The Dignity of The Synagogue

Talking in Shul is an endemic problem which unfortunately affects many Shuls in
the Diaspora. Professor Domb was very meticulous about maintaining decorum
in Shul. He shunned Shuls where people tended to talk during Davening, and
refrained from talking on secular matters while in Shul. His “parting gift to Anglo
Jewry before making Aliya,” as he termed it, was a short booklet delineating the
severity of the issue of talking during prayers, which is reproduced here. During
his Shiva one person wrote to us and said that this booklet had profoundly
changed his attitude towards this matter. Professor Domb would have been
‰”ƒ–‹ϔ‹‡†–‘‘™–Šƒ–Š‹•„‘‘Ž‡–„‘”‡ˆ”—‹–Ǥ
1. INTRODUCTION
The 1980’s are full of threats and challenges to the Jewish people both
individually and collectively. No sooner does one danger disappear over the
horizon than another looms into prominence from a different direction. Every
thinking Yerei Shamayim is surely aware of our desperate need for the help of
Divine Providence, and of the importance of correcting our faults so that we
merit such help.
The present booklet endeavours to draw attention to one such fault – our
conduct in synagogue particularly during times of prayer. Our Rabbis have
taught us that a service in the synagogue nowadays must be accorded the
same reverence as that of a service in the Beth HaMikdash in former times.
Whilst we are praying we must continually remind ourselves that we are in the
presence of the King of Kings pleading for the welfare of those near and dear
–‘—•ǡƒ†ˆ‘”–Š‡•‡…—”‹–›‘ˆ‘—”’‡‘’Ž‡ǤŠ‹•–Š‘—‰Š–‹••—ˆϐ‹…‹‡–‹‹–•‡Žˆ–‘
induce a mood of seriousness and sobriety, and to prevent us from engaging in
mundane gossip.
133

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings

Unfortunately many Shomrei Torah who are normally meticulous in their
observance of Mitzvoth have come to regard the laws connected with the
sanctity and dignity of the synagogue as having secondary importance. As a
result the atmosphere during services in many synagogues has so deteriorated
as to constitute a Chilul Hashem. Non-observant visitors to synagogue services
are given a false impression of Torah Judaism, and are repelled instead of being
inspired and attracted. At the recent Knessiah Gedolah in Jerusalem a leading
Israeli Baal Teshuvah described vividly the revulsion which he and his wife
‡š’‡”‹‡…‡†™Š‡–Š‡›ϐ‹”•–ƒ––‡†‡† a synagogue service, and found the men
discussing the latest rate for the dollar, and the ladies discussing the latest
fashion styles.
In the present booklet the views of eminent Torah authorities over many
generations will be quoted on how to conduct oneself properly in a synagogue.
The gravity of the transgression of unseemly behaviour will be apparent to all
™Š‘”‡ƒ†–Š‡‹”™‘”†•ǡƒ†™‡Š‘’‡–Šƒ–‹–™‹ŽŽ‹†—…‡ƒϐ‹””‡•‘Ž˜‡–‘”‡‘˜‡
this stain from our midst.
Many of the quotations have been taken from the Sefer Moreh Mikdash, a
collection of sources assembled and edited by R. Yaakov Yosef of Ostroha s.z.l.
known as R. Yeivi Sava. A new enlarged edition was published some years ago
by R. Shlomo Grunfeld s.z.l. and this was reproduced by R. Yehudah Aryeh
Halstuk n.y. in his recent sefer Shalmei Yehudah. We are indebted to R. Halstuk
for his encouragement in the preparation of this pamphlet. Another sefer of
importance on this topic which has appeared recently, and which has provided
useful source material, is Kunteres Mikdash Me’at by R. Nathan Gestetner n.y.
Our attention was drawn to this sefer by R. Dovid Halpern n.y. who has taken
great pains to ensure proper behaviour in his own Beth Hamedrash. To him
also we are indebted for helpful discussion and general encouragement.
2. BACKGROUND OF TORAH AND TALMUD

