Ethics

For the week ending 4 July 2009 / 11 Tammuz 5769

Walking Out On The Speaker

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I recently found myself part of an audience listening to the Torah lecture of a distinguished rabbi who gave an inspiring but rather lengthy talk. Upon looking at my watch I realized that if I did not immediately leave I would be late for an appointment. On the other hand I hesitated to embarrass the speaker by publicly walking out on him. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: If you anticipated before entering the hall where the lecture took place that you might have to leave before it ended, you should have taken a seat near the exit from where your departure would not be conspicuous.

If your departure was, however, obvious both to the speaker and his other listeners you had no choice but to remain to the end and come late to your appointment.

The great Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, otherwise known as "Chazon Ish", was once asked by a rabbi what to do in a case where remaining to the end of a Torah lecture would necessitate his missing the opportunity to say his afternoon Mincha service together with a minyan. The response of this Torah giant was that conspicuously leaving would constitute a public embarrassment of the speaker, which is strictly forbidden by the Torah, and consideration of his honor took precedence even above praying Mincha at all.

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