To Be or Not To Be Annoyed

For men, davening is a social event, meaning you have to do it with other people. Although you can pick your minyan, you can’t pick all the people who will be in it, so there will be times where there’s the potential to get annoyed. We’ve talked about some of the major annoyances like talking, cell phones, and seating conflicts. And there’s the minor annoyances like the guy davening a little to loud during Shemoneh Esrai, or randomly raising his voice during the davening.

I think the best option to deal with potential annoyances is to get so involved in your own davening that you don’t really see or hear the annoyances. This is a high level and I’ve seen a few people who seem to be at that level. For the rest of us it’s not an all or nothing deal. To the degree that we get more involved with our own davening, it is to that degree that the annoyances won’t bother us.

An option that I don’t think is correct is dealing with the source of annoyance. You could in theory tell a loud davener to lower the level a little bit. My Rav has said that this is an absolute no-no because you will make the person self-conscious about his davening, which can cause real long term damage to his ability to concentrate. In regard to other annoyances, chances are your potential cure will be worse then the problem, so it’s not a good choice.

So that leaves us in the situation where sometimes we will be annoyed by others. This presents a tremendous opportunity for us to working on liking our fellow Jew more, even in the midst of being annoyed. We can draw on our strengths of seeing the good, giving the benefit of the doubt, and overlooking our assumed right to not be annoyed. Getting over the annoyance using these positive means unifies the tzibur, making all of our prayers more effective.

I’m ready now. Go ahead and annoy me, so I can overlook it and be better.

8 thoughts on “To Be or Not To Be Annoyed”

  1. Maybe the Shul Rav should give a shiur on when it’s appropriate to daven a little louder (e.g., Shema – appropriate, Shemona Esrei, inappropriate). Sometimes it’s just a case of people not knowing.

    1. Where necessary a shiur would be appropriate, but here are two situations where knowing the halacha is not the issue.

      1) In Shemonah Esrai you should say it loud enough so you can hear but low enough so the person 6-8 feet away can’t hear it. Some people are good at this precision and others err on the side of saying it a little too loud.

      2) There was a chassid (perhaps Stoliner) at the Shabbos hashkama minyan davening very loudly and fervently from Pesukei D’Zimra through Shema. It was out of place for this minyan. He eventually realized it and moved to a far corner so as not to disturb.

  2. Loud davening by others is far less distracting when they are in synch with the tzibur. If they are late + loud or unusually fast or slow + loud, that could annoy others.

    1. Bob, I’ve found that one of the interesting things about a Shul, is that people get annoyed by different things.

      I’m advocating here to get over the annoyances, whatever they may be, and as difficult as that might be.

      1. To be so annoyed at another well-meaning congregant has the potential to distance us from Hashem, and from each other. We must recognize it as such, and for this reason you are right, we must not allow such a yezer hara to persist – we must “get over” it fast. Then we will be in a proper state of mind to do a Mitzvah, at an appropriate time, by kindly discussing the matter with the person who is naively creating the disturbance. The Left has the need for “safe spaces”, but surely our shul is already a safe space, safe enough to have such a well-meaning adult discussion with each other, as an act of service. If I was the loud davener, I would hope my fellow congregants would not sit by watching me wallow in my own ignorance. Don’t we have the ethic to help each other improve? If we are not comfortable and safe enough with each other to help each other improve, we have a far greater problem.

  3. There is a rabbi who is neither the shul rav nor the shaliach tzibbur and he is so loud from 25′ away that it’s like having my ear yelled into. It’s random. It’s jarring.

    It’s not the loud parts like Shema or the stuff that Artscroll puts in bold Hebrew to be said aloud in unison by the congregation. It’s random words and phrases in Pesikei D’Zimra during shachris and in the paragraphs between Shema and Shmoneh Esrei in maariv.

    It’s not as if he can’t be quieter, or if he has Tourette’s… his Amida is silent.

    It is incomprehensible to me why he changes his volume so much during parts that are never said aloud.

    The Shulchan Aruch says not to daven loudly in public.

    Gemara Berachos 24b discusses talks about how ‘One who raises his voice while davening is one of little faith’. Rashi here says ‘Of little faith, because he thinks that Hash-m Yisbarach cannot hear him unless he raises his voice’ from where does Rashi get that interpretation? Rabbeinu Yehonasan HaKohen MiLonil leads us to the posuk in Melochim I Perek 28: Posuk 28; ‘And they called in a great voice’. this refers to the priests of Ba’al, who were challenged to have their korbanos visibly accepted by Ba’al as proof of their Avodah Zorah’s existence. This compares loud daveners to Ba’al worshipers!

    And there’s Berachot 31a: R. Hamnuna said: How many most important laws can be learnt from these verses relating to Hannah!…Only her lips moved: from this we learn that he who prays must frame the words distinctly with his lips. But her voice could not be heard: from this, it is forbidden to raise one’s voice in the Tefillah.

    If I have an audience with a government official as part of a delegation, would it not be the height of rudeness to speak out of sequence, 10x louder, and over the others in my delegation?

    Is there EVER a reason to daven louder than sufficiently loud to hear yourself (not much more than a whisper — unless there’s a LOT of ambient noise)? In your own home, do whatever helps you connect. In public… don’t do anything that sticks out.

  4. There are sources that teach one should daven at a volume minimally sufficient to hear our own prayers. One of the side benefits of this practice is it prevents disturbing others. It is a Mitvah to teach this to a fellow congregant who davens loudly, for their own benefit and the benefit of the minyan, not out annoyance but out of serving the tzibur. The way to perfect one’s own davening is to be self-conscious, which includes how our conduct impacts others nearby. Concentration includes modulating the volume of our own davening so as not to disturb those around us unnecessarily. This is the ethical and considerate way to daven. An adult ought to appreciate being informed of this if they were unaware that their loud davening was a disturbance. To not inform them would be a disservice.

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