Volume 46 Number 16
                    Produced: Sat Dec 11 17:47:46 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

The Guest Who Won't Sit Down
         [Baruch J. Schwartz]
Late to shule
         [Janice Gelb]
NEW BOOK: Rashbam's Commentary on Deuteronomy
         [Martin Lockshin]
Seating Problems
Taking Aisle Seats (2)
         [Leah S. Gordon, Avi Feldblum]
Talkers, latecomers, and other evil-doers
         [Tony Fiorino]


From: Baruch J. Schwartz <schwrtz@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 07:32:20 +0200
Subject: The Guest Who Won't Sit Down

Martin Stern asks about guests who insist on standing in the rear
instead of taking the seats which the gabbaim (others) graciously offer
them: I had this experience frequently, and not only with guests; often
with young people who "prefer to stand" (in some cases, this means they
want to be near the door, in order to chat). It's particularly awkward
with guests, since their standing in the rear makes the congregation
look unhospitable--especially when the guest is someone famous or

There's no single solution, and it depends on how your shul is
organized.  If you have gabbaim whose designated task it is to offer
people seats (or ushers on duty), they may explain to the guest: "It is
our custom for all to be seated," or "We consider it an honor to have
you seated," or "The tzibbur feels more comfortable when guests accept
seats," or even "Our rabbi insists that everyone take a seat," or
something like that.  When it was someone with whom I felt comfortable
discussing the point, I occasionally took the time to explain, sometimes
using the angle: "How would you feel if I came to your house to visit
for an hour, and you invited me in and offered me a seat, and I refused,
and insisted on standing at the door? So how do you think HKBH feels?"
But as I have said before, this sort of thing is effective--if at
all--with young people only; attempts to educate adults are usually
frustrated.  The best solution in tough cases is to have your rabbi "on
board": it should be his policy to go over to the occasional adult guest
who is unwilling to sit down and to offer him a seat, explaining if
necessary: "I have asked the gabbaim to seat everyone and the tzibbur
knows this is my preference; all of us, including me, feel very
unhospitable when we see people standing in the rear." This tactic will
probably have to be used only in the extreme case--but it will work.


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2004 18:14:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Late to shule

--- Carl Singer <casinger@...> wrote:
> But, again, how is purposely coming to shule late an (halachic) option?

I said that some Jews don't come on time to bar mitzvahs because those
unfamiliar with the service find it too long or the beginning too
incomprehensible and they know that the bar mitzvah, who is the main
reason they are in attendance, will not be starting at the beginning. I
didn't say this was halachically acceptable, I was just answering your
question of why they might come late.

-- Janice


From: Martin Lockshin <lockshin@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Dec 2004 10:23:51 -0500
Subject: NEW BOOK: Rashbam's Commentary on Deuteronomy

NEW BOOK: Rashbam's Commentary on Deuteronomy: An Annotated Translation,
by Martin I. Lockshin, published by the Society of Biblical Literature
as part of the Brown Judaic Studies series.

This volume represents the completion of a four-volume series on the
Torah commentaries of Rabbi Samuel ben Meir, Rashi's grandson, who was a
daring exponent of peshat, the "plain" meaning of the biblical text.
This volume includes an introductory essay on "Peshat and Derash in
Northern France" and a cumulative index for the four-volume work.  (The
translations of the commentaries on Vayikra and Bemidbar were published
in one volume.)

The volume may be ordered from the publisher:

For information on the availability of the previous volumes please write
to the author (<lockshin@...>)

Martin Lockshin


From: <aliw@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 2004 22:37:18 +0200
Subject: Re: Seating Problems

> However, what Bill do if he came to shul one weekday morning and found
> someone in his place where his tallit and tefillin were kept.  Surely he
> could not avoid disturbing the visitor in such circumstances. Or would
> he consider that it would be better not to put on tefillin that day?
> Martin Stern

I find that if i need something from my makom kavua, i go over to the
person sitting there, say excuse me, raise the stender and explain that
i just need to get something, and say, please, keep your seat.  then i
find myself a halachically acceptable place, is possible, i.e., within
arba amot of my makom kavua.

