The Shulchan Aruch was written as a halachic guide and generally does not describe the severity of transgressions. Yet with regards to someone who talks during the chazaras hashatz, the Shulchan Aruch reveals that his sin is “too much to bear” (124,7). Why did the Shulchan Aruch make an exception for this halacha, and why is talking during chazaras hashatz referred to in such strong terms?
The source of this phrase is found at the beginning of Bereishis. After Kayin killed his brother Hevel, he was cursed by Hashem, banished from his home, and sentenced to wander the earth for the rest of his life. In response Kayin said that the punishment was “too much to bear” (Bereishis 4,13).
Halachic authorities write that the punishment for talking in shul is that the shul will be destroyed (Mishna Berura 124,27). A few hundred years ago there was an outbreak of massacres against the Jews of Europe. Rav Lipman, the author of the Tosfos Yom Tov, attributed these killings to the fact that Jews spoke in shul.
Man is created in Hashem’s image and has a neshama, which is a part of Hashem Himself. As long as man is alive, Hashem dwells in this world. Killing another Jew is tantamount to banishing Hashem from this world.
Similarly, every shul is a miniature Beis Hamikdash, and is a dwelling place for the Shechina. As long as we maintain an attitude of respect and awe, the Divine Presence will dwell there. Talking in shul is tantamount to banishing Hashem from this world.
The Zohar writes that Hashem created this world in order that He should be able to dwell amongst man. Killing others and talking in shul share a similar outcome: we drive the Divine Presence from this world. Acting in a way contradictory to Hashem’s desires in creating the world is “too much for Him to bear.”
Keeping in mind the severity of this transgression can inspire us to try to keep quiet and listen.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org