o 
!$#  
! 
#$$
$#$
You shall observe My Sabbaths and revere My holy place, I am the Lord. 
Š‹•˜‡”•‡‘……—”•–™‹…‡‹–Š‡‘”ƒŠǡ‹ƒ”•Šƒ–Š‡†‘•Š‹ȋƒ›‹”ƒͳͻǡ͵ͲȌ
ƒ†ƒ––Š‡‡†‘ˆƒ”•Šƒ–Š‡Šƒ”ȋƒ›‹”ƒʹ͸ǡʹȌǤŠ‡…Ž‘•‡ƒ••‘…‹ƒ–‹‘™‹–Š
Shabbath and the repetition of the verse clearly emphasize the importance of
–Š‡‹–œ˜ƒŠ‘ˆ”‡˜‡”‡…‡ˆ‘”Š‘Ž›’Žƒ…‡•ǤǤƒ˜‹†˜‹ ‘ˆˆƒȋͳͺͶ͵ǦͳͻʹͳȌ
points out the reason for the association; Shabbath represents sanctity of time,
ƒ†–Š‡‹†ƒ•Š•ƒ…–‹–›‘ˆ’Žƒ…‡ǤǤ˜ƒ†‹ƒŠˆ‘”‘ȋ…ǤͳͶ͹ͲǦͳͷͷͲȌ…‘‡–•
as follows on the verse in Kedoshim:

134

The Dignity of The Synagogue   

$!
$# 

 
… 
!$# 

This refers to any place consecrated for Torah, prayer, or divine
service.
And on the verse in Behar: 

$
#!$ 
$ 
$ 
$ 
#
$ 

† 
!$#  
– pƒ p — #  

!# $! #
…$
#!$ 
$ 
$ 
–† p—p 
! 

Š‹• ”‡ˆ‡”• –‘ •ƒ…–‹ϐ‹‡† ’Žƒ…‡• ‹ –Š‡ †‹ƒ•’‘”ƒǡ ™Š‹…Š ƒ”‡ –Š‡
synagogues and places of Torah study. This applies even though
the Temple has been destroyed in accordance with the verse in 
‡…Š‡œ‡Žͳͳǡͳ͸Dz† Šƒ˜‡„‡‡ˆ‘”–Š‡ƒ•ƒŽŽ•ƒ…–—ƒ”›dz‘ˆ
™Š‹…Š‘—”ƒ„„‹••ƒ›ȋ‡‰‹ŽŽƒŠʹͻƒȌDzŠ‡•‡ƒ”‡•›ƒ‰‘‰—‡•ƒ†
places of Torah study 

ƒ„„‡—‡…Šƒ›ȋ†‹‡†…Ǥͳ͵ͶͲȌƒ‡•–Š‡ˆ‘ŽŽ‘™‹‰ƒ††‹–‹‘ƒŽ’‘‹–:  

 
!#  
 
! 
 
“ƒo ” !# 
  

!# ƒ 
$ 
$# “ƒo ” …
#!  
ƒ#  

$  

p ƒ 
#!  
!     

#  

ƒ
$ 
 ! 
ƒ  

…!   

† 
!# 
#  

# $# 

The phrase “I am the Lord” is always used to indicate the
importance of the Mitzvah described, and the greatness of the
accompanying reward or punishment. This Parshah terminates
with “I am the Lord” in relation to these two commandments for
the King who commands us to serve him and tells us by decree
“Do so and so” adds after this command “I am the King who
commands you.” This phrase comes to give added weight to his
command, and one who neglects it is guilty of a grave sin, and
one who keeps it will receive a substantial reward. 

Š‡
‡ƒ”ƒ‹‡˜ƒ‘–Š͸ƒ‹–‡”’”‡–•–Š‡˜‡”•‡ƒ•ˆ‘ŽŽ‘™•: 

# $ 

! 
#$$
$#$…!  

$Š# !$  

! 
!#ƒ# ! 
! 
$#!#!ƒ 
!$ 
! 
 ƒ$#  ! #   !$ $ $# ƒ $#
†# ! #!$$# ž# ! 

One might perhaps think that a man should revere the sanctuary
itself – the verse therefore reads “You shall observe my Sabbaths
and revere my sanctuary.” Sabbath observance and reverence
of the sanctuary are mentioned together – just as in the case of
135

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings

Sabbath observance one does not revere the Sabbath but He who
warned us about Sabbath, so in the case of the reverence quoted
in connection with the sanctuary, you do not revere the sanctuary
but He who warned you about the sanctuary. 

Š # $# ƒ # $#  

!#ƒ 
!$#  

! 
#$$
$#$– p! 
—!  

$
† 
# ! 
! 
ƒ 
$#! 

We might think that this commandment applies only when the
Temple is in existence. How do we know that it applies also when
the Temple does not exist? For this reason the verse reads “You
shall observe My Sabbaths and revere My sanctuary;” just as the
observance of the Sabbaths applies eternally, so the reverence of
the sanctuary applies eternally.
The Gemara in Megillah 29a discusses in further detail the situation when
the Temple is not in existence. A Baraitha is quoted in which Rabbi Shimon
ben Yochai deduces from several verses in the Tenach that the Shechinah
accompanies the Jewish people wherever they are. The Gemara asks “Where
is the Shechinah actually to be found?” and provides evidence that it is in the
•›ƒ‰‘‰—‡ ȋ‹…Ž—†‹‰ –Š‡ ’ƒ••ƒ‰‡ “—‘–‡† ƒ„‘˜‡ „› Ǥ ˜ƒ†‹ƒŠ ˆ‘”‘ȌǤ Š‡
discussion concludes as follows: 

$ 
$ 
ž 
$$ 
o–$—$…!#! 
ƒ$# 
$! 
#!…!†$
#!$  

žƒ$ 
$o–
p$— 
! $# 

†$#!

