Beyond Shushing

The Importance of Maintaining Decorum
The laws regarding behavior in Shul discourage most talking. This great set of Synogogue Guidelines by Rabbi Michael Taubes demonstrates the severity of the prohibition of unnecessary conversation and what degree of quiet is required during the various parts of davening.

Our Motivation for Quiet
Despite general knowledge of the laws, people make mistakes and sometimes talk during inappropriate times during davening. This even happens in quiet Shuls. When talking happens we would like it to stop, motivated by a combination of the following factors:
– eliminating something that is disturbing or distracting to us
– preventing the talker from committing a transgression
– helping the Shul to have the proper decorum

Is Shushing Effective?
One of the popular ways to try to stop talking is the shush. It’s certainly better than telling a person to shut-up and perhaps it’s rooted in preventing embarrassment. Although shushing will often result in the talking stopping, without dealing with the underlying causes it’s a stopgap measure and the talking will continue. Another issue regarding shushing is who has the authority to deal with talking, ofttimes it’s not the shusher.

Is Shushing Disruptive?
Sometimes the shushing is more disruptive then the talking, since the talking is often quiet, while the shushing is heard by many. Depending how it is done, shushing can be embarrassing to the talkers, which some people feel is justified. When the shushing continues through the service, it can be a real disruption.

So What’s The Solution?
Talking in Shul is a problem, but coercive behavior change is not effective. Each Shul needs to quantify who are the problem talkers and how to deal with them respectfully on an individual basis. Tolerating occasional talking may be necessary in many situations.

Originally Posted Jan 2012