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Rudeness All Around: Loud Public Cellphone Talking, Texting During Services

There is a thread on our Rabbinic listserve addressing the increasingly challenging problem of how to deal with noisy teenage guests at Bar/Bat Mitzvah services.  It has morphed into questions about how to deal with the incessant texting that these kids now engage in during the service.  (Interesting question is whether having them text – thus remaining more quiet – is an acceptable solution to the noise during services.)

A recent New York Times article, As the Rudes Get Ruder, the Scolds Get Scoldier, laments an equally challenging problem – the loud cellphone talker in the restaurant, coffee shop (or in NYC, on the subway).  A relative of the rude person who parks in the handicapped spot (but is fully physically abled), Loud Talker seems oblivious to his rudeness.  So how do we respond?

I recall an incident a few years back, Just Two Weeks after Yom Kippur and Already I’m Sinning. There in the street stood a woman, leaning toward the window of a big SUV, having a conversation. After observing a few cars swerve around her, I came to believe that she was endangering herself and others by standing in the road. I opened my window and called out, “Could you move to the other side of the car? By standing there you are making it unsafe for our kids.” She and the woman in the driver’s seat of the SUV looked strangely at me and said, “What?” I repeated my concern, “Standing in the street, you are making it unsafe for our kids and yourself. The cars are swerving…” She looked at me again, pondered what I said, and called out, “Shut Up!” 

Flabbergasted then, I’m still flabbergasted.

How do we respond?  Torah (Leviticus 19:17-18) teaches “You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Say something, because rudeness can be cured.

But say it with sweetness as we learn from 12th century Maimonides, One who rebukes another, whether for [personal] offenses or for sins against God, should administer the rebuke in private, speak to the offender gently and tenderly and point out that he is only speaking for the wrongdoer’s own good… (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De’ot 6:7).

How would you respond to Loud Public Cellphone Talker?  To Teen Torah Service Texter?  To Handicapped Parking Space Stealer?  I’m dying to know…

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