My shul, too, as noted in some of the comments, has a shabbat morning
barchu rule, after which a guest may be seated in anyone's place; we
also have a gabai who shows guests to empty (for the weekend or day)
seats. i generally have the problem in the mornings.  but i have never
asked someone to leave my seat and i hope i never do.



From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Dec 2004 05:59:54 -0800
Subject: Taking Aisle Seats

This may be the first time in the decade I've been on m.j, but I am in
total agreement with Eitan Fiorino below: :)

"I think that earlycomers take aisle seats not because they lack derech
eretz or are lazy but because those are for many the most desirable
seats, mainly because of significantly more freedom of movement.  I
think most people who take aisle seats (be it in shul or on an ariplane)
think the trade-off of having to stand up to allow others to enter and
leave is well worth having a few extra feet of space on one side."

These are exactly my thoughts on the seating issue.  I strongly disagree
with the suggestion that the 'best' (aisle) seats should be left for
those who did not make the effort to get there on time...in the theater,
airplane [with open seating], or shul.

--Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Dec 2004
Subject: Taking Aisle Seats

I take a slightly different approach to that Of Leah above, and in
looking over the seating behaviour of people in my shul, I think it is
an approach that a number of people take.

I am basically in agreement, that if you make the effort to come early /
on time, that should give you (if there is not an issue of a
pre-existing makom kavuah that you have no control over) the preference
on your seat. However, whether you choose the aisle seat or the far seat
from the aisle, depends on what you view as more important to you. There
are some people that want the access to the aisle, will typically leave
their seat one or more times during the tefilah. There are others for
whom not being disturbed during tefilah is what is most important, so
they want to be as far away from the aisle. I see that clearly in the
distribution of seats of the early comers to my minyan. The aisle is in
the middle, with the womens section along the two sides. Some of the
early comers sit along the aisle, others sit on the end of the aisle
next to the mechitza. For many of them, this distinction is consistent
with what I know of their personalities.

The main problem I would have is if you have someone who comes early,
takes a seat along the aisle and then complains about people moving in
or out of the aisle. If you're going to complain about that, then take
the seat away from the aisle.



From: Tony Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 2004 11:48:27 -0500
Subject: Talkers, latecomers, and other evil-doers

This theme of the mitzva of rebuke and its applicability to various
evil-doers like talkers and late-comers has come up quite a bit.  Before
I make myself the poster-child for latecomers and talkers (and run the
risk of getting pelted by the verbal etrogim of the shh-ers on this
list), I should say I am neither and advocate nor a practitioner of
either of these activities (though I confess to running a bit late on
shabbat mornings, especially when bringing one or more kids with me).
Nevertheless, I take exception to the way in which the people who are
late habitually/talk have been discussed on the list (there has been
quite a focus on the moral failings of the people rather than on the
phenomena themselves).  Thus I would like to provide the perspective of
the "silent majority" - those of us who simply do not get particularly
upset by either set of behaviors.

In my view, so much of what is wrong with this discussion can be
expressed in that old saying - you attract more flies with honey than
with vinegar.  There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the berating
of the latecomers and talkers and the attitudes expressed here are
incredibly unlikely to get a single person to change his practices
(though likely to get more than a few riled up).

And so I am left wondering - perhaps it is the rebukers who are in need
of some rebuke.  First, one should certainly determine if there really
is a chiuv for rebuke in this case.  The goal of rebuke is to help one's
neighbor avoid sin and return to a more close relationship with G-d.
According to a paper by Rav Amital that appeared in one of the Orthodox
Forum books some time back, most hold there is no obligation to rebuke
if that rebuke will fail to have the desired effect (and does anyone
really think that the habitual latecomer or talker is going to change on
the basis of a rebuke from some individual most likely viewed by the
talker/latecomer as a zealot?).  And even more agree there is no chiuv
to rebuke if one's rebuke will be counterproductive.  This addresses
Ben's posting: maybe one is not halachically a "hypocrite" if one
rebukes someone for missteps that the rebuker himself makes - but for
sure one who acts in such a way is unlikely to actually induce teshuva
in the object of the rebuke and might certainly incite a
counterproductive response.  So if "the effectiveness of my rebuke may
be worse than nil," then no rebuke should be offered.

