Bein Adam LeChavero Opportunities in Shul

A friend of my friend is now my friend. My friend Menachem Lipkin from Beit Shemesh messaged me about a post-of-interest that his friend David Bar-Cohn had written. It’s an amazing post titled: Shul – The Place for Interpersonal Mitzvot where David lists 74 Bein Adam LeChavero Opportunities in Shul.

I thought the list was amazing. I asked David if I could break it down over a few posts so we would have more time to digest and let the ideas marinate a little longer.

Here’s David’s intro:

People naturally think of shul as being primarily a bein adam lamakom domain (“between a person and God”). But in fact, the opportunities to exercise interpersonal sensitivity in shul are so numerous, so constant, that one could reasonably argue that it’s predominantly a bein adam lechavero experience (“between a person and their fellow”).

And of course, all our ritual religiosity is just pomp and circumstance (Chapter 1 of Yeshayahu/Isaiah actually calls it “abomination”) when that religious behavior isn’t built on a foundation of human decency and sensitivity.

With that in mind, here’s just (the first 20 of) a partial list of bein adam lechavero opportunities in shul:

1. Not going to shul if you’re sick or contagious, or if you must, keeping a distance from people.

2. Covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, washing hands after blowing your nose – even if you’re not sick.

3. Brushing teeth and using deodorant so as not to make it unpleasant for fellow shul-goers.

4. Helping at home before leaving for shul – getting the kids ready, cleaning up, etc.

5. Coming with your own siddur or chumash if you know the shul is usually short.

6. Getting to shul on time if you know someone needs to say kaddish and they might be short on people.

7. Helping set up the shul for davening.

8. Making sure the women’s section is set up properly, comfortably.

9. Making sure the temperature is set correctly so people aren’t uncomfortable.

10. Asking whether a seat is someone’s makom kevua (set seat).

11. Not being angry at or embarrassing someone who sits in your makom kevua.

12. Not taking up more seats or space than necessary with your things.

13. Not saving seats if the people you’re saving them for aren’t going to arrive reasonably soon and the seats are needed by people already there.

14. Making sure everyone has a seat, especially older people.

15. Offering a seat by a table or a shtender to an older person, so they have somewhere to put down their siddur and other things.

16. Making sure people who need have a siddur and chumash.

17. Extending a greeting (or if you can’t talk, a non-verbal smile or handshake) to the person who sits down next to you, and in general greeting people warmly when they walk in.

18. Introducing yourself to a new face, making them feel welcome, noticed.

19. Helping someone not familiar with the davening find their place in the siddur, and finding them a siddur and chumash with a translation.

20. Being careful not to whack people with your tallis, either when putting it on or while davening with particular fervor.

21. Minimizing the clamor your chair makes when you stand up or sit down.