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I know that lots of minyanim have the talking problem; has anybody solved it?

I daven with a weekday shacharit minyan that has a noise problem. A couple of people are the main sources of the problem (instigators). The problem, to be clear, is talking about inappropriate things during services loudly enough to disrupt others, including the sh'liach tzibbur. Both the regular congregants and the sha"tz, have tried talking privately and delicately with them and encountered denial and some hostility. There is no rabbi; everyone there is a layperson. I'd rather not leave this community.

Some have suggested that the sha"tz stop services when this happens and just wait, or even address these people directly at that point and ask them to stop. I'm concerned that this might cross the line into inappropriately embarrassing them, particularly if there are visitors to the minyan (as there sometimes are) who do not know the history. What are the halachic parameters of such an approach: is anything in that vein possible (and advised)? Are there other ways to address this problem, other than the sha"tz just raising the volume to overpower the talkers?

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One of my favorite signs I've seen is: If you come to shul to talk to your friends, where do you go to daven? –  yydl May 11 '12 at 1:37
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@yydl I've seen this great sign: Aleinu isn't Tefillas Haderech!! –  Shmuel Brin May 11 '12 at 5:10
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@AvrohomYitzchok: friends, convenient time, tradition (been going there for years). The problem was not always this bad and I'd rather fix it than leave if I can. –  Monica Cellio May 11 '12 at 13:05
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One thing you could try is to have the sha"tz get quieter and see if the talkers notice that they're clearly talking over the sha"tz. –  Isaac Moses May 11 '12 at 16:29
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This is something I once suggested. I'm not sure if I still think the idea works. –  Isaac Moses May 11 '12 at 16:42
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6 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I have seen some shuls that actually have people sign a formalized contract not to talk during davening and then post that near the entrance to the shul. I think that whatever the approach, the most successful way would be to get wide-spread buy in from everyone first. Any approach that singles people out, even with halachic basis, will have a hard time permanently eradicating the problem. Perhaps rallying behind a cause eg. our shul will stop talking completely for 30 days as a zechus for a refuah for person XYZ might work. Good luck in your avodas hakodesh!

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The best thing you should do if that shul that you go to Talks through the whole Davening is to go to another that does not talk at all, and make it like that shul you don't go to anymore because they talk is to make it like that shul does not exist

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Sometimes you can't (It's the only shul around or all have people talking there). –  Shmuel Brin Dec 27 '13 at 2:32
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The question says "I'd rather not leave this community.". –  msh210 Dec 27 '13 at 4:42
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Sefer Vavei Hamudim, Chapter 10, The Pillar of Service

(Not to speak meaningless conversation in a synagogue even if it is not the time of prayer and how much more so during tefilah and the reading of the Torah.) It seems that sitting in a synagogue is considered a mitzvah and meaningless conversation and such is like a sin that extinguished a mitzvah, every man and woman who sits in a synagogue should learn that, even if not in the time of prayer, one should not speak meaningless conversation. Even the more so during prayer or the reading of the Torah not to speak mundane speech. And in our many sin a snare? That in every city they are not able to protest the people and becomes to them like it is permissible, in our many sins Woe to them and Woe to their souls. How can their prayer go up above if it is dirtied with this type of sin, the prosecutor cannot become the defender. Therefore, it is fitting that each congregation, each place that the word of the King, the King of the Universe, and **they should appoint men upon this (to protest upon the people who talk during prayer his will, that each city should appoint people to rebuke before them) that will supervise with a lot of fear upon the speakers and embarrass them publicly

Through this will appear the honor of Hashem in the land and the whole nation will hear and fear and will not rebel any longer, and His law reaches. And they will place a muzzle and bridle to restrain their mouths in shule to speak a mundane matter and meaningless conversation.

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You're suggesting appointing people to embarrass the talkers publicly?? –  Double AA Dec 26 '12 at 4:27
    
Seems to be the only sourced answer –  Shmuel Brin Dec 27 '13 at 2:34
    
@ShmuelBrin To be fair there was no explicit request for sources in the question. –  Double AA Dec 27 '13 at 4:33
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This is a report on what has happened since I asked this question.

One day a few weeks ago one of the "minyan elders" talked to the main talker and asked him to change his behavior. It did not go well, from what I heard (I wasn't there that day), and the talker stopped coming to the minyan. That's no good, everyone agreed, and various people tried to talk with him. Then a week or so ago there was a minyan meeting, the stated goal of which was not "how do we stop the talking?" but "what are we doing here and what do we value?". The meeting began with everybody answering the question "why do you come to minyan?" and then led into a discussion of values. (I was out of town; I learned all this this morning.)