Rava gave the following exposition: What is the meaning of the
verse “Lord you have been our dwelling place” – this refers to
•›ƒ‰‘‰—‡•ƒ†’Žƒ…‡•‘ˆ‘”ƒŠ•–—†›Ǥ„ƒ›‡•ƒ‹†Dz–ϐ‹”•– —•‡†
to study at home and pray in the synagogue; but when I noted the
words of David “0 Lord I love the dwelling place of your house,” I
started to study in the synagogue.
The analogy between prayer in a synagogue and service in the Temple is
ƒˆϐ‹”‡†„›–Š‡ƒŽ—–Š‹‘‹ȋ•ƒŽ•͸ͷͻȌ: 

$   
ƒ   
$ $   
#  !  
! 
ƒ 
$ #!     
! ! ƒ  
$ 

!# ƒ#  $ $  
ƒ   

$ $

†  
# 
Rav Huna said “One who does not enter a synagogue in this
world will not enter a synagogue in the world to come” Said R.
136

The Dignity of The Synagogue

Yochanan from where is this deduced? “Around it the wicked
™‹ŽŽ ™ƒŽdz ȋƒ† ™‹ŽŽ ‘– ‡–‡”Ȍ Ǧ•ƒŽ• ͳʹǡ ͻǤ † ‹ˆ ‘‡ ’”ƒ›•
in a synagogue in this world, it is as though he has prayed in
the Temple, as it is written “And I have been for them a small
•ƒ…–—ƒ”›ƒ‘‰–Š‡ƒ–‹‘•dzȋ‡…Š‡œ‡Žͳͳǡͳ͸Ȍ.

The halachic requirements of the sanctity of the synagogue are discussed in
detail in various places in the Talmud; the conclusions quoted in the Shulchan
Aruch will be reproduced later.
3. ZOHAR
The Zohar criticizes in very strong terms those who do not respect the dignity
of the synagogue. 

… 

!$$#!! 

! 

!   

$#$# 

$ ƒ!#   
$ 

ƒ$ 

Ř
†
$    

$ $# 

ƒ
!!#   

!$$!# 
… 
#
! 
– —!!# 
  
#  

ƒ 
! 
#   

# 

$        

ƒ#  

#
†– 
$ 

$$$— 
ƒŠƒ”ƒ…Š‹ˆˆȋǤ‡‹”„‡ƒƒ‘˜ ƒ…‘Š‡…Š‹ˆˆͳ͸ͲͺǦͶͶȌ‡š’Žƒ‹‡†–Š‹•
passage from the Zohar in a derashah which he delivered on Shabbath Parshath
Va’Ethchanan: 

!## 
$$ 
$ #! 

! # 
o!
‡$#$#! 
!
# ƒ  
!  

! !#!# 
##
!!# ƒ! 
!# 
$ 
!o†! 
# 
 

! 

#   

##  
!#! 
!# 
p#$!  
Š   

! 

# 
ƒ$ 
! 
!# 
† !  

!
#!#$   

ƒ 
!
#    

!#
$ƒ! 
# 
$  

$ !#   
$o†$ 
!   

!# 
 
#
# ƒ$ $#  

# 
!ƒ !!#  

# 
$
#!! † $! 
#$!ƒ! !  


†o  

!
#$ 
! 
$ ##p
1Ǥԙ‡Šƒ˜‡…‘•‹†‡”‡†‹–‹ƒ’’”‘’”‹ƒ–‡–‘–”ƒ•Žƒ–‡–Š‡–‡š–‘ˆ–Š‡‘Šƒ”‹–‘‰Ž‹•ŠǤ •–‡ƒ†
™‡Šƒ˜‡”‡’”‘†—…‡†–Š‡ ‡„”‡™–”ƒ•Žƒ–‹‘‘ˆǤ‡Š—†ƒŠ•ŠŽƒ‰ȋ ƒ—ŽƒȌ

