Dear YW Editor,
Although I have been tempted to write many times in the past, this is the first time that I was so moved as to actually do so.
Especially in light of the main topic and discussion just a week ago at the Agudah convention, being Mekarev our brothers through our actions, an incident that happened to me last week illustrated this point better than any speaker.
I was meeting with a not frum business person who labelled himself as Conservative. He apparently has had almost zero interaction with frum Jews on a religious level (as opposed to in the business setting) until very recently. He was invited to his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah in a small out of town community. While describing the event, he repeated over and over to me that the one thing that stood out from the entire service was the constant talking throughout the davening. Yes, he noticed the Mechitza, the fact that the Bima was in the middle etc. but the incessant shmoozing from beginning to end was what remained in his mind as the symbol of an Orthodox prayer service.
How truly sad. Imagine what kind of first impression he could have had from a moving, inspirational tefillah, as is befitting every davening, not just on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Yet, I was left on the defensive, trying to explain that what he witnessed was not indicative of the majority of Orthodox shuls. A first impression, however, is hard to undo and who knows if there will ever again be the opportunity for him to be inspired by Torah true Judaism.
I think the lesson from this is more than that we shouldn’t talk during davening, as B’H this is not a problem in many Kehillos, but rather the realization that nobody lives in a vacuum. One never knows who’s watching (and I’m not referring to Heaven) and what kind of Kiddush Hashem or, Chas V’Shalom, Chillul Hashem one is making at any given moment. Had the people in that shul realized that their actions that day would have a profound impact on someone’s life I am sure that they would have acted differently, and we must conduct our daily lives with just such an outlook.
I hope that this letter can cause that an actual good to come from this story, and may we be zoiche to be Mekadesh Shem Shamayim always Ad Biyas Goel Tzedek B’V.
‘Embarrassed to be Frum’ (USA).
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