Rav Avigdor Miller on Conformity Is Derech Eretz



The Torah says אל תהא ער בין הישנים, that you shouldn’t remain awake among the sleeping. Since this is so, why did Dovid Hamelech stay up at night and learn?


There’s a statement someplace, not in the Torah but it’s a statement, that you shouldn’t be awake among the sleeping. It means that when people are sleeping at night, and you are walking in the streets, don’t make any noise. Don’t show that you’re awake. It’s very bad manners; like some people get up early in the morning, and they stand on the street corners and yell across the street, “Hello Jerry!” And a lot of people who couldn’t sleep at night and just before morning they dozed off a little bit – it would save their lives if they could sleep that one hour and all of a sudden this roughneck is standing on the corner, and he disregards everybody’s feelings and he wakes them up.

Now there are a lot of gentiles – and Jews like gentiles – who stand in the street in the morning who shout and make noise. But even the frum Jews; even the frum Jews sometimes make errors like that. If you’re walking down a sleeping street with someone, and you want to talk divrei Torah, then you must talk in a whisper. I was once walking with an elderly rabbi down a sleeping street. He was talking loudly. I said “Shhh!” I said it once. He didn’t catch on. I said it again, “Shhhh!” But he didn’t catch on. He never learned in those yeshivas where they spoke about it. Where I went they spoke about that. Reb Yisroel said that if you steal sleep, you’re just as bad a thief as anybody else. And there’s a big difference, because when you steal sleep you can’t be mekayem the mitzvah of hashava. You can’t return it. And so when people are asleep, don’t be awake among them. If you are awake, you don’t have to display it.

David Hamelech was awake when everyone else was asleep, but he didn’t make any noise. He sat in his room and he studied Torah and he said songs to Hakodosh Boruch Hu with his harp all night. And he didn’t cause anyone any discomfort.

In general it means don’t try to be conspicuous. Try to conform with people. It doesn’t mean to follow the bad styles of the wicked people, that just because all the tramps wear frayed  jeans, so you should. No; there you have to be a Yehudi, you have to have a backbone. You have to despise these dumbbells who have no brains and just follow the crowd. I’m not talking about that. But when you’re among decent people, don’t try to show that you are a vitzidkascha, that you’re even frummer than they are. Don’t be conspicuous. If you want to be a tzadik, do it in a subdued way.

The gemara is full of admonitions against things that are mechzei ki’yuhara, to do things that looks like conceit. Even if it’s not conceit, your intentions are pure, but it looks like conceit. So don’t show off and don’t try to be different; try to be like everybody else; try to conform. Like the gemara  says, לעולם תהא דעתו של אדם מעורבת עם הבריות – A man’s mind should always be in agreement with other people. It doesn’t mean you should yield your principles. By no means. But ostensibly, for appearance’s sake, show that you go along with people.

So let’s say you daven in a nusach ashkenaz place. And its Monday or Thursday. Don’t fall tachanun right after chazaras hashatz. Say V’hu Rachum with the people and fall tachanun with them. The man who falls tachanun before V’hu Rachum on Mondays and Thursdays – “I’m nusach sefard” he says – that man is a chatzuf; he has no derech eretz.

The same is if you daven in a nusach sefard minyan, and it’s Monday and Thursday, and they fall tachanun before V’hu Rachum, do it with them.

The chatzuf who comes into a Lithuanian shul and he says “vi’yatzmach purkanei” he deserves to get a potch. Don’t do it, don’t potch him, but he deserves it. He’s a chatzuf. Because what would happen if you went to a chassidishe minyan and you left out vi’yatzmach purkanei? You would get one!

So wherever you are, you conform. You conform! If you want to say Ki’gavnah while the people are saying Bameh Madlikin, so do it quietly.  But don’t display it. Whatever you do, try to follow the minhag of that place, and that’s called derech eretz. And that’s one of the big principles: לעולם אל תהיה ער בין הישנים ואל תהיה ישן בין הערים – Don’t display your being awake among the sleeping or your going to sleep among those who are awake.

TAPE # 175