Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • The Laws of Ben Adam LeChavero
To dedicate this lesson
At the Shabbat Table

Raising Doubts


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Tevet 12 5781
Yitzchak was a fixture in the shul. The other members of the shul knew that, day or night, regardless of the weather, Yitzchak could be found sitting in his designated seat. Talking. And not necessarily to G-d.
In fact, it seemed that, as far as Yitzchak was concerned, prayer was not an essential component of the synagogue experience. Naturally, he would arrive with his tallit bag under his arm, walk over to his seat, unfold and don his tallit, open his siddur, and… apparently that was as much religious activity as he could handle. He would spend the remainder of the services engaged in conversation regarding crucial matters such as baseball scores, local housing prices, and the advisability of buying his children pet goldfish. To be fair, Yitzchak didn’t talk the entire time. He did give his full attention as the synagogue president made the announcements.
While Yitzchak didn’t take much notice of the goings on in shul, the shul members certainly took note of him. His conversations were not just incessant. They were loud. And, while the others in the room might have preferred, at times, to focus on the services, the chazzan and baal korei just couldn’t compete with Yitzchak’s level of volume.
The gabbai stood, fuming, as he attempted to listen to the Torah reading. They had tried everything. Polite requests, and even some less polite ones, had been ignored. The threats that had followed shortly after achieved the same results. It was time to act.
The baal korei completed the reading of the fifth aliya. "Yaamod Yitzchak ben David, shishi" chanted the gabbai, using the traditional formula to call up Yitzchak to recite the blessings over the sixth aliya.
Yitzchak, who was in the midst of a heated discussion as to the merits and demerits of buying wrinkle free shirts, looked up in surprise when he heard his name. Quickly, he jumped to his feet, straightened his tallit, and ran up to the bima. The gabbai waited until he was sure that Yitzchak was looking in his direction, at which pointed the gabbai gestured toward the Torah scroll, indicating that Yitzchak should raise the Torah to perform hagbaha.
Yitzchak, who hadn’t been paying much attention to the goings on in shul until this point, was completely unaware of the fact that the gabbai had announced that Yitzchak would be reciting the blessings over the sixth aliya, and that the baal korei hadn’t completed the Torah reading yet. Therefore, taking his cue only from the inaccurate hand motion he had received from the gabbai, Yitzchak took the Torah scroll in his hands, and lifted it in full view of all of the congregants, who proceeded to burst out laughing at Yitzchak’s mistake.
Sudden understanding came over Yitzchak, as his face went from horseradish-white to kiddush-wine-red. Shaking, he replaced the Torah scroll on the bima, and, shoulders slumped, returned to his seat. For the first time in the history of his shul attendance, Yitzchak sat silently for the remainder of the services. He had never felt so low in his life. That is, until the gabbai approached him after services, and whispered to Yitzchak "if you had been paying attention, instead of talking, you would have known that I called you up for the sixth aliya!"
Did the gabbai act appropriately, by teaching Yitzchak a lesson in this manner?
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
The actions of the gabbai were completely forbidden! Humiliating a person in public is a severe transgression. In the Shulchan Aruch it says "One may not engage in idle conversation while the chazzan is repeating the Shemoneh Esrei. One who does talk at this time is sinning, and his sin is too great to bear, and he should be rebuked." (siman 124, se’if 7) Therefore, he needs to be corrected, repeatedly, if necessary. If the warnings are not effective, and he continues to talk, it is proper to penalize him, and withhold from him the honor of being called to the Torah. (This is the case even if the offender is a Kohen, and there is no other Kohen present.) However, there is no allowance for embarrassing him in public, which is tantamount to murder!
In summary:It was forbidden for the gabbai to embarrass Yitzchak in public. He should have tried to solve the problem in other ways.

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