137

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings

A new practice has arisen, conversation about everyday matters
in the synagogue, and every Jewish person knows the seriousness
of this transgression. The Zohar in the passage “One who talks in
synagogue etc.” mentions three points. First “he demonstrates an
estrangement,” which indicates that his soul does not cleave to
the G-d of Israel, for he has cut off his soul and spirit from Him,
in addition to the estrangement and separation which he causes
above. Second “he decreases Emunah,” perhaps this comes to tell
us that because of the preoccupation with vain matters he fails
to answer Amen since he does not pay attention to the end of
the berachah; and even if he does hear the end of the berachah
on what does he answer Amen? During the repetition of the
Amidah, if there are not ten people listening who answer Amen,
the repetition constitutes a Berachah le’Vatalah. But the reward
for answering Amen is unbounded, in accordance with the verse
ȋ‡•Šƒ›ƒŠ— ʹ͸ǡ ʹȌ Dz’‡ –Š‡ ‰ƒ–‡• •‘ –Šƒ– –Š‡ ”‹‰Š–‡‘—• ƒ–‹‘
that keeps faithfulness may enter.” Third “he has no part in the G-d
of Israel for he indicates that there is no G-d, and He is not to be
ˆ‘—†–Š‡”‡ȋ‹–Š‡›ƒ‰‘‰—‡Ȍdzˆ‘”™Š‘…‘—Ž†–Š‹–Šƒ–‘‡™Š‘
stands before the King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He in His
dwelling place would not be ashamed to discuss vain matters. Let
—•–Š‡”‡ˆ‘”‡ƒ’’‘‹–•’‡…‹ϐ‹…’‡‘’Ž‡–‘’‡ƒŽ‹œ‡ those who adopt
this alien practice, if the fear of Heaven is not greater than the fear
of a penalty. All this applies to permitted talk – how much more to
prohibited talk, mockery, Lashon HaRa etc.
In Parshath VaYakhel the Zohar draws attention to an additional restriction
– on Sabbath one is not even allowed to discuss matters relating to the needs
of the synagogue itself. The severe criticism which follows of one who does
not respect the dignity of the synagogue on Sabbath, thereby “desecrating”
the Sabbath, is referred to by the Chafetz Chaim in the Mishnah Berurah
ȋ•‡‡Žƒ–‡”ȌǤ 

pp!  
$#!! 

! 
 
$# ! 
$#  #   
  

$# 
ƒ  
 
$!  

$   

#
$$# 
$$#  #!  

!  

#  

$# 
!$ƒ!#  

ƒ 
! #
  
 $  

!
#!    

$#  

! #
$ 
!# 
$ 
$#

†$!  

! 

! 
ƒ$$# 
 
#  

… 
o 
!   
# 
†  
!
!
$
$ !  $ $
138

The Dignity of The Synagogue 

†!#   
ƒ$# #  
ƒ 
! 
!  

#!   # 
ƒ$#  
   
 # 
$ 
$$#! 
p    
#  

! 

†!
$   

$ 
#$ 
$
!#
4. RISHONIM
Some Rishonim regard the command to respect the synagogue as a Torah
‘„Ž‹‰ƒ–‹‘ǤŠ—•ǤŽ‹‡œ‡”‘ˆ‡–œȋͳʹ–Š…‡–—”›ǡ‘‡‘ˆ–Š‡ƒƒŽ‡‹‘•ƒˆ‘–ŠȌ‹
his Sefer Yereim writes as follows: 

p#!! 
ƒ#!$ 
$$ 
#  
ž$! 

$ –o ƒ
p ! 
—  ! $#! $ ƒ 

! 
 # 
#  
–po
—  !$ 
$ 
ƒ 
!$#  

!#$$
$# 
#
!ƒ# ! #!$#  
!$ 
$!
$ $ #   
! # #! $
$ $  

†p  
$ 
$ 
$$ 
!# $$ 
# 
–$

$#!— 
#  
–p p—! !! 
†$
#! 
$
#!$ 
$ 
$ 
!!ƒ# 
!#$ 
!  
$
$ 
$#  
!$ #  $ !
$ !#  
†š#›
†$
#!

