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Unfortunately, there are many shuls where the majority of people talk during the service. Even more unfortunate, is that some of the people who do the most talking are primary synagogue officers with the power to hire and fire the rav. I've seen it happen a few too many times when the rav has asked these people to keep quiet, and they get offended because they don't want anyone telling them what to do. Eventually, they had the rabbi fired.

In some cases, the rav, himself, also talks during parts of the davening, about matters unrelated to the needs of the service.

Someone in my neighborhood left the shul where the rav was in both positions - i.e., he talked, and because he was afraid to lose his job, he let the people talk as well. One day, when the rav saw this person on the street, he asked him why he left the shul. The person was embarrassed to reproach the rav, because he respected him. So, he avoided the question, altogether. He asked me for suggestions, and I'm not sure about what to do.

What's the best way to reproach the rav? Tell him the blatant truth including the fact that he is part of the problem - namely that he talks? Encourage the rav to tell the main people that they cannot talk when doing so may risk his job, there? Or, continue avoiding the question and mind one's own business?

  • partially related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/99681/11501 – mbloch Feb 27 at 14:31
  • @mbloch Good info in that link. But, not really applicable, here. I certainly would not advise reproaching him on this in public. As I implied, shul politics is brutal, sometimes. I have high respect for almost all shul rabbis. But, I really empathise with the tough decision to balance ethics and halacha with one's career. It's a painful decision to make. – DanF Feb 27 at 14:50
  • The Halachot linked are not just in public. They suggest a way to indirectly reproach him by hinting at the issue without telling him directly he is in breach of the Halacha. But of course your question is broader – mbloch Feb 27 at 14:54
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    Why couldn't the guy just answer something like 'I find that there's too much talking going on in the Shul and it affects my concentration, so I mostly daven elsewhere' without mentioning any specific names? – Salmononius2 Feb 27 at 15:51
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There seem to be two questions here. One is the title question: how to reproach a Rav. The implied question is how to stop talking in shul. (I have not tried to answer the implied question.)

The general answer to the title question is found as @mbloch's answer to Is there anything wrong with correcting your Rabbi in front of other people?.

Rabbi Kaganoff has an article that touches specifically on talking during the chazaras hashatz. The implication of his article is that generally reproach should be in private.

Admonishing a talmid chacham

If someone who is not scholarly sees a talmid chacham do something that appears to be halachically incorrect, what is the proper thing for him to do? Does the non-scholarly person have a mitzvah to admonish the Torah scholar for his lapse?

The halacha is that one is required to rebuke the talmid chacham, and that even a disciple has a responsibility to be mochiach his own rebbe (Bava Metzia 31a). There are halachic details for giving such tochacha.

The easiest approach is for the student to ask his rebbe respectfully what is the halacha in the situation (that was ostensibly violated). In this way, the disciple neither acts nor speaks disrespectfully since he did not tell his rebbe that he had committed a violation. If, indeed, the rebbe was in violation of a halacha, it has now been brought to his attention in an appropriate way. It also may be true that the rebbe is aware of opinions who permit the action under the specific circumstances involved.

The Gemara (Shabbos 55a) provides an example of this: Rav Yehudah was listening to the Torah lecture of his rebbe, the great amora Shmuel, when a woman entered and began screaming at Shmuel. Shmuel ignored the woman and continued his teaching. Rav Yehudah turned to his master, asking him: Does the master not accept the teaching of Mishlei (21:13): “One who closes his ears from the outcry of the poor will not be answered when he calls out (in prayer).” If Shmuel felt that the verse in Mishlei did not apply in his circumstance, he could have explained to his disciple why this is so.

Here is another example:

A talmid sees his rebbe speak during the repetition of the shemoneh esrei. It is correct for the talmid to ask his rebbe: “Didn’t we learn that one may not talk during the chazaras hashatz?” Framing the rebuke as a question is milder than saying to his rebbe directly: “It is forbidden to talk during chazaras hashatz.”

As we noted above, someone who sees a person talking during chazaras hashatz is required to feel tremendous love for this person, so much so that it pains him to realize that the talker will be punished for his misdeed. Then, the mochiach tries to figure out what will be the most effective way of communicating both these feelings and the message to the wrongdoer.

  • Skimmed through this. But, actually, I had no intention of implying how to get people to stop talking in shul. I've dealt with that on this site, already. It can be done, but when the officers in your shul don't care, it's pretty much impossible to implement it. The only thing that seems to work is to pay them to leave, but then they mess up another shul or form their own schmoozing shul. (I'm not joking about that 2nd idea, BTW.) – DanF Feb 27 at 17:45
  • Point taken. 2nd idea is amazing! – Avrohom Yitzchok Feb 27 at 18:11
  • Amazingly appalling! – DanF Feb 27 at 19:27
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Brochos 22a:

מעשה ברבי יהודה שראה קרי והיה מהלך על גב הנהר אמרו לו תלמידיו רבינו שנה לנו פרק אחד בהלכות דרך ארץ ירד וטבל ושנה להם.
אמרו לו לא כך למדתנו רבינו

They said to him: "Did you not teach us otherwise, our teacher?"?

So goes the Halacha, for example Aruch Hashulchan:

ראה רבו עובר על דברי תורה – לא ימחה בידו בלשון גנאי, אלא אומר לו: "למדתנו רבינו כך וכך". ואפילו רצה לעבור על איסור דרבנן – מחוייב למחות בידו בלשון הזה. והרואה רבו עושה מעשה, ויש לו להקשות על זה אם הוא איסור דאורייתא – יקשה לו מקודם, ולא יניחנו לעשות המעשה. ואם הוא איסור דרבנן – יניחנו לעשות המעשה ואחר כך יקשה לו, הואיל שאינו יודע בוודאי שעובר אלא שיש לו קושיא – הוה כספיקא דרבנן, ולא נדחה כבוד הרב מפני זה.

DanF's translation:

When one sees his Rav [seemingly] transgressing a halacha, one should not reproach him "arrogantly" but should say, "You taught us such and such". Even when the halacha involves [only] a Rabbinic prohibition, he should use this method.
If his Rav is about to transgress a Torah prohibition, he should reproach him prior to his Rav transgressing. However, for a Rabbinical transgression, he should allow the Rav to do it, and reproach him afterward. The reasoning is that one is uncertain if the Rav is actually transgressing, or he may have an unusual circumstance for why he is performing the Rabbinical prohibition. Thus, it is considered as a "doubtful Rabbinical act". In such cases, we don't override the Rav's honor, by reproaching him and preventing the Rav from performing the act.

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    Al, please see the above translation. Point out any inaccuracies. I'll need to consider a bounty, perhaps, as your and @AvrohomYitchok's answers are both good as each provides supplemental info. – DanF Feb 28 at 19:29
  • @DanF Just great! – Al Berko Feb 28 at 19:34

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