Jan 4, 2011

Don't, It's Forbidden versus Do, It's Good for You

Someone proposed that instead of the signs in shul that say, "Assur l'daber ..." - it's forbidden to speak during the davening, the chazoras ha'shatz, kerias ha'Torah, the signs should say something like, "Praiseworthy is the one who refrains from talking ..."

Then today, someone shared a thought - all the restrictions of Shabbos, you can't do this and you can't do that, are that which enable you to experience the beauty of Shabbos.

I'm all in favor of beauty and being positive but I am wary when people propose emphasizing the positive exclusively.  If you don't state clearly that something is forbidden and you only say what wonderful things will occcur if you do things right, I think we will be getting only half the picture and half a picture is a distortion of the truth. 

It is claimed that today's generation can't be told things in negative terms, they reject that, they need to be explained why and see the beauty.  I'm not so sure.  But then again, maybe I'm not today's generation! If I am told that something is outright forbidden, I know where I stand.  It's clearly off-limits.  If I'm told about the brachos I'll get if I do the right thing, well, I want brachos, but it's just not as compelling to me as being told: danger! stay away! If I'm told I'll be praiseworthy if I do this, I may not be interested, so I won't be praiseworthy ... not a big deal.

 Would we write on a bottle of bleach or other dangerous product: If you ingest products other than this, such as actual food, you will be so much better off! Or do we write: Danger! Poison! If accidentally ingested, call Poison Control.

I understand that different times and different cultures require different approaches but certain things need to stay the same because they are Torah and Torah is Truth for all time.  I note that there are 248 Positive Mitzvos and 365 Prohibitions.  Oh my! So many more negative mitzvos than positive ones! Why is that so? I don't know.  Yet it tells me that G-d sees fit to couch most of His mitzvos in the form of "don't" rather than "do" (though some mitzvos are written in both the positive and the negative). 

What is the bigger motivator for you to keep halacha - knowing how it's good for you or knowing the negative consequences if you don't keep it?


  1. I had to think about it until I read the parsha from today. I don't clean for Pesach because I will get a warm fuzzy feeling; I clean because the posuk says that anyone who owns chometz on Pesach gets cut off from his people.

  2. Which do we need to hear:

    A) Shaming someone in public is tantamount to murder and you lose your share in the World to Come.


    B) It's proper and praiseworthy to use your mouth for kind words, to lift people up, to put a smile on their face.

    We need both!

  3. Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller was the Rov of Cracow during the Chielminicki massacres, commonly known as Gezeiros Tach V'Tat (1648-49). After this catastrophic period he had the difficult task of dealing with and freeing the many agunos to remarry. When learning through a She'eilas Chalom (asking a question through a dream) that these devastating pogroms, in which tens of thousands of Jews were murdered, were the result of talking in shul, he composed a special Mi Shebeirach that is said in some Shuls for the people who are quiet and do not speak during davening.

    Which is more effective:

    A) Hearing that talking in shul led to the massacre of our people

    B) Hearing a Mi Shebeirach for those who don't talk

    We need both.

    I found this online. It is posted in a shul:

    1) The difficulties that one experiences in life with regard to children, health and parnassah derive from the sin of speaking during Tefillah. Piskei Tshuvos 124:7, Igeres R' Dov Ber, son of the Shulchan Aruch Harav

    2) When one speaks during during Chazoras Hashatz, not only has one caused that his own tefillos will not be accepted, but one has also caused that the tefillos of others will not be accepted. Therefore, if one knows himself; that he will be unable to remain silent, it is better that he should not come to shul at all, rather than be "a sinner who causes others to sin". Piskei Tshuvos 124:7, Yaaros Dvash Drush7, Olelos Efraim vol4pg3, Pesach Aneiyim L'Hachidah

    3) One who speaks during Chazoras Hashatz causes the Shechinah to leave Klal Yisroel, and it is as if he has sinned with Avodah Zorah. Drush Chasam Sofer vol2pg309b

    4) The father of the Shelah Hakodosh states that "I swear, amongst all sins I have not found any as terrible as one who speaks in shul purposely and thereby humiliates the honor of God, and he is as bad as Yeravam ben Nevat who sinned (with Avodah Zorah) and caused others to sin, and this sin holds back the coming of Moshiach". Piskei Tshuvos 124:7, Sefer Yesh Nochalin

    5) The Elya Rabba citing the Kol Bo states: "Many shuls have been destroyed directly as a result of this sin {speaking during Chazoras Hashatz and tefillah}. Shulchan Aruch w/Mishnah Brurah 124:7 MB27

    6) The magnitude of the sin of speaking during Chazoras Hashatz is applicable as well to one who speaks during Krias Hatorah, or any other time during Tefillah when one may not speak, because one who conducts his own private conversation while the tzibbur is gathered to speak with G-d declares that he is not interested in the honor of G-d's kingdom, and that he has no portion in the God of Israel. Piskei Tshuvos 124:7, SA 146:2

  4. And according to Tanya one has to ask mechila in front of 3 men.

  5. well I guess that I should feel towards Pesach cleaning that not only am I avoiding being chas v'sholem cut off from my people but the house will look awesome.
    The talking in shul thing needs to be promoted. I think that some people don't know when they can and cannot talk.
    The whole topic though is should we be promoting mitzvahs for their positive value or tell the truth that G-d could chas v'sholem punish aveiras? Probably most people respond to fear rather than to love. I don't obey the speed limit because I love my fellow driver. I obey because I don't want to get a ticket.

  6. regarding talking in Shul it's a huge problem.
    There is one shul in particular where I live(that we only go to when we do because it's so close) that is known for the yentas who daven there. And by yentas I don't mean the women!
    My husband once insulted two men by politely hushing them during Kedushah. You wouldn't believe how they treated him afterwards because of it.
    The reactions of one of them in particular was extreme beyond belief. Such gaiva I've never in my life seen before but to me it demonstrates the severity of talking. I think his reaction was extreme because deep down he knows just how extreme his aveira was and couldn't bear to have someone point it out to him.

    but back to the topic, it's like parenting. You can't be a good parent if all you ever do is praise and reward. A parent who truly loves their child will provide the appropriate discipline as well, say no when they are meant to and give consequences when they are needed. Yes, and one must always warn the child that if they do the wrong thing there will be consequences.

  7. The rabbi of the shul has to put his foot down or else pity on the rabbi, because he's responsible for his congregants' behavior. I
    wouldn't want to be in the rabbi's shoes when G-d asks him about the talking in his shul.
    Perhaps there are enough members who would support a no-talking initiative even if it means some will leave ..
    It would be a big mitzva for you/your husband to support the rabbi in promoting a zero-tolerance policy.
    I wonder whether it would be better for your husband to daven b'yechidus rather than in a shul like this!