“You shall fear your G-d.” He has commanded that when a person
enters the Temple, or synagogue or a Beth Hamedrash, that he
should treat them with reverence and honour, in accordance with
the verse in Parshath Behar Sinai “You shall observe My Sabbaths
and revere My holy place.” We have learned in Yevamoth “You
shall revere My holy place” – you do not revere the holy place
but the One who has warned you about the holy place i.e. the
‘Ž›‡ǡ„Ž‡••‡†„‡ ‡Ǥ‡ϐ‹†–Šƒ––Š‡–‡”‹†ƒ•Šƒ’’Ž‹‡•
to a synagogue or Beth Hamedrash as we have learned in Torath
Cohanim “I will lay waste your Mikdoshim” – this includes
synagogues and Batei Midrashim.” We have also learned in
Megillah “And I will serve unto them as a small Mikdash in the
lands where they have settled,” said R. Yitzchak: This refers to
synagogues and Batei Midrashim in Babylon .We therefore
deduce that the Torah statement “You shall revere My holy place”
is meant to include synagogues and Batei Midrashim. 
Š‡”‡ƒ”‡‹†‹…ƒ–‹‘•–Šƒ––Š‹•˜‹‡™‹••Šƒ”‡†„›Ǥ‘•Š‡‹‘–œ‹ȋ†Ǥͳʹ͸ͲȌ
ƒ—–Š‘”‘ˆ‡ˆ‡”‹–œ˜‘–Š
ƒ†‘Žǡ‡ƒ‰ǡ‹–œ˜ƒ–Š•‡Šͳ͸ͶǢƒ†„›Ǥ‹–œ…Šƒ 
‹‘”„‹Žȋ†ǤͳʹͺͲȌƒ—–Š‘”‘ˆ‡ˆ‡”‹–œ˜‘–Šƒ–ƒǡ‡ƒǡ‹–œ˜ƒŠ͸Ǥ
139

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings

The problem of talking in synagogue was considered so serious by the early 
ƒƒŽ‡‹‘•ƒˆ‘–Š–Šƒ–ƒ•’‡…‹ƒŽ‡†‹…–ȋŠ‡”‡Ȍ™ƒ•‹••—‡†ƒ•ˆ‘ŽŽ‘™•ǣ 

## 
$  

!  

#$$
!

†!  
!  
! 
They should not talk in the synagogue but should sit with awe
and reverence and worship our Father in heaven; all of this we
decreed with a severe ban (on those who failed to comply).

This edict is quoted in one of the commentaries of the Shulchan Aruch, Baer
ƒ
‘ŽƒŠǡȋ„›Ǥ‘•Š‡‹˜‡•†Ǥͳ͸͹ͳȌ‹Š—Ž…Šƒ”—…Šǡ‘”‡Š‡ƒŠŠǤ͵͵Ͷ. 

‘–Š‡”™‡ŽŽ‘™‹•Š‘ǡǤŽ‡ƒœƒ”„‡‡Š—†ƒŠ‘ˆ‘”•ȋͳͳ͸ͲǦͳʹ͵͹Ȍ
writes as follows in his Sefer HaRokeach: 

p
#$$ 

!!   

!
!!
#  
# 
! 
$$! 
#   

 
Œ!!#–p…po!—!#   

 #   

!  
–o…p# 
— 
#  

ƒ$ 
$ 
– p …po — #  
†!   

! 
ƒž$ †p!#!$ 
    

$! # 
$ 
! 
ƒ 
!   

#  

o 
ƒ–p…o#—#  
$ –o…oo#— 

$#†–p…oo#—!  
!$ # ƒ!  

ƒ 
 $ ƒ $ 
# ƒ 

ƒ#! $ ƒ! 
 
#
 

† 

!  ƒ!   

# 
!!
#$

If one talks in the synagogue whilst his colleagues are engaged in
praise and song, I say of him “Woe unto all my evil neighbours;”
the paths of the Lord are correct, the righteous walk along them,
and transgressors stumble on them. He is not included with his
colleagues and rejects the praise of his Master, he trespasses on
the territory of his Creator. “And I have been for them a small
sanctuary” – this refers to synagogues. One must not behave
frivolously in them, as we have learned in the fourth Perek of
Megillah. G-d stands in the divine congregation, and if anyone
speaks, it is as though he turns his back to Him; He says why have
I come and there is no one, I have called and there is no answer,
I have stretched out my hand, and no one pays attention. Why
should the Lord be angry at your voice, and call out “Who asked
this of you to trample down my courtyard.” Prostrate yourself
before Him, sit before Him in awe, with bowed head and humility,
and entreat Him with a broken heart. Sing before Him with joy,
and come before Him with exultation, then will He be near to
you, and will be available to you.
140

The Dignity of The Synagogue

5. ACHARONIM
Of the many references to our subject among the writings of the Ach’aronim,
™‡•ŠƒŽŽ•‡Ž‡…––Š”‡‡“—‘–ƒ–‹‘•ǢǤŽ‡ƒœƒ”œ…ƒ”‹ȋ…Ǥͳ͸ͲͲȌŽ‹˜‡†‹ƒˆƒ†ǡƒ†
the following is an extract from his well known Sefer Charedim: 

!# 
$  

$!
$#$ 

!†! !
… p$     

$ 
# !$ o $ #!  

