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Thought for the Day: Responding with Derech Eretz

My first grandchild was born the night of the beginning of 20 Nissan.  In North Miami Beach Florida.  We were in Chicago.  That's approximately 1380 miles; 20 to 23 hours; depending on whose driving.  First grandchild.  Acharon shel Pesach starts in less than 20 hours.  There are four of us going, so flying (even if tickets would be available) are not an option.  Oh, yes, and we have to pack.  And its Pesach.  First grandchild.

Chasdei HaShem, we have amazing friends in Atlanta, GA; which just happens to be half way between Chicago and North Miami Beach.  Whew!  We packed, slept a couple of hours, drove, stopped to daven, drove some more, and made it to Atlanta with over an hour spare.

The rav, Rabbi Feldman, shilta, spoke between mincha and ma'ariv about an issue that was really upsetting him -- people walking out when there is a guest speaker.  The truth is, walking out when anyone -- even the rav -- speaks, is a at least a breach of derech eretz.  He ended with this message:  "If you are not going to conduct yourself with exemplary derech eretz in shul; don't come -- you are not welcome."  I was impressed both by the message and by the fact he could say that and retain his job.  (He is still there today.)

How far should derech eretz and darchie shalom go in shul?  There are several of us who learn at the vasikin minyan.  Because the time of davening moves around, we shift our learning schedule to either before or after davening.  This time of year we are mostly learning after davening.  A Jew (someone I didn't recognize, so not a regular and maybe from out of town) came in after davening, while we were all starting to learn.  He walked straight up to the shulchan and started shmone esrei out loud; intending to make himself ba'al ha'bayis over our time to answer his k'dusha; because he was late and, well... he wanted to.  There was no minyan davening ; we had all davened.  Answer him or not?

Halichos Shlomo on T'fila addresses precisely this question in the D'var Halacah, perek 9, s.k. 9.  He says that even though it is forbidden to walk in an interrupt everyone's learning, it seems to him that it is appropriate to answer because of darchei shalom.  A stranger walks in, takes the amud without permission, interrupts everyone's learning; and its appropriate, says R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"tzl, to be polite and answer in order not to cause a machlokes.  That's what it means to have exemplary derech eretz in shul.

By the way, this has happened only one other time I can remember at vaskin.  Also by the way, the only reason I know exactly where that halacha is in Halichos Shlomo is that I learn a paragraph or so each day and just happened to be learning that halacha today as the interloper started.  I guess if I can take mussar from a movie, I can can take mussar from a sefer.  I'm going to work on my derech eretz.  Bli neder.


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