After the Destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple),
Hashem gave us a vital gift which would enable us to survive this long and bitter exile. He allowed the Shechinah (Divine Presence) to manifest
itself to some degree in the beis haknesses (shul or synagogue)
and beis hamidrash (study hall). To this day, the beis haknesses
and the beis hamidrash remain places where a Jew can connect with his
Creator in a very profound way.
Against this backdrop, says the Chofetz Chaim, one can recognize
the full gravity of speaking loshon hora in shul. From the
words and My Holy Place you should fear (Vayikra 19:30) we learn
that a Jew must treat his shul with dignity and only tread in it for
holy pursuits. This commandment prohibits all forms of mundane conversation in shul. How much more so does this prohibition apply to loshon hora
or rechilus, which indicate a complete lack of fear of Hashem, Whose
presence is especially manifest in such holy places.
The Chofetz Chaim states that the hidden message which a person
communicates when he, G-d forbid, speaks loshon hora in shul is that he does not really believe that Hashem resides there. Only with such an attitude could a person feel free to disobey Hashems rules in His own
house. The Zohar says that the sin of ignoring Hashem in His house has
grave spiritual repercussions in the upper worlds.
The Chofetz Chaim writes, Since we are discussing the sin of
speaking loshon hora in shul, I must tell you of the great misfortune that this causes.
A person wants to tell his neighbor in shul a story about
something that happened to him, and he finds a most convenient time for this: immediately before the reading of the Torah. But when the congregation is ready to begin reading the Torah portion, the storyteller is still not finished. Now the yetzer hora (evil inclination) whispers in this persons ear, This is a great story. Youve got to finish it. So the
storyteller and his eager listener continue their conversation right through the reading of the Torah. In doing so, they not only transgress a long list of prohibitions, but they also commit the overriding sin of creating a public chillul Hashem (desecration of Hashems Name) as they flagrantly ignore Hashems Presence in His house and at the same time cause disgrace
to the Torah.
The Chofetz Chaim tallies what this important story is
going to bring these two people on the Heavenly scales of judgment.
They have spoken and listened to loshon hora, which almost
always includes many prohibitions.
They have violated And you shall not defame My Holy Name
(Vayikra 22:32), a sin which is compounded by the fact that it was
committed in the presence of ten or more Jews.
They have disregarded the Torah reading, and it is written, And
those who forsake Hashem will perish (Yeshaya 1:28).
They have engaged in devarim beteilim (meaningless
conversation) in shul.
Woe to the speaker and the listener! writes the
Chofetz Chaim. He quotes the Vilna Gaon who states that it is impossible to comprehend the Heavenly punishment which such conversation can bring upon the participants. The Chofetz Chaim adds another thought regarding those who speak during the reading of the Torah. The Torah reading concludes with Kaddish and it is highly unlikely that they will stop their conversation
to answer to this all-important prayer. This is an incalculable loss. Our Sages, of blessed memory, have taught us the awesome power of answering
Amein Yehei Shemei Rabba (Amen, May the His Great Name be blessed). By answering with proper concentration and intent, one can
cause severe Heavenly decrees to be broken. Several times each day, when Kaddish is recited, Hashem gives us the priceless opportunity to earn
tremendous merit with just a few seconds of effort.
Imagine if someone offered you a check for one million dollars, with the only requirement being that you exert the miniscule effort of lifting the check off the table and putting it in your pocket. The reward for answering Amein, Yehei Shemi Rabba is much more than that, yet the
storytellers are oblivious to this, essentially leave millions of dollars sitting on the table, untouched.