! 
$ $ $  

$

#  
#! $ 
  
‡ 
!$ # 
…!# 

  
#
‡  
! 
#  

ƒ  # 

!
$! !!$$! 
! 

 
!    

p 
! 
!
# !p! 
#   
# $!

†p  # !p! 
#

One must conduct oneself in the synagogue with seriousness
and reverence for Hashem Yithbarach who dwells there, as it is
written “You shall revere My holy place.” One does not engage
in levity e.g. in jocular remarks or everyday conversation; the
punishment of one who transgresses this is very great. Two great
scholars, great Kabbalists, of our generation R. Moshe Cordovero
ƒ†Ǥ‹–œ…Šƒ•Š‡ƒœ‹ȋ–Š‡”‹ ƒƒ†‘•ŠȌ‰ƒ˜‡ƒǯ•ƒ‹
forbidding completely any talk in the synagogue other than on
topics connected with Torah and. Yirath Shamayim. 
Ǥ Š‡ˆ–‡Ž ȋͳͷͻʹǦͳ͸͸ͲȌ –Š‡ •‘ ‘ˆ –Š‡ ŠƒŽƒŠ ƒǯƒ†‘•Šǡ ‹ Š‹• ‡ˆ‡” ƒ˜‡‹
HaAmudim emphasizes that one must not engage in profane talk in a synagogue
even when there is no service in progress – how much more so during prayer
or Keriath HaTorah. He then continues:  

# 
!!#
ƒ 
# 
!ƒ 
ƒ!!  

#!# # 
ƒ
$   

!  

#
”!o 
!  
ƒ!$ 

#

Ҡ   

It is therefore appropriate for every community in which the law
‘ˆ–Š‡‹‰‘ˆ–Š‡‹˜‡”•‡‘’‡”ƒ–‡•–‘ƒ’’‘‹–•’‡…‹ƒŽ‘ˆϐ‹…‹ƒŽ•
to take strong disciplinary action against those who talk (in the
•›ƒ‰‘‰—‡Ȍƒ†–‘†‹•‰”ƒ…‡–Š‡’—„Ž‹…Ž›Ǥ –Š‹•™ƒ›–Š‡‰Ž‘”›
of G-d will be seen in the land and all of the people will listen and
be afraid, and will not transgress any more. 
Ǥ‡‹”ƒ’‹”‹•Šȋ†Ǥͳ͸͸ʹȌ™ƒ•‘‡‘ˆ–Š‡‰”‡ƒ–‡—„ƒŽ‹‘ˆ ‡”—•ƒŽ‡ǡƒ†‹
his well known Musar Sefer, Or Tzadikim, he writes as follows:
141

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings 

p !  

!  

$ 
$ 
$ 
#–p#$ ! 
—p   

!  
ƒ!$    

$ƒ $
#! 
#$
#!$ 
$ 
$ƒ!       

!#  
$  

$ 

$ 
$  

$ 
! 
‡!    

ƒ$   

###   

ƒ$$  

$ 
! 
! 
! 
!$$ 

! $  

$ # ! $ 
#  $
!  
!
# 
$# 
!#  
o$ # ! 

 $      

!  
†o   

! 
p 
!#  

ƒ$$  

†
$$
$$   

ƒo$# $$ 
$  

$ 

$ 
ƒ$
$# 
ƒ  
!  

!##$$p 
!###!$   
# # 
$$#!$ 

#  

†p #! 
!p oo!# 
!! 
†#!##!  

!$#$ 
!$#   

$$   

#! !!## 
†$# 
$
!    

# 
  $ !   
 

‡$ $ $   
#
$ # # !    

 
†# !
#   

ƒ###! 
o$
$# 
    

!ƒo$#  

o$$

$  
#  

$ 
!$#!#
† ! 

$#!$  
ƒ 
# 
#‡

Our Rabbis said “Why are synagogues and Batei Midrash
compared to streams, in accordance with the verse “Like streams
they were stretched out, like gardens by the riverside;” just as
ƒ ’‡”•‘ ’Ž—‰‡• ‹–‘ ƒ •–”‡ƒ ‹ ȋ”‹–—ƒŽȌ —…Ž‡ƒŽ‹‡•• ƒ†
emerges in purity, so he enters a synagogue or Beth Hamedrash
stained with iniquity, he goes inside, confesses his sins, asks
for mercy, loving kindness and forgiveness from our Father in
Heaven and emerges in purity…”
Therefore, before a person enters a synagogue he should remove
from his mind all disturbing thoughts which would interfere with
his concentration on his prayers, he should not enter hurriedly
without composure as he would enter his own or his friend’s
house; he should stand for a short while near the door, and
allow the awe of Hashem Yithbarach whose sanctity pervades
the synagogue to enter into his heart; as our father Jacob said
Dz ‘™ˆ‡ƒ”ˆ—Ž‹•–Š‹•’Žƒ…‡‡–…Ǥdz ‡•Š‘—Ž†ϐ‹”•–‡–‹‘–Š‡‡”‹–•
of our ancestors before Hashem Yithbarach, and in their merit
his prayers will be accepted. He should bow towards the Ark
with a subdued heart, so that he may merit a share in the crown
which Moses our teacher made for the King of Kings, the Holy
142

