ARCHIVES: HILCHOS TEFILAH
(and its appropriate preparations)
Originally Covered August 2008. Revised January 2015
BELOW ARE THE HALACHOS FROM THE DAILY EMAILS THAT WERE SENT OUT TO THE “HALACHA FOR TODAY” DAILY EMAIL LIST, INCLUDING THE DATES ON WHICH THEY WERE SENT, EXACTLY AS THEY WERE SENT.
Halachos for Sunday, January 25, 2015
We originally covered this topic in August of 2008. Due to its importance, the many questions I receive that relate to it and the fact that a majority of our current readership was not on board with us yet in 2008, we will now embark on a review of many of the Halachos that pertain to Tefilah, prayer, and the proper preparation it warrants.
1) Every Jewish male should get up in the morning early enough to properly cleanse his body for Tefilah, and to arrive in Shul in time for the beginning of davening, in order to be able to daven the entire davening, and especially the Shemona Esrei, with the minyan.
2) Every Jewish man, woman and child should recite "Modeh Ani" immediately upon waking up each morning.
Modeh Ani may be recited before the morning washing of the hands (Negel Vasser).
Children should be taught the importance of reciting Modeh Ani, as soon as they are able, as it teaches them the all important aspect of thanking Hashem each morning for everything that he gives us in his abundant kindness.
According to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatzal and others, the proper enunciation for women is "Mo-duh Ani", while for men it is "Mo-deh Ani". (See Halichos Shlomo, Perek 2; Dvar Halacha Os 5, In Sefer Peninei tefilah, however, he brings the following Q&A from Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Zatzal:
Q. In order to be grammatically correct, should women and girls say “Mo-duh Ani” rather than “Modeh Ani” in the morning when awakening, and also in the bracha of Elokai, Neshama? A. No, they should do as their “savtas” did. We don’t change nuscha’os.)
Halachos for Monday, January 26, 2015
1) As an introduction to the laws of getting up in the morning, [and indeed an introduction to all of the laws with which every Jew must live his life], the Rama (Orach Chaim Siman 1:1)begins his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch with very essential words for every Jew to know, memorize and internalize, as follows:
"...One should always remember that Hashem is in front of him/her. This is an important tenet of the Torah...one's actions, character, and nature is not the same if he is alone in his home, as they would be were he/she in the presence of an important king...one's speech and mannerism is not the same if he/she is talking to friends, as they would be were he/she talking to a king... How much more so must a person realize in his/her heart that Hashem, the great king, whose presence fills the entire world is standing near him/her and sees his/her every action......A person must not be embarrassed from any human beings that may ridicule him for serving Hashem...for even in the privacy of one's home, and even while laying in one's bed every Jew must remember in front of whom he is laying...and as soon as a Jew awakes, he should quickly rise to serve Hashem..."
Although one should quickly get out of bed in the morning when it's time to daven, in order to rush to serve Hashem, it should still be done calmly and not with a quick jump, as that can harm the body. (See Mishna berura Siman 1 S"K 8)
2) When reciting Modeh Ani upon waking up, a comma should be inserted between the words "Shechezarta Bi Nishmasi B'Chemlah" (For you have returned my soul within me with compassion) and the words "Rabbah Emunasecha" (abundant is your faithfulness). As well, the words "Rabbah Emunasecha" should be said as one phrase, without any interruption between the words.(Mishna Berura ibid.)
Halachos for Tuesday, January 27, 2015
1) When a Jew gets dressed in the morning [and undressed in the evening] he/she should do so modestly in a way that his body isn't totally exposed, even if there is nobody else in the room . One should not say "but I am alone in the privacy of my room, who will see me?!", because Hashem is everywhere, and sees everything. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 2:1 and 2. See also Mishna berura S"K 1)
There are varying opinions about what is considered "exposed". The most stringent opinion (Malbim in Artzos Hachaim and others)requires any part that is considered a "covered place" (i.e. one must wash his hands if that area was touched) to be covered [under a blanket or a robe] when dressing/undressing (This includes feet, arms, shoulders etc.).
Other Poskim (Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal in Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah Vol. 3 Siman 47:3 and others) are more lenient, and only require one to cover the parts that he normally covers when one is home (thus feet, arms, shoulders, ankles would be exempt from being covered).