People brought up several things that we could be doing better; for example, nobody realized that some people were having trouble hearing some of the shlichei tzibbur and they need to speak up or use a microphone (on weekdays). There is concern that we're relying on the same two or three leaders but others feel intimidated and don't want to take it on, so we need to encourage and mentor. There were concerns about better integrating the school children on days that they come so they feel part of it. And there was a discussion about talking, with the following being written into a document that's sort of a statement of principles:

We ask that no side conversations be held on the bimah or in the pews during the prayer service, especially near the service leader. If it is necessary to speak, we ask that you whisper and not speak aloud. Every effort should be made to daven with the service leader not faster, slower, or louder. The service leader runs the service and deserves the appropriate respect.

The talker who had left returned earlier this week, sitting alone in the back. It's too soon to say what the long-term effect will be.

I don't know the formal status of the document or whether it will become something people are asked to sign as in rachav's answer.

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Re: the downvote, I'd like to know how I can improve this answer. –  Monica Cellio May 19 '13 at 21:26
    
+1 This was going to be my suggestion. In the times of the Mishna, inappropriate behavior during davening, even as the chazan, could result in abrupt removal. Also there are instances of public reprimands between Rabbis, like R' Gamliel and R' Yehoshua. I understand the consideration for feelings and not wanting to embarrass publicly, especially given this generation's exceptional sensitivity and defensiveness. But a small group of regulars shows this individual that he is bothering more than just the one guy who came over to him and that a communal stance is being taken against his behavior. –  Baby Seal Dec 27 '13 at 4:00
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They should post a sign with famous sources of how severe the sin of talking during davening is. The Shulchan Aruch 124:7 says the sin of talking during chazras hashatz is great too bear, a language only used once in Shulchun Aruch .

The Mishna Brura 124:27 brings down the Elya Rabbah who says many Shuls have been destroyed because of people talking during davening and ends with that they should place someone in charge to be a mashgiach.

The Magen Avraham 151:1 says because of kalos rosh(frivolity) Shuls were turned into church's .

The Mishna Brura 56:1 brings stories of people who who spoke during kaddish ,kudusha and even v'ychulu on shabbas that got a greenish tinge because of this great sin.He adds at that end it is even assur to think divrei Torah during Kaddish.

The Shuclhan Aruch Harav 124:10: qoutes the Zohar parshas Terumah 131:2 One who talks during chazaras hashatz while everyone is busy with the praise of Hashem it shows that he has no share in the world to come.

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why the downvote. This is nothing of my own this is all from the greatest Rabbis in halacha . –  sam May 11 '12 at 18:28
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I didn't downvote, but I suspect that whoever did thought that this isn't necessarily helpful: lots of people know these ideas, but the gap between knowing and action is pretty wide. –  Alex May 11 '12 at 19:34
    
I think alot people do not know how severe the sin really is,but if people do know and have to be bribed inorder not to talk,kol hakovad wharever works. –  sam May 11 '12 at 19:40
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@sam people also know the punishments. Moreover, when they get repeated too many times, they lose their effect. –  Shmuel Brin May 11 '12 at 23:36
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@ Sam. The people who are talking (not all, but many) don't see it as a privilege. To them (again, many, not all) it's as an hour or so where for the most part they cannot move and are supposed to say these words that a bunch of rabbis wrote about two thousand years ago that they don't understand. When you look at it that way, it's easy to choose talking over davening. And it's easy to think that the punishments are a little too harsh to be true and ignore them. –  Ari A May 13 '12 at 1:44
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I once visited the Kemp Mill Synagogue and IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY this was the deal they had made: the congregartion agreed not to talk at all during services, and in return the Rabbi agreed to give his sermon after all the prayers had ended (ie after mussaf), thus allowing for those who did not want to stay for the sermon to leave. The vast majority of members do stay weekly for the sermon, but having the option is nice. It is dead silent during services. (If someone goes to this Synagogue or knows someone there maybe you can confirm this.)

In any event, the idea of using positive incentives instead of just warnings is a good one, and while this particular solution may or may not work in a different synagogue, maybe they can find a different way to encourage the congregants to want to remain quiet.

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I don't know recently you visited that shul, but when I went there about 15 years ago silence was the exception rather than the rule, so if this is a new approach, it's certainly working! –  rachav May 11 '12 at 18:20
    
@rachav My first time there was about 8 years ago and I was most recently there maybe 3 years ago. –  Double AA May 11 '12 at 18:37
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