For those learning Torah full time, the Yeshiva is their place of spiritual growth, but for those of us who add a generous dose of working to our life’s mix, the Shul is our place of growth. Two key Shul growth influences are our fellow shul members and the shul Rabbi.
This past Shabbos provided a wonderful example of how that growth takes place. Our Shul is generally very quiet, however once in a while there will be random talking during Chazaros HaShas (the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrai). Since it is infrequent, it’s difficult to know when to leave it alone and when to intervene. Intervention can be a disturbance in and of itself, while letting it go can lead to a creeping increase in talking.
This past Shabbos our Rav, Rabbi Welcher was talking about the concept of makom (a holy place) and he related it back to our Shul. He told one of his favorite stories of how a Rabbi who had traveled the world commented on how quiet our Shul was. Rabbi Welcher noted that he didn’t mention that a member had come up to him that Shabbos to say it was a little noisier than usual.
Rabbi Welcher then mentioned that while talking between aliyos is a leniency we allow in the Shul, we should limit it to Torah topics and minimize it to the degree possible. He didn’t mention the more severe offense of talking during Chazaros HaShas. A few of us discussed the drasha afterwards and we noted that the Rav used a good and could be even better approach and choose an issue in which we could acknowledge room for improvement.
A Shul is a wonderful place where we can grow with our fellow members under the wise guidance of a Rav. Spiritual growth is a lifelong process and a gradual continual improvement approach in a group setting is one of the most powerful mechanisms to achieve lasting growth.