So why is it that the rebuke of the chronic latecomer or talker is
almost always, in my view, doomed to failure (and thus should probably
not have been embarked on in the first place)?  We'll examine the shh-er
because it is he who has most publicly assumed the burden of
(ineffective) rebuke.  It seems to me that most shh-ers fail to see that
their attempts to create their own personally ideal shul experience seem
to inevitably swerve into personal criticisms of the folks who allegedly
spoil that experience, and also tend towards wild hyperbolization the
nature of the alleged sin.  While the shh-er reads the various
condemnations of talking in shul that appear in the rabbinic literature
as an indicator of just how HORRID a sin this is, others (including
myself) read those same comments as an indicator of just how PERVASIVE
the issue has been over time and across communities.  Just like one
raises one's voice in a heated discussion to try to make a point,
especially when the other person seems completely unfazed by one's
brilliant logic and arguments, the raising of the rhetorical heat in
this instance is in my view driven entirely by the recalcitrance of
talkers, a phenomenon which is the result human nature and the nature of
the synagogue service (for those who make comparisons between noisy
shuls and lehavdil quiet church services, the nature of the rituals is
quite different and the length of time involved is also quite different
- stick a bunch of Catholics in a church for 2.5 hours with lots of down
time and see if they remain quiet).

Thus, in my view shh-ers in general have no credibility as rebukers
because they revert to a Talmudic equivalent of raising their voice in
order to make a point - by bringing down an increasingly strident set of
sources about the evils of talking.  But the talker either has a
fundamentally different view about the meaning of those sources, or in
some cases simply doesn't care.  I say all this as a non-talker (I get
through over-extended services by reading) - and so I'm inclined to
believe that if I don't see the shh-ers as having any credibility, kal
vechomer the talkers see things the same way or perhaps more extremely.

I believe the impass would be lessened if the shh-ers picked their
battles (say, keriat hatorah, and maybe chazarat hashatz) and were able
to compromise on those periods of time during which some conversation is
fine, or if not fine then quite forgivable - eg, mishaberachs between
aliot and for cholim that seem to run on endlessly, taking out and
returning the sifrei Torah, whatever.  As for other solutions, I for one
don't think the answer is more shh-ers, signing of contracts that
promise no talking (a phenomenon observed in several NY-area shuls),
etc. etc.  I do think appropriate compromise on when talking is
acceptable and at what level and what kinds of conversations are
appropriate would help.

But I also think in many congregations an overhaul of how the seder
hatefila is executed - in particular shabbat morning - is in order.
This is my perspective as someone who always attended Ashkenazi shuls,
until about 2 years ago when I began attending a Sephardic minyan (I
started because the tefila is closer to the nusach b'nei romi which I
follow, but I have come to find the tefila experience to be far superior
to that of Ashkenazi shuls).  When I now find myself at an Ashkenazi
minyan I can't help but notice major differences in the execution of the
tefila and how these differences seem to play into some of the issues
discussed in this thread.  I think one element in particular is key -
Ashkenazim start fast then hit a brick wall, whereas Sephardim start
slower and speed up relative to Ashkenazim starting with chazarat
hashatz. I find it astonishing that I can get to an Askenazic minyan 15
minutes late on shabbat morning to find them somewhere between nishmat
and kriat shma - and then just 10-15 minutes later, everything seems to
slow to an absolutely glacial pace.  If these shuls re-allocated their
time commitment to the different parts of tefila, maybe they'd find less
people showing up after barchu (since barchu would be pushed back
substantially) and less talking during a much more brisk execution of
chazarat hashatz and keriat hatorah.  I would also add that the
recitation of most everything aloud in the Sephardic minhag
significantly reduces the likelihood of overhearing people chatting;
this unfortuntely is something that clearly won't make its way into the
Ashkenazi setting.



End of Volume 46 Issue 16