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Thought for the Day: You are a Role Model, Like It or Not

Here are two things I have never seen.  Number One: a sign that says, "It is forbidden to urinate in the sanctuary during the reader's repetition of shmone esrei and while the Torah is being read."  Number Two: anyone urinating in the sanctuary.  On the other hand, I have been in many, many shuls that display signs that say, "assur l'daber b'shas chazaras hashatz v'krias hatorah".  (Much more impressive in hebrew; no?)  Yet there still seems to be talking in shul.  The scientist in me begins to suspect that signs are not the issue.

I shall propose as a working hypothesis that the issue is one of peer pressure.  It is not that everyone would look askance and chuckle at someone who committed the social faux pas of urinating in the sanctuary (in fact, they'd surely do a lot more).  Rather the issue is simply, "it isn't done".  Anyone, even a visitor, feels right away that some things simply are not done.  I'll give you another example.  We have no signs that forbid talking in shul at the Chicago k'vasikin minyan.  In spite of that glaring omission, no one talks during chazaras hashatz, k'rias hatorah, announcements, or even during the daily halacha.  It simply isn't done.

How do you get to that point?  Every individual takes personal responsibility.  In fact, we find this in halacha.  The Shulchan Aruch OC 139:4 says that each person called to the Torah makes a bracha before and after his reading.  The Mishna Brura explains (from the gemara) that really only the person called to the first aliyah should make the initial bracha of "asher bachar banu" and only the person called to the last aliyah should make the after bracha of "asher nasan lanu toras emes".  Chazal, however, were worried that someone walking in late might not realize that  there is a bracha to make before reading from the Torah and someone leaving early might not realize there is a bracha to make after reading from the Torah.  Chazal are so worried about misleading one Jew who is late for shul or running out early, that they decreed that every Jew take personal responsibility and demonstrate that we make a bracha both before and after reading from the Torah.  They didn't say to put up signs, they said to model the correct behavior.

So if you want shul to be quiet: don't put up signs, just don't talk.


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