Gemara (B’rachos 17a): It is assur to daven from a high point on the ground. The Gemara adds certain items that would also be problematic such as chairs, benches, and beds.
Rambam (Hilchos T’filah 5:7)/ Kesef Mishnah (ibid)/ Shulchan Aruch (90:2): The shiur of high places is 3 t’fachim (24-30cm.) or more. Even a place that is more then 3 t’fachim if it has walls or it has more then 4x4 amos of surface area then it is considered a r’shus of its own and doesn’t have any restrictions. None of these dimensional qualifications appear in the Gemara but the Rambam is applying them based on s’vara. (Less than 3 t’fachim is always batul to the r’shus it is in and walls or 4x4 are characteristics that appear in many areas of halacha as qualifications to define a separate r’shus)
Bach (Siman 90:1): He explains that there are two approaches to learning the sugyah in the Gemara:
The first approach to the Gemara is that the underlying reason behind this whole issur is haughtiness. Therefore the dimensions that the Rambam gives would apply to all the surfaces equally whether ground or vessels. There is no significance in the fact that the Gemara added other examples in addition to the ground.
A second approach to the Gemara is that the dimensions given by the Rambam only apply to the ground and only then does the problem of haughtiness arise. The additional items listed in the Gemara are derivatives of a different source that being “the fear of falling”. This fear leads to an inability to concentrate. Since the issue involved is bitul kavanah then the issur to daven on these things would be even if they were less then 3 t’fachim high.
Shulchan Aruch (90:1): He says the halacha follows the first approach in the sugyah. Therefore it is always assur to daven while standing on top of ground or an object that is higher than 3 t’fachim unless it is a separate r’shus. The reason is because of haughtiness. Any item less than 3 t’fachim would be mutar to daven on top of because there is no haughtiness.
Rema (ibid): He understands the sugyah like the second approach. Therefore it is assur to stand on any place higher than 3 t’fachim (unless it is a r’shus of its own) because of haughtiness and it is also assur to daven while on top of something shorter than 3 t’fachim if because of a fear of falling (if there is clearly no fear of falling it should be mutar at leass than 3 t’fachim)
Sick or Elderly People
Tosefta (B’rachos 3:17): There is a dispensation for a sick or elderly person to daven while on a high place.
Shulchan Aruch (90:1): According to his approach (above 3 = haughtiness) the rationale for this dispensation is because with sick or elderly people it is clear that they are not doing so out of haughtiness.
Mishnah Brurah (90:1): According to the Rema’s approach that there is also a consideration of bitul kavanah to take into consideration there are 2 possible explanations for this Tosefta.
The chazal were not matriach such a person to get down from his bed or bench if it will be easier for him to remain in his place.
The case of the Tosefta is referring to a situation where there is no fear of falling (i.e. a very sturdy place)
Beis Yosef (90:1): He brings a number of Rishonim who all say that it is mutar for a Sh’liach Tzibbur to stand on a higher place if his whole kavanah is so that the tzibbur can hear his voice. (It seems that the Tosefta we saw above provides a very strong basis for this dispensation.
Mishnah Brurah (90:5): The Mishnah Brurah brings down the Pri Megadim who says that even though there is a heter for someone who needs to be heard to stand on something high if he fears he will fall he may not daven there. (in order to be choshesh for the rationale of the Rema)
Magen Avraham (90:2)/ Mishnah Brurah (90:5): The prevalent custom is that the Shatz davens from a lower point or at equal height as the tzibur.
Mishnah (B’rachos 16a): There is a dispensation that workers can say Krias Sh’ma while standing in a tree or on a scaffold. However they can’t daven Shmonah Esrei in a tree or on scaffolding because t’filah requires kavanah. The Mishnah makes no distinction between which types of trees this din applies to.
Gemara (ibid): The Gemara brings a Braisah that says that workers can daven when standing in a fig or an olive tree. Even in these types of trees the employer has no dispensation to daven in the tree because he is not subservient to any one else and his descending won’t cause a bitul melacha of any kind.
Rashi (ibid): He explains that since these types of trees have a lot of leaves and branches there is less fear that a person will lose his balance and fall when davening. According to Rashi the chiddush of the Braisah is within the realm of bitul kavanah because of the fear of falling.Yerushalmi/ Rosh/ Rabbeinu Yonah: The reason these two trees are singled out as being mutar to daven in is because since they have so many leaves there is a lot of tircha involved in getting up into and getting down from the tree and therefore chazal were maikel to let workers who are totally at the behest of their employers to daven in the tree. According to this approach the chiddush of the Braisah is within the realm of davening on high places. Even though we said before that it is assur to daven on high places because of haughtiness nevertheless the chazal made a dispensation for workers because there will be so much tircha involved in getting down they considered the tree as if it were a r’shus of its own.
Shulchan Aruch (90:3): He brings down the Gemara according to the explanation of the Rosh and Rabbeinu Yonah.
Davening in a Place With Windows (S.A. 90:4)
Gemara (B’rachos 31a): A person should always try to daven in a house that has windows.
Rashi (ibid): The rationale for this din is because by looking through the windows and seeing the shamayim you will have an easier time generating kavanah for t’fillah.
Rambam (5:6)/ Shulchan Aruch (90:4): From the verse that the Gemara brought it is clear that the windows should be in the direction of Jerusalem (which is the direction you daven towards). He understood this to be a din in the Binyan Beis K’nesses itself.
Mishnah Brurah (90:8): He asks on this din from Yevamos 105 that you should daven with your eyes facing downwards. If so what do you need windows for. He answers that if you lose concentration you should look out the windows (like Rashi described).