The Dignity of The Synagogue

One, Blessed be He, from the prayers of the Jewish people. He
should not engage in any levity in the synagogue because of
awe for the Shechinah which is there. Note particularly that the 
”‹ ƒƒ†‘•Š†‹†‘–”ƒ‹•‡Š‹•˜‘‹…‡ȋ‹–Š‡•›ƒ‰‘‰—‡Ȍ‡š…‡’–
slightly on Sabbath in songs in honour of Sabbath. Even more so,
he should not speak in the synagogue of other matters which are
not related to prayer.
Even after the service sanctity still pervades the synagogue, and
one who raises his voice on matters not related to prayer or praise
of Hashem Yithbarach acts in an insulting manner towards His
holiness, and drives the Shechinah out. Woe to the servant who
drives his Master from His house; about him the Shechinah cries
ƒ†…‘’Žƒ‹•ȋ‹…ŠƒŠͳǡͳͶȌDz
Ǧ†Šƒ•†‡Ž‹˜‡”‡†‡‹–‘Šƒ†•‹
which I cannot exist.” Therefore any serious person should take
this into account in his conduct, so that his soul can shine with
the living light. 
™‘ ™‡ŽŽ ‘™ …Šƒ”‘‹ǡ Ǥ ‘ ‘˜ ‹’ƒ ‡ŽŽ‡” ȋͳͷ͹ͻǦͳ͸ͷͶȌǡ
ƒ—–Š‘”‘ˆ‘•ƒˆ‘–Š‘‘˜ǡƒ†Ǥˆ”ƒ‹ƒŽƒƒ”‰—Ž‹‡•ȋͳ͹͸ʹǦͳͺʹͺȌǡ
author of Mateh Efraim, designed a special blessing to be recited for those
who do not talk during service in the synagogue. The text of the blessing
of the Tosafoth Yom Tov reads as follows; it was composed during a period
of terrible massacres, presumably with the aim of improving synagogue
behaviour and thereby securing additional merit for Klal Yisrael. 

! 
#  

! 
#  
! 
$ 
!#  

!#p †$$!# 

#  

!
##$ 
$!
$!$ 

$$ 
!    

ƒ   

 
! 
 
$ 
!  
ƒ
$ 
!  

!# 
$$ 
o$  

ƒ 
#   

!
$ 

! 
$

May He who blessed our fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
Aaron, David and Solomon bless all those who control their
mouths and tongues so as not to talk during the time of prayer.
May the Almighty guard them from all trouble and anguish,
from all sickness and disease; may they be graced with all the
blessings contained in the Sefer Torah of Moses our teacher and
in the books of Neviim and Kethuvim. May they be privileged to
see children who are living and viable, and may they bring them
up for Torah, marriage and good deeds; may they serve the Lord
our G-d continuously in truth and sincerity, and let us say Amen.
143

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings

6. SHULCHAN ARUCH 
‡•ŠƒŽŽϐ‹ƒŽŽ›“—‘–‡–Š‡ǯ•ƒ‹‰‹˜‡‹–Š‡Š—Ž…Šƒ”—…Š”‡Žƒ–‹‰–‘–Š‡
matters which have been discussed. 

p $$$  
! 

! 
# 

$ 

#… 
#!$ 
 
ƒ$
#!$ 
$ 
$   

# $ 
$
#   

ƒ  # 

‡##       

#
… 
ƒ$ 
#pƒ$  

# #  
#ƒ!  
p 
ƒ 
# 

!  
ƒ 
!! 
„  

$! 
#  ƒ 
!  p 
ƒ 
# ! !  
  ! 
 ƒ 
!ƒ$ 
# 
$
!    

