For the week ending 29 April 2006 / 1 Iyyar 5766

Those Disturbing Machines

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: At the entrance to the synagogue in which I pray on weekdays there is a big sign urging people to turn off their cellular phones before entering. Although most of the worshippers respect this request, there are some individuals who ignore it and their cellular phones sometimes go off in the middle of the amidah! What is the right thing to do to remedy the situation?

Answer: The halacha clearly states that talking in the midst of the chazan’s repetition of the amidah service is a grave, unforgivable sin, and those who do so should be rebuked. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124:7).

This warning can certainly be applied to one who allows his talking machine to disturb the worshippers in their silent prayers by sounding off with its musical greeting!

As we pointed out in an earlier article regarding cellular phones going off in the middle of a lecture, we must try to favorably judge one whose phone rings at an inappropriate time by attributing this to some accident or forgetfulness. But if this happens more than once the offender needs and deserves a strong rebuke from the other worshippers.

While we are on the subject, don’t forget that talking during the repetition of the amidah service and during the reading of the Torah must also be discouraged in the strongest fashion.

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