Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I was sitting in shul on Rosh Hashanah and I tried very hard to daven with kavanah. Overall, it seems as if my fellow daveners were trying to do the same, but there was some talking taking place. In fact, the two men sitting right next to me were talking the most. Yet, every time I made the slightest sound, they “shushed” me.  It was almost comical. How can people who are busy talking the whole time think that they have the right to tell others to be quiet?


An Avid Reader 


Dear Avid Reader,

What you are describing is actually quite common.  Many times it is the person who talks the most who “shushes” others.  Although you are correct that it seems ridiculous, from a psychological perspective it makes sense. You see, shushing people in shul usually has very little to do with wanting quiet. The rav knows how to keep decorum in the shul. Shushing is more about a person wanting to feel important. The people doing the shushing are often insecure, and telling others what to do gives their ego a boost. It doesn’t occur to them that the shushing is another form of noise and very disruptive. They just think they are doing something good for the shul.

Over the years I have learned to not reprimand someone who will not accept what I have to say. I would think that these two men fall into that category. Pointing out what they are doing wrong will not be constructive, as I doubt they will understand.

So what can you do? What we all have to do – focus on our davening and correcting our own middos. That is where our responsibilities lie, not in telling others what to do. And part of that means learning to tolerate those who are not doing the same. As we have noted in our columns on mirroring, if our children see that we are tolerant of others, they will be the same way.

There is a beautiful poem that I have displayed in my office that talks about what children see. If we are angry people, our children will learn to be angry. If we are critical people, our children will learn to criticize. If we are positive, however, our children will learn positivity.

As you said, it was kind of comical, and it is good that you can see it that way. And in the spirit of the Yomim Noraim, I ask that you continue to see the humor in the situations, rather than let yourself get frustrated. Once you reframe and understand that these people most likely don’t think highly of themselves, it will be easier for you to tolerate the shushing.

We can’t know what another person is experiencing; what we can know is that most people are not looking to hurt others.

Let us all try to start this New Year with a commitment to seeing things from other people’s perspective and not feel slighted by his or her behavior.

A gmar chasimah tova to all.

* * * * *

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte


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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at