Pri Megadim/ Mishnah Brurah (90:8): Even though the lashon in the Gemara is “house” it means both at home and even at shul when davening with a minyan you should try to fulfill this din!
Shulchan Aruch (90:4): He brings the Zohar that says that ideally a Shul should have 12 windows since they represent the gates in the Beis Hamikdash for the different tribes to enter into. The Zohar says that each one of the twelve tribes’ t’fillos go up to shamyaim through these gates.
The Placement of the Windows
Pri Megadim/ Mishnah Brurah (90:9): In order to blend the niglah and the nistar together we can say as follows. You should have 12 windows in your shul (Zohar) even though only some of them are in the front of the shul facing Jerusalem (Bavli).
Davening in Wide Open Areas (S.A. 90:5)
Gemara (B’rachos 34b): Someone who davens in a field is considered arrogant.
Rashi: He says that when someone is secluded in a shelter then he more readily feels the awe of Hashem.
Tosafos (ibid): He asks a kasha from the passuk that says that Yizchak went out to daven in the field. He answers the question two ways:
He says that Yitzchak was really at the sight of the Beis Hamikdash which regardless of whether it has walls or not is the place of Divine Presence and does not fit into this issur.
He also answers that the field that Yitzchak davened in was secluded and no travelers would come along to bother him in a place which is frequented by travel it would be assur.
Beis Yosef (90:5): He understood that Tosafos was explaining the Gemara. Therefore he disagrees with this second p’shat because the Gemara would never associate the midah of chutzpah with someone who chose to daven in a place where there were people passing by (perhaps careless but not chutzpah!)
Taz (90:2): He defends Tosafos by saying that he wasn’t explaining the Gemara but rather giving a definition of what a wide-open place is. The definition of a wide-open place is one where there are people passing by. Davening in such a place is chutzpah because it is wide open and you have no fear of the king (like Rashi explained)
Magen Avraham (90:6): He holds that the p’shat in Tosafos is that someone who davens outside where there are people passing by is demonstrating chutzpah in the sense that he is making an outward statement that I CAN DAVEN WITH KAVANAH EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WALKING BY!
*According to the Magen Avraham and the Taz we can use Tosafos in his second answer as a source to limit the issur of davening in wide-open places to cases where there are a lot of people passing by
Zohar (Parshas B’shalach pg.105): The Zohar asks the same question as Tosafos and gives the first answer
Shulchan Aruch (90:4): He brings down the issur and seems to poskin like Rashi (since he saw Tosafos as arguing) that davening anywhere outside that doesn’t provide shelter is problematic since you can’t achieve the proper state of mind necessary in davening.
Mishnah Brurah (90:11): Even though he is willing to rely on the Magen Avraham and the Taz nevertheless because of the Zohar we should be very careful not to daven in a shelter of some kind.
Level of Priority
Pri Megadim/ Mishnah Brurah (90:10): If a person had a choice between davening in a house with no windows or outside he should daven in the house. Davening with windows is a nice mailah whereas davening in a wide open area is an issur.
An Area With Walls But No Roof
Sharei T’shuvah (90:1): He brings a string of poskim who all agreed that an area with walls is enough to meat the requirements of this Gemara even though it has no roof!
TravelersMagen Avraham (90:6)/ Mishnah Brurah (90:11): A traveler who is in a hurry and must daven on the side of the road may do so. There is no chutzpah involved here since this person has no choice but to daven where he is.
Chayeh Adam/ Pri Megadim / Mishnah Brurah (90:11): Even for a traveler it is preferable to find a semi-secluded place (i.e. amongst some trees etc.).
Davening in a Ruin (S.A. 90:6)
Gemara (B’rachos 3a-3b)/ Shulchan Aruch (90:6): One should’nt daven in a ruin for 3 reasons
Ch’shad (people will think you are meating a zonah there). According to this reason if it is in a field or you are with your wife it should be mutar
Mapoles (the walls may collapse on you). According to this reason if the walls seem very sturdy it should be mutar
Mazikin (the mazikin frequent these locations). According to this reason if there are two people it should be mutar because mazikin don’t bother two or more people
It follows that if there are two people they can enter into a ruin and daven if the walls seem sturdy. (See Mishnah Brurah 90:14)
Gemara (ibid)/ Mishnah Brurah (90:13): From the story in the Gemara with Eliyahu Hanavi it is clear that if the situation is such that you can’t circumvent all 3 chashashos of davening in a ruin then it is better to daven outside on a path even in a place where there may be a lot of travelers and you will have to daven an abbreviated Shmonah Esrei (Havineinu).
Davening Outside the Shul Building (S.A. 90:7)
Gemara (B’rachos 6b): Someone who davens “behind” the shul building is called a rasha unless he faces the building.
Rashi (ibid as explained by Rabbeinu Yonah): He understands the word “behind” the shul to mean that he is standing outside the western wall of the shul (assuming the shul faces east). If he doesn’t face the building he is davening to the west and it gives three negative impressions 1) that there are two r’shuyos (more than one god), 2) he is turning his back on the heichal of the Beis K’nesses, 3) he is davening outside when everyone else is inside. If he turns towards the building he is davening in the same direction as the tzibur is davening (facing east) he is not a rasha because the only factor in place is that he is outside and they are inside. (According to Rashi if you stand outside the shul on the eastern side and face east you are not called a rasha because you are davening in the same direction as the tzibur. It is clear from the Rabbeinu Yonah’s explanation that he understood in Rashi that the main issue of negativity is not “turning your back to the heichal – the eastern wall” but rather that you are facing the opposite direction than the tzibur and this gives the impression that there are two r’shuyos)
Tosafos (ibid): He understands the word “behind the shul to mean that he is standing outside the eastern wall of the shul. If you turn to the east (away from the building) you are called a rasha (even though you are davening in the same direction as the tzibur). The rationale in Tosafos is that by turning to the east you have put your back to the heichal - “eastern wall” of the shul. The eastern wall is where the schinah dwells (the equivalent of the heichal in the Beis Hamikdash) and this is a zilzul to the schinah. According to this approach if you stand outside the western wall and daven you are not called a rasha (even if you daven in the opposite direction than the tzibur)
Shulchan Aruch (90:7): He brings down both p’shatim from the Rishonim and says that we should be choshesh for both. Therefore the only place one can stand outside a shul is in the western side facing east.
