Religious reasons for this behavior? (reading out loud in public)

I flew back from the UK yesterday and for a good portion of the flight a Jewish man next to me read out loud from a book. (I’m only assuming he was Jewish because he was wearing a yarmulke) He would read in Hebrew then in English. A mumbled reading would have been annoying enough, but he was reading loudly enough that I could hear him despite my headphones and movie.

I found this quite odd - who reads out loud in a small cramped public area?

My only thought was that there might be something in the Jewish religion that I was unfamiliar with. Perhaps when reading the law one must read it out loud? I don’t know.

(I mean no offense to those practicing the Jewish faith and am genuinely interested in whether there might be a reason for this in your religious practices. If I have phrased this poorly, please school me in how I might have phrased it inoffensively.)

Two possible explanations:

  1. He was praying, which is done verbally.
  2. He was learning Talmud which is customarily done verbally as well (i.e. not read silently like a book). There’s no actual requirement to read it aloud – it’s just customarily studied that way.

Nonetheless, I’m sure had you asked (and, of course, assuming he’s a reasonable person) he would have lowered his voice so it did not disturb you.

Zev Steinhardt

There could be several reasons:

[li] When you pray, you should be able to hear your words: You don’t pray that loud. At most you’ll see their lips move and maybe hear them mumbling. This comes from the story of Hannah from Book of Samuel. Hannah was upset at being childless, and the story is that she went to the Temple to pray. Her lips were moving, but no sound came out. The Priest first accused her of being drunk, but once he realized she was simply praying intently, he blessed her, and she became pregnant. Since Hannah had her prayers answered, it is taught that this is the correct way to pray: You pronounce your words, so you can hear them yourself. However, if the person was doing this, you wouldn’t have heard him through your earphones.[/li][li] He could have been studying Talmud. Normally, you study with a partner, and when you do you go back and forth arguing each point. In a Yeshiva (a Jewish Seminary), the main study room is quite noisy because everyone seems to be arguing with their partner. However, you don’t normally do this while you are studying on your own. I take the train to work, and many people are studying various portions of Talmud and other Jewish works, but do so quietly. But, some people, because they simply are use to it, can be quite noisy even when they study on their own.[/li][li] He was studying a portion of Torah or Haphtorah: That person would be reading aloud to the congregation during Shabbat services. If the person was doing this, he’d be chanting what he was reading in a musical manner and may be going back over a particular section again and again as he learned that portion.[/li][li] Maybe he wasn’t Jewish: Not trying to foist blame on someone else, but Muslims also wear head coverings which can look like a very large yarmulke. Many Muslims try to memorize the entire Koran, and do this by repeating each section out loud until they commit it to memory.[/li][/ul]

Sorry to hear this person disturb your flight. I know a lot of people who study Torah while taking a train or plane, but everyone I know does this quietly in order not to disturb others.

Thanks for the answers.

zev_steinhardt, he may have been praying - I was trying not to listen, rather than actually paying attention, but I would not have guessed that this was a prayer. Prayers kind of have a different feel to them than just reading. Although I’m not sure I could explain that phrase better, and I have no experience with Jewish prayers.

When he saw me look at him oddly, more than once, he finally asked me if he were bothering me. I answered yes, I would prefer that he were more quiet. He apologized and said that he was sorry, but he was just *so *excited - and then kept doing it.

qazwart I am certainly no expert in Hebrew, but it sounded like Hebrew to me. It didn’t seem like he was chanting, but instead reading. He and the girl he was traveling with both had Kosher meals, but that isn’t definitive either.

It was annoying, but as I often say, if this is the worst thing to happen to me all week, my life is pretty good this week. It just seemed odd and it made me wonder if there were a reason behind it.

This is a little rude, but he and the girl with him both seemed to be a little simple minded. Not true, actually, she seemed to be a little simple minded and he kind of reminded me of a man who never really learned how to interact with people. The kind of man who wants to fit in and doesn’t understand why people find him to be strange. (I’m a programmer and in m profession it is common to run into people like this.)

For what it’s worth, Jewish prayers are scripted rather than something made up on the fly, so if he was praying, it would have seemed like reading to you.

That’s also consistent with the possibility that he was a Muslim. The rules for halal and kosher are very similar, and in fact kosher food is considered acceptable as halal if there isn’t any directly halal option available (as is likely on an airline flight).

I’m sure that part in parentheses wasn’t meant to be funny, but it made me smile. Mostly because I could see some over-zealous person think that means that you think Muslims should not be allowed on flights. I find that kind of tortured logic funny.

What I’m not sure of is whether that means I have an offensive sense of humor…