At some point in our history, the rabbi's Derashah, or sermon, went from being taboo to being so integral to the service that some Shuls have ushers to keep the doors closed at that time so that no one may enter or leave.

I'll refrain from asking about the provenance of this transition or the appropriateness of affording more respect to the sermon than (in many places) even Shemoneh 'Esreh. What I'm really interested in is, now that this has taken on such an important status, does that mean that there is some Halachic weight to the sermon, such that (aside from general Kavod for the sensibilities of those around us) one would actually be required to stay in the Shul for the sermon, one may not talk during the sermon, and/or one may not engage in other Torah learning during the sermon?

  • 1
    I was going to title this, "Am I a bad Jew if I don't listen to the rabbi's sermon," but I felt that might be too subjective and not specific enough to answer.
    – Seth J
    Jul 17, 2012 at 3:39
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    It is a little insulting to the Rabbi if you get up and leave when he starts speaking.
    – Menachem
    Jul 17, 2012 at 17:41
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    IINM there is a gemara in Shabbos that says that you can't learn כתובים on Shabbos, out of concern that you'll miss the Shabbos afternoon drasha....that may have bearing on your question.
    – MTL
    Dec 4, 2014 at 19:16
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    Oh my! The beginning of your 2nd paragraph is just TOO appropriate, that it almost begs you to ask about this as a separate question!
    – DanF
    Sep 14, 2017 at 22:58
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    I would think so, @SAH. Haftarah is Nevi'im (Prophets), anyway, not Kesuvim (Writings).
    – MTL
    Oct 5, 2018 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


In short, to answer the question, I personally do not believe that there is any special halakhic status for sermons.


If you get the rabbi's permission to avoid the sermon, then it is my hunch that it is in fact Halachically permissible to avoid it. However, if people notice that you are missing, I recommend telling them that the rabbi explicitly permitted to skip it, since you did get permission after all.

The minhag at many batei k'nesiyot is that it is permissible to enter quietly during a sermon, but never to leave. However if one must leave for an emergency, it should also be done quietly. I have seen people reading sefarim during sermons, but I believe this is because people would fall asleep otherwise, which is a greater level of disrespect. Therefore, to avoid that, they learn, which is not so bad in comparison and it prevents a more severe transgression.

Also, children who are well-behaved are permitted to sit in the main sanctuary and listen quietly to the rabbi as long as they will not cause any interruptions. But many children stay at home on shabbat morning or have their own groups with their friends where parents send them to stay out of trouble.

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    How does this answer the question?
    – Double AA
    Jul 18, 2012 at 19:43
  • @DoubleAA - "Is it Halachically wrong to avoid the rabbi's sermon?" - I said that it is permissible. Jul 18, 2012 at 19:46
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    Now that is an answer! It is unsourced and purely speculation, but it at least answers the right question.
    – Double AA
    Jul 18, 2012 at 20:13
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    @AdamMosheh, as far as 99% of people who read this are concerned, you are nothing but a pseudonym on the Internet. No offense.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 18, 2012 at 20:55
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    @AdamMosheh, good answers show their work, whether that be sources, reasoning, experience (for practical questions), etc. Even prominent scholars cite their sources; shouldn't we lesser students strive to emulate them? And, as Isaac said, on the internet nobody knows you're a scholar. Jul 18, 2012 at 22:00

A story which may shed some light. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was wishing farewell to a student going back to his home state for bein hazmanim. He told the young scholar that when the community Rabbi spoke between Mincha and Maariv, he should be careful to listen and not to learn any other sfarim, even though that Rabbi was not so learned. He reasoned, this Rabbis words are the only connection the congregation has to any degree of Torah. If they see you listening and taking it seriously, they will too. If they see you uninterested and unimpressed, they will be too.

As brought in Meged Givaas Olam.

  • So is your point that there in no halakhic problem? See above comments of @DoubleAA.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 29, 2016 at 8:54
  • And Rav Moshe practiced what he preached -- his family records (prefacing Igros Vol. 8) that he would always pay attention to the rabbi delivering a sermon, even though he most likely already knew the material.
    – Shalom
    Sep 15, 2017 at 13:05

I can't see that the rabbi's sermon holds any special halachic status that should require someone to stay in shul to hear it, just on its own. The requirement to be there may come from its alternatives.

If you're out in the hallway, you're probably shmoozing and mevatel Torah (i.e. "wasting time") which is a problem, when the rav is talking Divrei Torah (assuming that's the focus of his sermon. The sermon is not always Divrei Torah, you know.) However, if you leave the shul to learn Torah by yourself or with a chavruta, then, you're on an equal plane, most likely - possibly better!

I have seen, unfortunately, too many people use the rabbi's sermon time to join the schnapps "club". This has been such a huge problem in my neighborhood, BTW, because men and sometimes teenagers were getting drunk. So much so, that the OU and Young Israel intervened and made their affiliated shuls completely ban schnapps from the shul. (Some don't even have wine in the shul for kiddush.) This alternative causes Chillul Hashem, among other problems. So, it's obvious, in this case, that you should be listening to the sermon.

Most rabbis probably don't mind if you're looking at the Chumash or learning during the sermon. But, to be safe, you may want to ask him, unless you know him well enough that he wouldn't mind or is "oblivious" to who is listening. (I think many rabbis have no clue how many people are and how many aren't listening.) If you really want to learn, than, of course, your best option is to leave before the sermon. Just make sure you return in time for Musaph, of course :-)

Leaving in the middle of a sermon is rude, unless you can't help it. If your kid is next to you and starts to shriek or get fidgety, seriously, you need to take him / her out. (I can't understand why some parents insist on keeping a screaming kid in shul during the sermon because they think it's rude to leave.) Leaving a child, there competes with the rabbi and the other congregants who are trying to hear him. That's probably some sort of halachic problem (a form of stealing, perhaps?) if you cause a disturbance or, in this case, do nothing to prevent one.

I should add that there is an "indirect" halachic requirement to listen to the sermon in these areas:

  • Kavod Harav (A derivation from "Mipnei Seivah Takum", perhaps. One should show respect to someone who has wisdom.

  • Chinuch - educating your kids. It is extremely important that young kids see their father listening to words of Torah from the rav. It teaches them that when they are in yeshiva and their rebbe, or rosh yeshiva speaks that they have to be respectful and listen. Sadly, these days, there is far less respect for rebbes and teachers than there was 30 - 40 years ago. I am quite certain that having fathers leave the shul during the rav's drasha has been a contributory factor.

  • As mentioned above, the "kiddush / schnapp's club" has been the biggest damage to chinuch. I don't understand why so many people - esp. fathers who bring young kids to shul - do this.

  • I've occasionally left during the sermon when I was traveling and it was in French. I couldn't follow a word except when he quoted pesukim or gemaras.
    – Heshy
    Oct 17, 2018 at 12:15
  • @Heshy It's too bad that they can't provide captioning for drashot on Shabbat. As I mentioned, above, if you're doing something "productive" such as learning, or supervising your kids, etc., I think that's a valid reason to leave. Kiddush club isn't one of them, IMO. Suck a candy or mint if you're hungry!
    – DanF
    Oct 17, 2018 at 16:44

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