Mishnah Brurah (90:18): Even davening outside the western wall of the shul facing east is not l’chatchilah because you should daven in the shul itself (see ahead).
When There Is No Minyan Davening Now
Mishnah Brurah (90:15): This din of davening outside the walls of the shul certainly applies when there is a minyan davening now. There is a machlokes Achronim whether it applies at a time when there is no minyan davening now.
Rabbeinu Yonah: He holds that even when you are davening on the northern or southern sides of the shul you should turn towards the walls of the shul and not face away from them. Once again facing away from them gives the impression of “facing your back to the heichal Hashem”, “outside as opposed to inside”, and “davening in a different direction then the tzibur”. In such a case both shitos would agree that this is a rishus. If you turn to face the walls of the shul in this case then you eliminate the problem of facing your back to the heichal Hashem and he says that we can also judge favorably in such a case and say that since he isn’t davening in the opposite direction as the tzibur that is good enough.
L’vush (Siman 90): He holds that the implication of the Rabbeinu Yonah is that to stand outside the northern or southern walls of the shul and face east (like the tzibur is doing inside) is also mutar
Pri Megadim (90:11 A.A.): He takes this understanding a step further and says that in fact that is actually the most preferable thing to do in this situation. The only reason you would face the shul wall is when ther eis tzoah or ervah in front of you to the east.
Shulchan Aruch (ibid): He brings down the halacha as it is found in the Rabbeinu Yonah.
Mishnah Brurah (90:19): He adds on the Pri Megadim’s understanding in the Rabbeinu Yonah.
Rooms Off the Eastern Wall of the Shul
Tshuvos Harambam/ Shulchan Aruch (ibid): The Rambam wrote in a tshuvah that if a person is davening in a separate building that shares a wall with the eastern wall of a shul then the warning of this Gemara doesn’t apply. Once you are in a separate house altogether it is clear that you aren’t “turning your back to the shul” you are just davening b’yechidus in a separate place.
Shiurei K’nesses Hag’dolah/ Mishnah Brurah (90:20): He brings down that this t’shuvah from the Rambam applies to rooms just off the eastern wall of the shul.
Eliyah Rabbah (Siman 90): He brings that in a case where the walls of the house extend farther to the north or south than the walls of the shul the Shiurei K’nesses Hag’dolah preferred to daven there because then he didn’t have his wall to the back of the wall of the shul that the tzibur usually faces.
Mishnah Brurah (90:20): He holds that one can rely on the opinion that when in a room or house sharing that common wall with the shul you can daven there. However, when building a shul it is best to avoid building rooms off the eastern wall (if they will be used to daven in).
Davening in a Courtyard Outside the Shul
Elyah Rabbah (90:8): He brings proof from the Beis Yosef and the L’vush that standing in a courtyard with your back to “the wall of the shul that the people inside the shul normally face to daven” is the same as davening in a room or house sharing a wall with the shul (like above).
Magen Avraham (90:12)/ L’vushei S’rad (ibid): He disagrees and says that you can’t compare the case of the rooms or the house to the case of the courtyard (assuming the courtyard surrounds the north or the south of the building as well) because in such a case you are not forced by default to daven with your back to “the wall”.
Davening While Standing on the Back Side of the Aron Hakodesh
Based on the s’varos in the sugyah it should be mutar to daven while standing on the backside of the Aron Kodesh. In terms of the three “negative impressions” we saw above you certainly don’t have the problem of being outside while the tzibur is inside nor do you have the problem of davening in the opposite direction than the tzibur. The only possible issue that could arise is whether this is called “turning your back on the heichal Hashem’. With regards to this issue we find that the Rishonim all related to the problem as one of “turning the back on the eastern wall of the shul which is the side where everyone bows to because the sh’chinah is in the east”. From this point of view the whole issue only begins when you are outside the shul or on the other side of the actual “eastern wall”. In this case you are not and therefore it is mutar.
Passing By a the Door of a Shul When They Are Davening (S.A. 90:8)
Gemara (B’rachos 8b)/ Shulchan Aruch (90:8)/ Rema (ibid): One who passes by the door of a shul when they are davening and doesn’t enter looks like a kofer. This warning only applies under the following conditions:
Mishnah Brurah (90:23,25): This warning applies even when the tzibur is in the middle of P’sukei D’zimra or Krias Sh’ma. However if there are multiple minyanim in this shul the issur doesn’t apply because people will just assume you are davening at a later minyan.
Davening in Shul With a Minyan (S.A. 90:9-14, 18)
The Importance of Davening in a Minyan
Gemara (B’rachos 8a): Hashem will never despise (turn away) the T’filah of the Rabim!
In a Shul vs. In a Minyan or at the Time When the Minyan is Davening
Gemara (B’rachos 6a): A person’s prayer is only heard when said in a Beis K’nesses.
There are different versions of the text as we will see.
Rosh/ Rif/ Rambam: They had the text that read the prayer is only heard when said in a Beis Kenesset (even if the tzibbur is not davening there right now). The reason for this is that this place is designated for the prayer of the Rabim and is therefore a more opportune place to daven and Hashem accepts the prayers from that place more readily.
Rabbeinu Yonah: He had the text that read the prayer is only heard if it is said either together with or at least at the same time as the tzibbur.
Shulchan Aruch (90:9): Ideally one should daven in the Shul with a minyan (to be yotzei both texts). If you can’t go to the Shul you should be machmir to daven at the same time as the tzibbur like the R. Yonah. If you missed the time that the tzibbur is davening then you should daven b’yechidus in the Shul if possible.
Defining “T’filah B’tzibur”
Chayeh Adam/ Mishnah Brurah (90:28): You can only get credit for “t’filah b’tzibur” if you daven Shmonah Esrei (or at least part of it) at the same time as 9 other Jews.
(Saying Shmonah Esrei Word For Word With the Sh’liyach Tzibur)Rav Moshe Feinstein (Orach Chaim Vol.3:9)/ Chazon Ish (19:7 As understood by Rav Moshe): Saying word for word with the shatz is not called t’fialh b’tzibur but if you gfet to shul late and there are no longer 10 people davening or you won’t be able to finish before Kedusha then it is better to say word for word with the shatz then to daven b’yechidus after.
Eishel Avraham (Butchatch Siman 52)/ Chasam Sofer (Siman 3)/ Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabiya Omer Vol.2:7): They hold that saying word for word with the shatz is called t’fialh b’tzibur even if there is no longer 10 people davening in the shul.
Defining “The Time When the Tzibur is Davening”
Mishnah Brurah (90:31-32): He brings from the Magen Avraham that the “time that the tzibur is davening” is defined by when the Jews in that region daven as a whole. Therefore if there are Jewish people davening in this region somewhere it is called the time when the tzibbur is davening. (The Gemara indicates that the goal is to daven Shmonah Esrei at the same time as the tzibur)
For Shacharis even if there are no minyanim early in the morning when you need to daven you can start from Neitz and possibly even Amud Hashachar because it is practically a given that there are minyanim at these times somewhere in the region.
In a place where the minhag is to daven Mariv early because of d’chak of losing the
minyan a person should wait to daven Mariv after tzeis.
Davening a Different Type of T’filah Then the Tzibur
Gemara (Avodah Zarah 4b): You can’t get the mailah of “b’zman sh’hatzibur mispalel unless you are davening the same Shmonah Esrei as them but if you are in the shul with them you can get credit for “t’filah b’tzibur” even though you are davening a different t’fialh then they are.
Gemara (B’rachos 8a): It is preferable to daven in a Beis Midrash rather than in a Beit Kenesses since the former has the kedusha of Torah learning on a regular basis. (We know that after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash the only “sanctuary” that Hashem has now is the 4 Amos of halacha- that is to say that where halacha is learned and or followed that is the ikar place of Sh’chinah today)
Rambam (Hilchos T’filah 8:3): The Rambam understands this Gemara to mean that assuming you would daven with a minyan in either place it is better to daven in a Beis Hamidrash. That is to say that the Kedusha of the Torah learning overrides davening with a larger number of people but does not override the need to daven with a minyan.
The Ri (ibid): The Ri understands this Gemara to mean that someone who is Toraso Umnaso and doesn’t generally stop learning for anything should daven where he learns since then he is davening in the closest place to the Beis Hamikdash that there is in the world today. According to him this even overrides t’filah b’tzibbur.
Rosh: He pointed out that a Talmud Chacham who is Toraso Umnaso should not do this on a regular basis since others will not judge him favorably and will come to think negatively of him and the Torah in addition to justifying there own laziness on the basis of his actions.
Shulchan Aruch (90:18): He poskins like the Rambam.
Rema (ibid): He brings down the Ri and the Rosh.
Torah of the Rabim vs. Torah of the Yachid
Mishnah Brurah (90:55): The most preferable place to daven with a minyan is a Beis Midrash that is kavuah for the Torah learning of the Rabim. In such a case it is preferred even if it is not the place you actually learn.
Torah of the Yachid vs. A Shul
Mishnah Brurah (90:55): If there is a Beis Midrash that is your personal place of learning but it is not established for large numbers of people to learn in then provided that you learn there it is better to daven there with a minyan (to minimize Bitul Torah) then at a Shul with a bigger minyan.
Large vs. Small Minyan
Mishnah Brurah (90:28): A Beis Kenesset with a larger minyan is more preferable to one with a smaller minyan unless the numbers create a problem for hearing the Shatz and the Krias Hatorah.
Breaking a Large Minyan Up Into Two So Two Aveilim Can Daven
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Yoreh De’ah Vol. 4:61 #4): Rav Moshe holds that because of the mylah of B’rov Am Hadras Melech you shouldn’t break up a larger minyan into a smaller one. This holds true even if they will both be davening in designated Batei K’nessios with Sifrei Torah. (Rav Moshe doesn’t mean you can’t establish more than one minyan in a shul he just means you shouldn’t break up a minyan on the spot to facilitate two Aveilim)
Longer vs. Shorter Distance
Magen Avraham/ Mishnah Brurah (90:37): All things being equal it is preferable to daven at a farther away Shul in order to gain more merit for the tircha. If this will create a problem with time or health it is not advised.
Shul vs. Home
Mishnah Brurah (90:27): A minyan at a Shul is preferable to a minyan at your home.
Minyan At Home vs. B’yechidus At Shul
Mishnah Brurah (90:28): A minyan at your house is preferable to alone in the Shul even granted that you will hear Kaddish and Kedusha there.
Better Kavanah vs. Other Factors
Mishnah Brurah (90:28): Until now we have discussed preferences based on the relative levels of Kedusha of the places themselves. If there is a reason to believe that the T’filah itself will be on a higher level in a different minyan then it is preferable to daven there. The primary example of this is a choice between a Shul that davens quickly and a Shul that davens with patience and diligence in kavanah. If the person knows he will benefit from davening there he should even if he personally can’t stay until the end of davening and will miss Krias Hatorah. He should make an effort to reveal why he has to leave early everyday. This heter to daven and leave early even applies when you are the tenth man in the minyan everyday. (See the Radvaz Vol. 3 Siman 472 where he holds that in such a case you can even daven b’yechidus. Other poskim say that you can’t use this as a reason to daven b’yechidus but you can use this as a reason to arrange a small minyan even outside of the Beis K’nesses)
Who Is Chaiv and Who is Patur From Davening in a Minyan
Gemara (B’rachos 7b-8a): Rav Nachman was taken to task for not coming to the minyan one day. His justification was that “I wasn’t able to come”. (The Gemara continues)
Shulchan Aruch (90:9): Based on this Gemara he gives a general dispensation for someone who is b’oneis not to daven in a minyan.
A Person Who is Feeling Weak
Magen Avraham (90:16)/ Mishnah Brurah (90:29): The Magen Avraham says m’svara that if Rav Nachman was clearly bedridden then Rav Yitzchak would never have had a hava amina to investigate his absence! Therefore he must have been less than bedridden and yet his answer (I was unable to come) was still acceptable. From this point the Magen Avraham derives that even a person who is feeling weak is patur from davening in a minyan. (this is not a p’tur for laziness !)
Mishnah Brurah (90:29): He brings from T’shuvos in the Achronim that one is permitted to miss a minyan to prevent an actual financial loss but not at the loss of a potential gain.
For the Sake of Torah Learning
Mishnah Brurah (ibid): He adds from the Eliyah Rabbah that it is not permissible to daven b’yechidus for the sake of Limud Hatorah (personal learning)
Someone Who is Teaching Torah
Mishnah Brurah (90:56): Although we will see in later simanim that a person who is teaching Torah shouldn’t avail himself of the heter not to daven nevertheless he is patur from T’filah B’tzibur.
You Need to Catch a Flight
Mishnah Brurah (90:44): If you have a group of travelers that won’t wait for you to daven in a minyan then you may leave with them even though you will have to daven b’yechidus.
You Need to Get to Work By a Certain Time and There is No Available Minyan
Riv’vos Efraim (Vol. 1:66): He is matir for such a person to daven b’yechidus.
An Elderly Person Who Can’t Make it Until the End of the Minyan Without Eating Biur Halach (89:3 “V’chen”): He is matir for such a person to daven b’yechidus and then eat but says that at that point he should go to shul to hear Kaddish and Kedusha
A Person Who Has to Pass Dangerous Places to Get to Shul Kaf Hachayim (90:57): he is matir for such a person to daven at home (at the time of the tzibur)
Someone Who Has to Go to the Bathroom Mishnah Brurah (92:5): Even though a person shouldn’t miss the z’man t’filah if he can’t hold it in for the requisite amounts of time nevertheless he can miss the minyan in order to achieve guf naki.
You Daven Slower Than Everyone Else Sharei T’shuvah (52:1): Someone who comes to shul on time but davens very slow may continue doing so for the sake of greate kavanah even if he will not get t’filah b’tzibur.
Starting to Daven Before the Tzibbur Gemara (B’rachos 28b): When you are in the shul it is assur to start davening before the tzibur.
L’vushei S’rad (90:10): This din shouldn’t be confused with what we said above that even a person davening at home should try to daven at the time when the tzibur is davening (but if he doesn’t there is no issur) because here it is worse since you are in the tzibur.
Orchos Chaim L’Harosh: He learns that the basis for the issur is because it is a disgrace to the tzibur to start davening before them.
Rabbeinu Yonah (ibid): He learns that the issur is based on the fact that your t’fialh isn’t going to be accepted.
Reb Yonason Miluniel/ Rashbatz: They learn the reason for the issur is because you will finish before the tzibur and then you will have to sit idol.
Mishnah Brurah (90:34): He brings the rationale of disgracing the tzibur.
The Tzibur is Running Late
Rabbeinu Yonah/ Rosh/ Shulchan Aruch (90:10): This whole issur only applies under normal circumstances. If the minyan is running late and are going to miss the z’man then you can daven before them in the shul!
Bach/ Mishnah Brurah (90:36): They limit this heter to a case where the time is so tight that if you were to walk back to you rhouse you would miss the zman. If you can make it back to your house and still daven b’zman then you should do so.
For the Sake of Learning Torah
Mishnah Brurah (90:34): Even though the pashtus of the Gemara is that you can’t do this even for the sake of getting in more Limud Hatorah nevertheless from the Bach and the Mamer Mordechai it is mashma that you can.
People Who Need to Rush Off to Work (Or Similar Cases)
Bach/ Mishnah Brurah (90:34): A person who has to get going should leave the shul and daven at home b’yechidus.
Mishnah Brurah (90:36): We know that someone who is not well or is weak has a heter to daven at home. Nevertheless if such a person forced himself to come to shul he must daven with the minyan and not start before them.
Bach/ Prisha/ Mishnah Brurah (ibid): If a person is sick or b’oneis then he can daven befor the tzibur even in the shul itself.
Walking Outside the Shul to Avoid the Problem Mishnah Brurah (90:35): He brings from the Rivash that you can’t circumvent this issur by stepping outside the shul. (This is difficult because since the M.B. learned that the rationale was disgrace to the tzibur what disgrqace do you cause them if you step outside?) Perhaps the Mishnah Brurah is choshesh for the other rationales as well. He adds that there are other poskim who say that this is an aitzah (even though you will lose t’filah b’tzibur).
Someone Who Doesn’t Go To His Local Shul
Gemara (B’rachos )/ Shulchan Aruch (90:11): Someone who doesn’t go to his local shul is called “a bad neighbor” because he is responsible in his absence for causing there to be less sh’chinah in klal Israel.
Mishnah Brurah (90:38): Most Achronim understand this warning to mean that this person doesn’t go to shul to daven in a minyan. Therefore someone who is davening in his house with a minyan is not called a bad neighbor. Nevertheless it is still more preferable under most circumstances that this person should daven in the shul unless the place in his house where they daven is “officially designated” to be a place of davening.
Running To Shul
Gemara (B’rachos 6b)/ Shulchan Aruch (90:12): It is a mitzvah to run to shul to daven even on Shabbos. (Normally taking large steps causes a person to lose his eyesight but not when he does so for the sake of a mitzvah). On the other hand when leaving the shul it is assur to run because this gives the impression that being in shul is a burden for you.
Mishnah Brurah (90:43): If you are just going out in order to take care of something quickly in order to be able to come back sooner then it is mutar to take large steps or run.
Mishnah Brurah (90:41): The mitzvah of running to shul only applies up to the door of the shul not inside because it is always assur to run inside the shul.
Mishnah Brurah (90:40): The ikar mitzvah to run is when you get closer to the shul because then it is clearer why you are running.
Being One of the First 10 Men in Shul
Gemara (B’rachos 47b): A person should always try to wake up early and be one of the first 10 men in the shul because in addition to the fact that he is assuring that there will be a minyan he also gets s’char equal to that of all the others who come later (even if there are 100)
Mishnah Brurah (90:47): The mylah of being one of the first 10 only applies to someone who plans to daven with the minyan.
Leaving Shul While Your Friend is Still Davening (S.A. 90:15)
Gemara (B’rachos 5b-6a): If two people went to davening together and one finishes first he should wait for his friend to finish and not leave him behind. If he does leave his friend behind then they tear up his t’filah in shamayim and he causes the sh’chinah to leave Klal Israel because by leaving him behind he will become afraid of walking alone in the field and this will cause a bitul of his kavanah.
Rabbeinu Yonah (ibid): He explains that the Gemara doesn’t mean specifically the case of two friends who go to shul together it applies to any normal minyan of people who daven together. The Gemara is however coming to exclude two situations where you don’t have to wait:
You don’t have to wait for a person who came joined the minyan so late that he won’t be able to finish with them since in doing so he has shown that he is not makpid on being “alone”.
The implication of the Gemara is that you only have to wait for a person who is finishing his basic chiuv to daven. You don’t have to wait for someone who is adding personal requests of his own or is remaining behind for other reasons.
Shulchan Aruch (90:15): He brings down the second qualification from the Rabbeinu Yonah.
Mishnah Brurah (90:48): He brings down the first qualification of the Rabbeinu Yonah but adds that even still there is a midas chasidus to wait after Mariv for a person who came in very late.
Rabbeinu Chananel (Quoted in Talmidei Rabbinu Yonah): He holds that this Gemara is mainly dealing with the shuls in the olden days that were out in the fields where there were mazikin. The rationale behind the Gemara is that since by leaving the person behind you are subjecting him to danger from the mazikin (who do cause damage to people walking alone) therefore mida k’neged mida in shamayim they tear up your t’filah leaving you vulnerable.
Tosafos/ Rif/ Rabbeinu Yonah: Even though the Gemara is essentially dealing with the shuls in the old days nevertheless the same principle applies in our shuls in the city if it is nighttime.
Shulchan Aruch (90:15): There is a chiuv min hadin to wait for a person who is still davening (not being marich in personal requests) if it is Mariv.
Tosafos (ibid- Gemara)/ Mordechai/ Shulchan Aruch (ibid): Even during the day there is a midas chasidus to wait for the people in the minyan to finish davening before you leave lest they come to fear and bitul kavanah.
Traveling to Reach a Minyan (S.A. 90:16-17)
Gemara (P’sachim 46): You have to be prepared to walk 4 mil forwards and one mil backwards for t’filah.
Rashi (ibid): Rashi understands this din in the context of a traveler who has reached a town and wants to daven in a minyan. That is to say as a traveler you have to be prepared to walk these distances to reach a minyan.
Aruch: He learns that this is not referring to a minyan it is referring to washing the hands with water before davening.
Shulchan Aruch (90:16): He poskins like Rashi.
Pri Megadim/ Mishnah Brurah (90:49): The same din applies to someone who hasn’t reached the town yet but will reach the town before the end of the z’man Krias Sh’ma (see Shar Hatziun) he has to be walk 4 mil forwards or 1 mil backwards in order to do so.
Chayeh Adam/ Mishnah Brurah (90:52): For a person who lives in a house in the city the din is that he must always be willing to walk one mil in any direction to reach a minyan. This chiuv applies both during the day and the night unless you live in a distant area where the walk to the shul is more like a journey! (we don’t expect people to take journeys at night)
Agudah/ Shulchan Aruch (90:17): The Agudah makes a kol sh’kain from Rashi’s understanding of the Gemara in P’sachim. If you have to be willing to travel to reach a minyan then you certainly shouldn’t leave a town that will have a minyan to reach another location that might not. He qualifies and says that if by staying here inthis town to daven you will have to travel alone or you won’t make it to your destination until after dark then chazal were maikel on you to daven b’yechidus.
Shulchan Aruch Harav (90: ): This din is limited to a person traveling for a d’var r’shus because we know from the Gemara that it is mutar to travel for the sake of a mitzvah even before davening.