„ 
! 
! 
p 
  #  
 
!
$#  
 ! …$

$   
–oƒp$—$# 
!#…!#ƒ 
##ƒ
– $o 
ƒ#! 
#…p—

In regard to synagogues and Batei Midrash one must not
behave with levity in them, for example by jesting or mocking,
or engaging in idle talk. One must not eat or drink or dress up
in them, one must not stroll around in them or take shelter
from the sun in summer or from the rain in winter. One must
not engage in calculations in them, unless they are associated
with a Mitzvah like charity funds or redeeming of captives. One
must not eulogize a dead person in them, unless he is one of the
great personalities of the city whose eulogy will be attended by
the whole city. If a person needs to enter a synagogue or Beth
HaMedrash for his own purposes, for example to call someone
‘—–ǡŠ‡•Š‘—Ž†ϐ‹”•–‡–‡”ƒ†”‡ƒ†ƒ˜‡”•‡‘ˆ‡ƒ…Š‘”ƒ‹•ŠƒŠ
or Halachah, and then call the person concerned, so that it should
not seem as if he is using the synagogue or Beth HaMedrash for
his personal needs. If he does not have the knowledge to read
Tenach or Mishnah he should tell one of the children to recite the
verse that he is currently studying, or he should sit down for a
short while before he leaves, since sitting in a synagogue or Beth
HaMedrash is a Mitzvah in accordance with the verse “Happy are
those who sit in Your house.” (Rema: he should sit at least the
time taken to walk 2 feet).
On the words    # “idle talk,” R. Yisrael Meir HaCohen, the Chafetz 
Šƒ‹ǡȋͳͺ͵ͺǦͳͻ͵͵Ȍ…‘‡–•ƒ•ˆ‘ŽŽ‘™•‹–Š‡‹•ŠƒŠ‡”—”ƒŠ:
144

The Dignity of The Synagogue 

o pp !
!# 
! 
p !#  
! ! 
# 
$ #  
  

p  

šp› $  

!# 
!  # ! 

p 
p! ###p    

 
o 
#$

$   

$ 
! 
!p# 
! 
!       

# 

!$   

!  
$   

#        

# 

#!#    

$#o!! 
!p‡ 
!
$ !   

 
p 
p !
…$

This means that even talk on everyday matters which are needed
for his living and which are permitted outside the synagogue
are forbidden inside. It applies with greater force to idle talk
which should be avoided anywhere. The holy Zohar in Parshath
VaYakhel emphasizes in strong terms the greatness of this sin.
How much more should one take care not to engage in forbidden
talk in a synagogue or Beth Hamedrash, for example Lashon Ha’Ra,
Rechiluth, quarrels and wrangles. These are severe iniquities in
themselves, but the iniquity is much greater in a holy place, since
he pays no regard to the Shechinah. A sin committed privately
cannot be compared to one committed in the King’s palace in
the presence of the King. Therefore any person who treats the
word of the Lord with awe and reverence should continually
concentrate his eyes and heart on this matter, and not engage in
idle talk in a synagogue or Beth HaMedrash; the place should be
devoted solely to Torah and prayer.
7. CONCLUSION
In our introductory remarks we noted that many Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvoth
treat conduct in the synagogue as a matter of secondary importance. We feel
anyone who studies in the preceding pages the basis in Torah and Chazal, the
comments of Rishonim and Acharonim, and the P’sak Din in the Shulchan
Aruch will realize that this is a completely mistaken view.
There are some who claim that talking in synagogue arises from a weakness
in human nature, which has been with us for so long that attempts to correct
‹–ƒ”‡Ž‹ƒ„Ž‡–‘’”‘˜‡ˆ—–‹Ž‡ǤŠ‹•‹•‡‰ƒ–‡†„›–Š‡•ƒŽŽ„—–•‹‰‹ϐ‹…ƒ–—„‡”
of communities in all major Jewish centres where conduct in the synagogue is
exemplary.
Rambam tells us that once a bad habit has been formed, it can be cured only
„› ƒ ƒ„‘”ƒŽ …‘””‡…–‹˜‡ ‡ˆˆ‘”– ‹ –Š‡ ‘’’‘•‹–‡ †‹”‡…–‹‘Ǥ  ϐ‹” ”‡•‘Ž˜‡ ‹•
145

Professor Yechiel Domb p - Selected Writings

”‡“—‹”‡†–‘‹‰‘”‡–Š‡…—””‡–‘”•‘ˆ•‘…‹ƒŽ„‡Šƒ˜‹‘—”ǡ™Š‡–Š‡›…‘ϐŽ‹…–
with the dignity of the synagogue, even at the risk of loss of popularity. No
‹†‹˜‹†—ƒŽ•Š‘—Ž†—†‡”‡•–‹ƒ–‡–Š‡‡š–‡–‘ˆŠ‹•’‡”•‘ƒŽ‹ϐŽ—‡…‡‘‘–Š‡”•Ǥ
If the lay leaders of the community, and those with a Yeshiva background were
to set an example it would not take long before the dignity of the synagogue is
properly restored.

146

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful