Rabbi Gidon Shachar retells a story of the great damage caused by people who talk in the synagogue.
“I work with Baalei Teshuva, people who have returned to Judaism and in Yeshiva with them, I get to hear of their struggles and successes. These stories alone can inspire people to self-improvement.”
“Once I heard of a Jew who started embracing Judaism years ago and suddenly stopped. This is a rare occurrence after someone is exposed to the light of Torah. I then met this man in person. He explained to me the cause of his setback.”
The man said: “I used to go to synagogue to pray and pour my heart out before G-d. But while in the synagogue I encountered a huge group of people that were talking in the middle of their prayers. It made a terrible impression on me and ultimately influenced me to let go of what I was embracing!” To think a synagogue was the cause of his abandoning Judaism! A place of holiness should bring that about. That was the end of our conversation and I hadn’t seen him for a while.
A long time later I met the man who now fully embraced Judaism. It seems thoughts of teshuva, repentance entered his heart and mind and he was back to stay. When I met him in the Bet Midrash he explained to me what brought him back.
“G-d arranged it that I happened to go into the same synagogue that caused my abandoning Judaism. I went in and was astounded! No one uttered a word besides prayers: there were no mundane conversations, from the beginning of prayers till the end!”
Rabbi Shachar concludes with the following observation: “This man’s happiness with coming to embrace Judaism and the fact that speaking during prayers was what brought about his initial rejection brought home what Rabbi Zilberstein always constantly talked about and encouraged. That is to learn and keep the laws of the sanctity of the synagogue, and to stress the great sin of talking during the prayers.”
The mere possibility that conversing in synagogue can make a person abandon his Judaism should make us shudder. Let’s give our synagogues and prayers the respect and decorum they deserve.