Pri Megadim: He asks a kasha on this din of the Agudah. The inference of this din is that the whole reason it is assur to start traveling from this town is because you will lose t’filah b’tzibur. This isn’t true we know from the Gemara that it is assur to travel altogether before davening Shmonah Esrei (even without a minyan).
Mishnah Brurah (90:53): He says that the case of the Agudah could be based on the Rema 89:3 who says that the issur of traveling before davening can be circumvented by saying some of the Birchos Hashachar.
Makom Kavua (S.A. 90:19)
Gemara (B’rachos 6b): Anyone who designates a fixed place for his davening the G-d of Avraham will be at his aid. The reason being that Avraham designated a place for his t’filah as we see that the verse says in B’reishis 19 that Avraham awoke early [to pray in the place where he had in the past]. In the continuation of the Gemara it mentions that a person who manages to do this receives the praise of “humble”, “pious”, “a student of Avraham” when he leaves the world.
M’harsha: He explains that the visible world around us is run by G-d through hidden means. We see an intricate system of powers and forces that seem to have independent power. Different places have different powers and forces associated with them. Someone who davens in different places all the time is showing that he wants to relate to Hashem through these forces and powers and perhaps even to benefit from the different forces in the different places.
On the other hand someone who davens in a fixed place is making the statement that there is only One Power that rules the entire universe. The different powers and forces that there are in the world scattered amongst the different places are all nullified to His Will at all times. In his attempt to daven in a fixed place a person can actually unify all of the seemingly disparate powers and forces and show that they all come from the One G-d. This is the difference between the name Elokim and Adonai. This explains the praises of humble, pious, and student of Avraham because someone who is humble and pious searches ways to serve Hashem from this higher path, This was also the trademark of Avraham who fought to educate a world that was entirely engrossed in the servitude of the forces and powers of nature.
Rosh/ Hagahos Maimanios: They explain that the Gemara did not mean that a person merely has to daven in the same Shul everyday but rather inside the Shul itself a person should have a fixed place that he always davens in.
Rabbeinu Yonah: He says that since technically the whole Shul is a makom k’dusha davening there every day is enough to fulfill this precept and there is no special “place requirement” once inside. The Gemara here was referring to designating a place in the house for the times when a person cannot go to Shul. Even though you don’t daven in this place on a regular basis you should still have a makom kavua there for the rare occasions when you do!
He also says that the praises that are said about such a person are not directly because of the designation of the place as was implied by the M’harsha. Rather the person who takes davening so seriously and is careful with all of its halachos (even this minute detail of the fixed place) because he loves davening has certainly achieved a high madreiga that will eventually lead him to all good things.
Shulchan Aruch (90:19): He poskins like the Rosh. Therefore it is a chiuv to try to designate a place in the Shul in addition to davening at the same Shul everyday. Only if there is a great need or a mitzvah should he not daven there.
Mishnah Brurah (90:59-60): He adds that we are chosheish for the Rabbeinu Yonah as well and therefore inside the house we should also have a set place for davening. A person should try to pick a place that will allow him to have a settled mind and daven with kavanah.
Mishnah Brurah (90:60): The place is defined by a four Amoh radius all the way around.
*Therefore if someone has accidentally taken your place there is no need to quarrel just try to daven within four Amos from the place. This is a distance of approx. 2 meters.
Shulchan Aruch (90:20: Based on what the Shulchan Aruch says with regards to the inyan of entering the shul (according to the Mahram M’Rottenberg) if you have the choice you should not decide to pick your makom kavua within 8 t’fachim of the back door of the shul if it opens to a public area.
Biur Halacha (90:24 “V’af Al Pi”): Similarly if you have a choice in the matter it is preferable not to chose a makom kavua behind your Rav unless it is more than 4 amos plus 3 steps worth of space.
Shulchan Aruch Harav (90:19): Based on the opinion of Rashi in terms of entering the shul (see ahead) even when the door doesn’t face a public area you should not chose a place of davening that is within 8 t’fachim from the door because it looks as if coming to the shul is a burden for you.
Entering the Shul (S.A. 90:20)
Gemara (B’rachos 8a): A person should enter the shul ‘shnei p’sachim” before starting to daven.
T’filah Shouldn’t Look Like a Burden to You
Rashi/ Yerushalmi: The reason you have to physically enter a certain distance into the shul is because otherwise it looks as if you are anxious to leave. As a result if this is your makom kavuah then it is okay since that is clear to everyone why you have to sit there.
You Need to Minimize Distractions
Rav Meir Merottenberg: The reason you have to physically enter a certain distance into the shul is because otherwise you will be distracted to look outside. According to this opinion if the door to the Shul is not situated is such a way that you can see outside this issur would not apply.
You Should Wait a Short Time Before Starting to Daven
Rosh/ Rabbeinu Yonah: The reason you have to physically enter a certain distance into the shul is because you have to be m’kayem the obligation to wait a short amount of time before starting to daven.
Shulchan Aruch (90:20): He says we have to be careful for all of the opinions.
The Shul Should Have a Foyer
Bach (90:20)/ Mishnah Brurah (90:61): The Bach learns the Gemara on a more literal level that is to say that that the shul should have two doors to walk through. Based on this Bach it has become a universally accepted custom to design a shul in such a way that it should have a foyer (i.e. 2 doors: 1 to the Azarah and the second into the shul itself)
Chatzitzah in T’filah (S.A. 90:21-23)
Gemara (B’rachos 5b): Ideally a person should not have anything separating between himself and the wall when davening. The example given in the Gemara is davening in front of a bed.
Defining the Size and Status of Chatzitzah Items
Tosafos (ibid): Large permanently fixed items are not chozeitz. A bed was generally moved even though it may be large.
Ravid: Items smaller then 10 t’fachim high X4 t’fachim wide are so small that they are not chotzeitz.
