Ethics

For the week ending 11 February 2006 / 13 Shevat 5766

The Speakers Dilemma

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: As a public lecturer I am sometimes faced with the dilemma of someone in the audience making a disturbing noise by either whispering to a friend or nervously tapping. I find it difficult to continue my talk in the face of such noise but I want to avoid publicly embarrassing the offender. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: You are right on mark in avoiding publicly embarrassing the offender, especially since there may even be justification for the disturbance or a lack of awareness on his part that you are being disturbed by his innocent act. On the other hand, it is understandable that you find it difficult to continue speaking in such a situation.

The ideal solution is to stop speaking and simply look in the direction of the disturbing noise. Your pause will almost certainly cause the source of the disturbance to look towards you. As your looks cross he will either realize that he is doing something wrong or will be appraised of it by the people next to him.

It is not your problem alone. People in the audience should be aware of how sensitive a speaker is and make every effort to avoid doing anything that may disturb him.

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