Anger at Cell Phones in Shul

Maybe this has happened to you. In the middle of davening or a shiur, a cell phone rings.

Here are some ways this might be handled:

1) Recently, I saw the Shliach Tzibbur give a scolding “Nu” from the Amud. I’m not sure that handling a disturbance with a bigger disturbance and a public embarrassment makes sense.

2) Sometimes it is announced before davening that everybody should turn off their cell phone. At this point of cell phone adoption, I’m not sure that it makes sense to give this pre-announcement before every davening. It also might sound like a warning, that if you ignore this announcement, then wrath awaits.

3) In one minyan, the Gabbai made an announcement after davening reminding people to turn off their ringers and notifications. He is a caring person, so I suggested that the person was probably embarrassed when it went off and mentioning it again might increase his embarrassment. He agreed and no longer makes such an announcement.

4) One speaker announced after a phone rang, “Baruch Hashem I can hear”. Although he was trying to say that “it’s no big deal”, it might have caused added embarrassment by bringing attention to the matter.

5) Saying nothing but thinking that perhaps the offender is technically incompetent or inconsiderate.

6) Treating the ring as if someone coughed in the middle of davening. We wouldn’t get angry if someone coughed, so why should we get angry about a cell phone ring mistake.

7) Realizing that this incidence is really a test from Hashem and that the appropriate response is to feel bad about the embarrasment the cell phone possessor is feeling.

If we adopt number 6 or 7, we can actually transform this into a growth opportunity. I can’t wait for the next errant ring.

2 thoughts on “Anger at Cell Phones in Shul”

  1. To come into shul with one’s phone on and allow it to ring during davening is a chutzpah against Hashem and disrespectful to other mispallelim whose concentration is being disturbed and who are prevented from properly fulfilling their obligation of tefilla. We have an obligation to rebuke sinners. If one talks during davening, it says in Shulchan Aruch that it is a mitzvah to shout at him and his sin is too grave to bear. If the phone rings, it is no different. If someone (not medical personnel) would come on Shabbos with a phone and it would ring, wouldn’t there be outrage that he is assaulting the King in His own palace? And certainly if he would answer the phone on Shabbos. When we are davening, it is like Shabbos.

    If a phone would ring during a job interview, wouldn’t the interviewer take offense and maybe even refuse to hire the person? Why is the respect due to Hashem less than the respect due to an interviewer? If a phone would ring in a courtroom, wouldn’t the judge hold the person in contempt of court? Why is the respect due to Hashem less than the respect due to a judge of flesh and blood? It is admirable that you are concerned about not embarrassing people, but the kavod of Hashem is also a consideration.

  2. The problem with #7 is that you’re assuming the ringing cell phone possessor is feeling embarrassed. I’m not so sure that’s the case. I’ve seen several mitpalalim with ringing cell phones – the same people over and over again. Obviously, if they were embarrassed, they would learn to turn the phone off.

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