Shulchan Aruch (90:21): He brings down both of these qualifications l’halacha.
Mishnah Brurah (90:68): He brings a number of Achronim who hold that there is no true basis for distinguishing between large or small items.
Chatzitzah is Not M’akeiv
Mishnah Brurah: The Mishnah Brurah says the deeper reason for the halacha of chatzitza is bitul kavanah.
Mishnah Brurah (90:63-64): The Achronim point out that this din is certainly a form of mitzvah min hamuvchar but it is not m’akeiv even l’chatchilah. Therefore the minyan shouldn’t be pushed off to find a larger room so that everyone can daven with no obstacles between himself and the wall.
Closing Your Eyes To Avoid Seeing the Chatzitzah
Mishnah Brurah (90:63): In the event that you have to daven with a chatzitzah in front of you it is preferable to close your eyes or look down at the siddur and that helps.
Beis Yosef (90:21)/ Mamer Mordechai/ Mateh Yehudah: They hold that even in such a case one should try to avoid the chatzitzah.
Pri Megadim/ Magen Gibborim: they disagree and say that this entire din only applies to an item that is within 4 amos from you.
Sefer Hapliah: One should try to avoid davening behind other people because of chatzitzah.
Mordechai/ Mahari Abuhav: People are not chotzeitz.
Shulchan Aruch (90:21-22): He brings down both opinions. (What is unusual is that he brings the Sefer Hapliah as a “Yesh Mi Sh’omer”, which usually means an uncontested Das Yachid)
Mamer Mordechai/ Mishnah Brurah (90:69): It is extremely difficult to imagine that people are chotzetz because that would mean that everyone is going to want to try to find a spot right next to the wall. Based on this question he says m’svara that even the Sefer hapliah never meant that a person is chotzeitza min hadin but rather that whenever it is possible you should try to. However in a shul there is no inyan at all even l’chatchilah to try to find a place next to the wall. However someone who is a m’dakdeik may try to grab a makom kavua against the wall.
Shulchan Aruch (90:21)/ Rema (ibid): Shulchan Aruch says animals are not chotzeitz. The Rema says they are.
Mishnah Brurah (90:65): The achronim debate whether our beds are considered “kavua” items today or not. Therefore one should try to avoid davening when his bed is between himself and the wall.
Items Needed for Davening
Taz (90:5): The Taz explains that any item needed for the sake of davening isn’t a chatzitzah. Therefore he justifies the use of a shtender to hold the siddur.
Magen Avraham (90:36): He disagrees in principle with the blanket heter of “tzorchei t’filah” in this din and the only way he could justify the use of the shtender was because it is “Tashmishei Beis K’nesses” (i.e. it is like part of the shul itself).
Mishnah Brurah (90:66): Because there are a number of other Achronim who agree with the Taz he poskins that anything being used for the sake of davening (table, shtender, etc) is not a chatzitza.
Wall Hangings/ Tapestries/ Pictures Etc. Shulchan Aruch (90:23): It is assur to daven in front of pictures or tapestries. If you have no choice then you should keep your eyes closed.
Mishnah Brurah: The issue here is an issue of bitul kavanah. If your attention focused on the pictures you will lose the kavanah.
For this reason it is assur to hang, engrave, paint, etc. pictures on the front wall or even on books in the Shul unless it is entirely at a height above the persons vision.
MirrorsMishnah Brurah (90:71): Based on a Gemara in Avodah Zarah the Mishnah Brurah also says that it is assur to daven in front of a mirror. This issur even applies with closed eyes since it is a form of Avodah Zarah called shadow worship. If the eyes are open it is also a problem of bitul kavanah.
Davening Near a Parent or Rav (S.A. 90:24-25)
Gemara (B’rachos 27b): It is assur to daven next to or behind your rav.
Rashi (ibid): He says the reason for this issur is haughtiness.
Tosafos (ibid): He agrees that davening on the side of teh rav is because of haughtiness but he says that behind the rav is a different problem that it looks as if you are worshipping the rav.
Rabbeinu Yonah: He says that the reason for not davening behind the rav is because you are burdening him since he won’t be able to back out of Shemoneh Esrei.
Rabbeinu Yonah adds that to daven in front of the rav would certainly be assur because of the haughtiness.
Chaye Adam: He says that all of the above issurim apply to a father and the gadol hador (even though he isn’t your personal rav) as well.
Shulchan Aruch (90:24-25): He brings down that it is assur to daven in front of, behind, or on the side of your rav. He adds that if you are more then 4 amos from your rav in any direction it is mutar. A talmid who is wise enough to be considered a friend and contemporary of his rav does not have the issurim of davening in back or on the side of his rav. The Mishnah Brurah says that since they are like equals he may not daven in front of his rav in this case.
Rema (ibid): He brings down some Rishonim who say that this issur doesn’t apply in a shul where there is assigned seating for davening.
Biur Halacha (90:24 “V’af Al Pi”): Although the minhag is to be meikal in the issue of assigned seating it is still praiseworthy to try to set it up that your fixed seat isn’t within 4 amos of your rav.
Mishnah Brurah (90:79He also adds that the heter of 4 amos doesn’t suffice when behind the rav according to the reason of the Rabbeinu Yonah. Therefore when behind your rav you would need to distance 4 amos plus three steps so that he doesn’t have to back into your space at all.
Mishnah Brurah (90:73): As far as defining your rav it means the person who you have learned the majority of your Torah from.
Ervah and Tzoah During T’filah (S.A. 90:26-27)
For a detailed discussion of the categories of Tzoah and Ervah that are problematic during Krias Sh’ma and T’filah see the Review Sheets on Hilchos Krisa Sh’ma!