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?

  • 11
    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
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 1:37
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    @yydl I've seen this great sign: Aleinu isn't Tefillas Haderech!! Commented May 11, 2012 at 5:10
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    Why are you davenning with this minyan? Commented May 11, 2012 at 12:57
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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
    Commented May 11, 2012 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
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 16:42

8 Answers 8


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!


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
    Commented May 11, 2012 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
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 18:37

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.

Five years later: Nobody talks about the document any more as far as I know (and it didn't become something people were asked to sign), but the noise level has stayed reasonable most of the time. When conversations do become disruptive, one of several members of the minyan now "shushes" the people involved. If that doesn't work, the sh'liach tzibur stops and waits, which has prompt results. The sha"tz usually does not say anything about the noise, just waits.

While the discussion raised awareness and the document recorded the results, it appears that a larger benefit of the whole process was to give everybody "permission" to do something about the problem when it arises. It arises less often than it did; we didn't manage to stop it, but it's more controlled now.

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    Re: the downvote, I'd like to know how I can improve this answer. Commented May 19, 2013 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
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 4:00
  • @BabySeal your comment about this generation made me chuckle; while your observation is certainly correct, our "problem guy" is about 80. (And I somehow missed this comment when you posted it.) Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 12:26
  • ha! well I guess there is a spectrum in every generation :D Hope this ended well.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 2:28
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    I guess I should mark this as the accepted answer since it's what we ended up doing, but several answers here describe parts of the solution so I feel a little funny about that. Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 16:02

My personal experience, as Shaliach tzibur, to silence the Schul talkers has been to stop as soon as I sensed any utterances coming from the congregation. Following a few seconds of showing my "respect" for their private conversations, utter silence would reign. One or two more such treatments allowed me to complete the prayer properly. No rabbi and no shamash is as effective. Nobody becomes insulted and with fewer pauses, the service suffers less delays. It works all the time. However the only set-back is when someone else is Shaliach Tzibut who is embarrassed to exploit a similar tactic.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, and welcome to the site!
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 16:16

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
    Commented May 11, 2012 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
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 19:34
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    I don't scaring people into not talking is the right approach, especially not without emphasizing WHY the punishment is so severe. Commented May 11, 2012 at 22:40
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    @sam people also know the punishments. Moreover, when they get repeated too many times, they lose their effect. Commented May 11, 2012 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. Commented May 13, 2012 at 1:44

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.

  • You're suggesting appointing people to embarrass the talkers publicly??
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 4:27
  • Seems to be the only sourced answer Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 2:34
  • @ShmuelBrin To be fair there was no explicit request for sources in the question.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 4:33

I feel that ultimately, leadership comes from the rabbi, himself. He really has to be vigilant, sometimes!

I started in a shul that was quiet and with increasing membership, came increasing noise.

Then, I noticed something startling. The rabbi, himself was sometimes schmoozing with members when davening had begun! I left the shul. A few weeks afterwards, the rabbi saw me on the street and asked why I left the shul. I told him honestly, and politely told him that HE was part of the problem. You can't tell your shul to be quiet when YOU (the rabbi) don't lead by example.

The rabbi took what I said to heart and improved - for a while. Then, things came to a head! When he told the noisest schmoozers to be quiet, they actually fought with the rabbi, saying that it was their shul, they gave most of the money, and they could do what they wanted, including talking!

In the end, the rabbi stood his ground, the vast majority of members backed the policy to keep the shul quiet, and the rabbi gave the schmoozers an ultimatum - be quiet or leave the shul! Well, they left the shul, and formed another one. They took the rich members of our shul with them, too (also schmoozers). So, we now have a quiet poor shul and they have the talkative rich shul, and everyone's happy!

Point to all this is, that if the rabbi makes a BIG issue about keeping the shul quiet and gets the shul members to buy into this policy and "markets" it this way, even to the point of expelling the non-cooperative members to the point of risking the shul's financial stability - I think caring smart people will realize the advantages and you have a successful place. Sometimes, it's not all about the money and the "big shots".


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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