Making Rules To Prevent Digital Shuls

As cell phones have become commonplace, it has become accepted common courtesy to turn your ringer off or to vibrate during davening. Most Shuls strongly discourage talking on the cell during davening. Although some Shuls already have a no-digital-usage policy, many shuls have not yet established policies when it comes to less evasive digital usage.

With regard to reading and writing texts and emails, many Shuls allow it. The neighbor disturbance level is low enough, and many shuls are hesitant to prohibit behaviors which are not clear violations of the halacha. In the Shuls in my neighborhood, the texters are still a small minority, but in the event that a majority of people are texting in Shul on a regular basis, I think many Shuls will conclude that it is an inappropriate behavior and discourage it. Which makes you wonder why it’s not considered inappropriate now.

The next frontier is davening from IPads or other tablet computers. Since the IPad has a bigger screen which your neighbor can see, the potential for distraction is greater. As long as siddur and gemora viewing are the primary activities, most Shuls will probably not set a prohibitive policy. If people use the tablets for other things, I think minynan members will protest about the distraction and Shuls will discourage tablet usage, and perhaps cell phone usage as well.

We’re still early on the personal digital adoption life cycle and as the usage and frequency of usage evolves, it will be interesting to see how Shul policies change. It might make sense to get ahead of the curve and discuss and implement an appropriate digital policy for your Shul, since it’s harder to change behaviors when they’ve become entrenched.

4 thoughts on “Making Rules To Prevent Digital Shuls”

  1. The centerpiece of an anti-phone campaign has to be shiurim on how to daven (probably requires workshops), what the words mean, and the beauty of the concepts Chazal wanted us to inculcate at the center of our relationship with the Almighy.

    You can say “Thou shalt not” a million times, but giving people the motive not to is far more effective and fulfilling.

  2. The proper motivation, understanding and etiquette for davening have to be taught to our children from the earliest reasonable age at home and in our schools. When the child goes with a parent to a real live (analog?) shul, the parent’s behavior, and that of the other shul members, should not be so at odds with the lessons taught as to negate them!

    As for adult education on this topic, sure it’s a good idea, but certain shuls may have memberships largely immune to it. Still, it’s worth a concerted try.

  3. Educating children about proper shul behavior is fine, but ultimately they’re going to follow the example set by their parents and other adults. Education has to start with the adults.

  4. I am writing from Israel.

    The worst digital sin in my opinion that requires flogging is someone’s telephone starts ringing in the middle of Shemoneh Esreh, and because that someone is standing in place “at attention”, he does not move to turn off his phone, so we have all have wait in distraction for the caller to disconnect.

    I was at the kotel in Jerusalem during mincha one afternoon. I did not wanted to search for a sidur and started praying from my IPHONE Sidur app. Suddenly I hear behind me in Hebrew ” Look at the meshuga, he is praying to his IPhone toy like Avoda Zara in front of Hashem”…..made me think. After that, I really trying not to use the IPhone sidur app.

    I usually come into mincha/aravit with my IPAD since I have the sidur,Rambam, the entire Talmud and Mesillat Yesharim on it. However I typically do not use it for praying, but prefer printed siddur. I personally don’t see a particular problem when the IPAD is used for learning. (but I am not a rav)

    With regard to texting, there are people, who text during repetition of the amidah or pseuki d’zimra, but it is rare in my shul and they usually do it when something critical pops up in real time for one’s business.

    Last Shabbat, there was a Bar Mitzvah in my neighbor shul where there is a mix of non-religious to Charedim praying together with all the spectrum in between. In the middle of the Torah reading by the Bar Mitzvah boy, some women in the balcony started digitally filming. Very humble men, who I have davened with for years, nearly become violent and started shrieking at the women. I was in shock and really thought they would have machine gunned the women if it wasn’t assur on Shabbat to fire a weapon when not in state of pikuah nefesh.. :-)

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