The laws of the holiness of the synagogue.
1. The synagogue and Bais
Midrash – house of Torah study – possess great holiness. (Of course the
Creator’s Presence fills the world. However, the Torah with its laws was given
according to our prospective. For this reason the Torah defines certain places
as very holy – these places associate in our mind with the House of God –
places where we pray and learn the Torah. This way we have to
behave in such places with proper reverence at least as we would behave in the
palace of an earthly king. Our synagogues are small imitations of the
2. Idle talk and any business conversation are forbidden in the synagogue. It is even worse sin to discuss others lie or quarrel in the synagogue. These types of speech are strictly forbidden everywhere but in the synagogue they are considered a double violation. For this reason the Vilna Gaon wrote to his wife that if people discuss rumors in the synagogue it is better to not go there and to pray at home. Even kissing little children in the synagogue is forbidden. One is allowed to talk about Torah or mitzvos and make the necessary monitory calculations related to tzedoko, but not during the time of prayers.
3. It is forbidden to enter a synagogue in order to save oneself from rain or the sun. If one need to call somebody from a synagogue, he should first enter and say a verse of Torah or at least sit a little and only then call his friend.
4. One should not eat or drink in the synagogue unless it is needed for a mitzvah. Similarly those who learn in synagogues for many hours usually eat there in order not to interrupt their learning.
5. Since following all the above laws is quite difficult most synagogues in our day are built “Al Tanay” – on condition that certain leniencies to these laws will apply. Moreover many places of prayer are not built as synagogues altogether – rather they are made as a private house where one can also pray. However even in such cases we should do our best trying to respect these places of worship – the more the synagogue is respected the greater is the effect of our prayers.
6. We should try to keep our synagogues clean and beautiful. It’s a mitzvah to light candles in synagogues. One entering from the street should wipe his shoes and then enter. At the entrance it’s good to say “I am now coming at Your great mercy to Your House and bowing down before You in reverence”. One should feel that he is coming to the palace of the Creator of the world and he should now be especially careful about his behavior and speech.