matter; please take it to heart. See some of the disasters that have befallen others Remember: there is no such thing as accidents; every thing that happens comes about from G-d.
The Torah tells us that you shall fear no man only G-d - which means that if someone insists on talking, you must tell him or her in a nice way to stop. If they do not stop talking, tell them that you will complain to the rabbi. If they do not stop talking, go to the rabbi and tell him that these people are bothering you with their idle chatter and that he should stop them. If you think that it is embarrassing to reprove them, let them be embarrassed, if they are not embarrassed from speaking in front of G-d, let them be embarrassed to speak in front of the congregation. It is really for their own benefit.
If you are the leader of the congregation, the responsibility is yours. If you do not protect the honor of G-d then you have sinned against G-d and your sin is even graver than that of a layperson.
Remember, upon your death you must face the heavenly court and there you must give an accounting for all of your actions. With this in mind you will refrain from sinning – especially regarding talking in the middle of prayers and during the reading the Torah.
from the June 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine