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Thought for the Day: Talking in Shul is Much Worse Than You Think

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 134:7) says concerning one who talks during chazaras hashatz that "avono gadol mi'n'so" -- his sin is too great to be pardoned.  Too put that in context, recall that the m'chaber is paraphasing Kayin in his conversation with HaShem after murdering Hevel.  It is as if we are to understand Hevel as saying, "I know murdering my brother was bad, but its not as if I talked during chazaras hashatz!"  The same p'sak is found int the Bais Yosef where he notes his source from Orchos Chaim quoting Rabeinu Yona.  Obviously the point is how serious an offense it is to talk during chazaras hashats.  The question remains: What is the offense that warrants such a strong statement?  Moreover, it is clear from the context that this is not about disturbing others.

There is a story brought in a few places a chasid who was asked to intercede with the king on the behalf of his community.  He wanted to daven mincha first, but given the urgency he was persuaded to leave immediately.  The chasid arrived and was ushered into the king's court, where there was a galach making a long winded speech about the greatness of the king and showering his with brachos.  The chasid new this galach and knew it would be a while before he was finished, so he decided to daven mincha.  While the chasid was davening mincha, the galach said, "And to ensure that all of these blessings come to fruition, I call on everyone in the room to answer, Amen!"  Everyone, of course, did; except, of course, the chasid (who was still davening mincha).  When the king saw that the chasid did not answer amein to the blessings he ordered that the chasid be put to death immediately, his body dismembered, and the pieces be sent back to the town as a warning.

Why the chasid was put in that position is for another time.  For us, though, we see that ignoring saying amein to a bracha given to the king -- while the king is sitting right there -- is a capital crime.  The takana of chazaras hashatz is that it is only said when there is a minyan.  Why?  Because whenever 10 Jewish men are assembled, the shechina (divine presence) is there also.  That's the great offense that is "gadol mi'n'so" -- ignoring answering amein to someone praising the King, the King of kings, haKadosh Baruch Hu, who is right there in the room.  For an ordinary person it would be a serious breach of etiquette.  For the King -- it is a serious rebellion and a capital crime.

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