One of the serious flaws in our society today is the lack of proper decorum
in shul, especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov. While socializing in shul is not
a new problem and certainly most, if not all people who go to shul are
aware of the prohibition against talking during davening, still a great deal
of talking goes on anyway, either from force of habit or out of disregard
for the halachah. Today, when the power of prayer is needed more than ever,
we must find new ways to eradicate this scourge from our midst.
Ideally, there should be no talking in shul from the beginning to the end
of davening. This should be the long-term goal of every congregation. Below,
we will review the halachic background for this.
Talking in Shul: Halachic Issues
1. Shulchan Aruch rules that idle talk is forbidden in shul even when
prayers are not being recited. Idle talk includes conversation about
one’s livelihood or other essential needs. Nowadays there is some room
for leniency concerning such talk, since some Rishonim rule that shuls are
generally built with a “precondition” allowing them to be used for essential
matters other than davening.
2. During a scheduled prayer session one may not separate himself from the
congregation and engage in idle talk.
3. Talking during prayers causes a chillul Hashem, since it unfortunately
lends support to the widely held perception that non-Jews are more careful
than Jews to maintain proper decorum in their houses of worship.
4. When one is wearing his tefillin, he should refrain from idle talk.
5. During certain portions of davening, talking is prohibited for additional
reasons as well. Sometimes talking is considered a hefsek, an “interruption”
which may invalidate the portion which is being interrupted, while at other
times talking is prohibited because the congregation must give its undivided
attention to that portion of the service. In the following paragraphs we
will discuss the various sections of davening, the degree of the prohibition
against talking in each section, and the reasons behind the prohibition. We
will follow the order of tefillas Shacharis.
Note: During certain sections of davening, as will be noted, there is no
specific prohibition against talking. However, the aforementioned reasons
for prohibiting talking in general apply to these sections as well.
Between Birchos ha-Shachar and Baruch She’amar — There is no specific
halachah which prohibits talking.
During Kaddish — Talking is strictly forbidden, as one must pay full
attention so that he can answer Amen, etc. properly.
During Pesukei d’Zimrah — Unless there is an emergency, it is forbidden to
talk during this time, as it would constitute an interruption between the
blessing of Baruch she’amar and the blessing of Yishtabach.
Between Yishtabach and Barechu — It is permitted to talk for a pressing
mitzvah need only.
Between Barechu and Yotzer Ohr or ha-Ma’ariv Aravim — It is strictly
forbidden to talk.
During Birchos Kerias Shema and Shema — It is strictly forbidden to talk, as
it would be considered an interruption in the middle of a blessing, which
may invalidate the blessing.
Between Ga’al Yisrael and Shemoneh Esreh — It is strictly forbidden to talk,
since it would interrupt the all-important connection between Geulah and
During Shemoneh Esreh — It is strictly forbidden to talk, as it constitutes
an interruption in davening. If one spoke inadvertently during one of
the blessings of Shemoneh Esreh, he must repeat the blessing.
After Shemoneh Esreh — It is forbidden to talk if it will disturb the
concentration of others who are still davening.
During Chazaras ha-Shatz — It is strictly forbidden to talk, since one
must pay full attention so that he can answer Amen properly. One who talks
during chazaras ha-shatz is called "a sinner whose sin is too great to be
forgiven.” The poskim report that several shuls were destroyed on
account of this sin.
During Kedushah — It is strictly forbidden to talk. Total concentration is
During Nesias Kapayim — It is forbidden to talk, as complete attention must
be paid to the Kohanim.
Between Chazaras ha-Shatz and Tachanun — It is inappropriate to talk, since
l’chatchilah there should be no interruption between Shemoneh Esreh and
Between Tachanun and Kerias ha-Torah — There is no specific prohibition
During Kerias ha-Torah - It is strictly forbidden to engage in either idle
talk or divrei Torah during Kerias ha-Torah. One who speaks at that
time is called "a sinner whose sin is too great to be forgiven.” Some
poskim prohibit talking as soon as the Torah scroll is unrolled.
Between Aliyos — There are several views: Some poskim prohibit talking
totally, others permit discussing divrei Torah only, and others
are even more lenient.
During the Haftarah and Its Blessings — It is forbidden to talk, as one must
give undivided attention to the Haftarah reading.
Between Kerias ha-Torah and the end of davening — There is no specific
prohibition against talking.
During Hallel — It is forbidden to talk. Doing so constitutes an
interruption of Hallel.
Kabbalas Shabbos — There is no specific prohibition against talking.
During Vayechulu and Magen Avos — It is forbidden to talk.
Note: From a halachic point of view, it is important to distinguish between
those portions of the davening in which talking is prohibited because of
hefsek (e.g., Birchos Kerias Shema and Shema, Shemoneh Esreh, Kedushah,
Hallel), where not even a single word is permitted to be uttered regardless
of “need,” and those portions where the prohibition against talking is based
on the requirement of paying attention to the davening or because of shul
decorum (e.g. Kaddish, chazaras ha-shatz), where an exception can be made
when a special need arises, allowing one to quietly utter a few words.
The following statement, authored by Harav Shimon Schwab, sums up the
Torah viewpoint on this subject:
“For Hashem’s sake — let us be quiet in the Beis ha-Knesses. Our reverent
silence during the Tefillah will speak very loudly to Him Who holds our fate
in His hands. Communicating with Hashem is our only recourse in this era of
trial and tribulations. There is too much ugly noise in our world today. Let
us find peace and tranquility while we stand before Hashem in prayer!”
1. R’ Avraham ben Rambam reports that this problem was so widespread in
Egypt during his father’s time that he decided to eliminate chazaras
ha-shatz altogether; see Yechaveh Da’as 5:12.
27. Bach, as understood by Mishnah Berurah 146:6 and many poskim.
28. Machatzis ha-Shekel, Aruch ha-Shulchan, and Shulchan ha-Tahor maintain
that the Bach permits even idle talk between aliyos. See also Pri Chadash,
who permits conversing bein gavra l'gavra. Obviously, they are referring to
the type of talk which is permitted in shul and on Shabbos.
29. O.C. 146:3, 284:3.
30. O.C. 422:4 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. aval).
31. O.C. 268:12; Mishnah Berurah 56:1.
32. See Salmas Chayim 38 and written responsum by Harav C. Kanievsky (Ishei
Yisrael #206), based on Mishnah Berurah 125:9.