Others are even more lenient, and maintain that as long as undergarments remain on, a person may then put on/take off the rest of his/her clothes. (See Shu"t Az Nidberu Vol. 6 Siman 40 and Vol. 8 Siman 50)
2) If the aforementioned is too difficult to put into practice, one may rely on Rav Moshe Feinstein's opinion and get dressed/undressed in a bathroom [that also has a bath/shower in it.]
Rav Moshe's reasoning is that such a room has the status of a bathhouse, and as such is a place where it is acceptable to walk around naked. Even when relying on this, the Poskim say that it is best not to be naked in the bathroom for more time than necessary.
Halachos for Wednesday, January 28, 2015
1)One should be careful not to don two articles of clothing at the same time. The reason for not doing this is because it can lead to forgetting one's Torah (Kashe L'Shikcha). (See Mishna Berura Siman 2 S"K 2)
There is a dispute in the Poskim if this also applies to taking off two articles of clothing together. Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita maintains that it is best to be stringent in this matter.
2) This prohibition does not apply to women (according to most Poskim), as women are not prohibited from forgetting Torah.
However, from the texts of the Poskim it seems that they might however forget what they did learn if they do this, so any woman that doesn't want to forget any Torah that she has learnt is wise to adhere to this Halacha even though she is not bound by the prohibition.
The Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. 7 Siman 2) based on the Aruch Hashulchan(Siman 2:6) maintains that this prohibition does not apply to shoes [as they aren't considered clothing]. Therefore one may put on two shoes or a shoe and a rubber/ boot at the same time.
Halachos for Thursday, January 29 , 2015
1) Jewish males may not walk more than 4 Amos (around 8 feet) without a head covering. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 2:6 and Mishna Berura S"K 11 quoting the Taz. See also Shu"t Igros Moshe Orach Chim Vol. 1 Siman 1 regarding the size requirement of the head covering)
It is praiseworthy to be stringent and not even sit in one place, or even sleep without a head covering. (Mishna Berura ibid.)
Young boys should be trained from a very early age to wear a Kipah on their heads, as the Talmud (Shabbos 156b) teaches that covering the head leads one to fear Hashem.
B'sha'as hadchak, If one must walk 4 Amos in his home and doesn't have something with which to cover his head, he may do so with his bare hand .However, if one is outside (and he is directly under the sky) using his hand for a cover will not suffice, rather the sleeve of his hirt or another item must be used.( See Mishna berura Siman 2 S"K 12)
2) If one is in a place where he cannot cover his head (like a court house, where it may be the law of the land that heads must be bare), or if he is in such a profession that he is afraid that covering his head will cause him loss of clients or revenue, there is a possibility that he can sit with a bare head without transgressing this Halacha. (See Shu"t Rivevos Ephraim Vol. 5 Siman 40 what he quotes from Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal)
However, before determining this, especially nowadays when it is acceptable almost everywhere to wear a Kipah (due to the kindness of Hashem that most of us live with religious freedom and tolerance), a competent Halachic authority must be consulted.
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, January 30, 2015
Double Portion L'Kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) Every Jewish man and woman must wash their hands immediately upon waking up each morning. This washing is commonly referred to as "Negel Vasser". (Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:1)
2) There are 3 reasons that the Poskim give for necessitating this washing:
a) A person's hands are "busy" when he/she is asleep, and we assume that they surely touched an area of the body that requires the washing of the hands. (Opinion of the Rosh, quoted in Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 1)
b) Each night when we sleep, our soul ascends to heaven. Thus upon waking, and re-receiving our soul, it is as if we are a "new creation". Therefore we are required to thank Hashem for "creating" us for His glory, to serve Him and make blessing with His name. Therefore, before serving Hashem we must sanctify ourselves and wash our hands properly; much like the Kohen would wash himself before serving Hashem in the Bais Hamikdash. Our praying is considered "Avodah"- serving Hashem and is equivalent to the Kohen's "Avodah" in the Bais Hamikdash. (Opinion of the Rashba, quoted in Mishna Berura ibid.)
c) When we sleep, a "Ruach Ra" (loosely translated as an "impure spirit") rests on our bodies, and in order to re-acquire our Ruach Kedusha (pure spirit) we must wash our hands.(Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:2. See also Mishna Berura siman 1 S"K 2)
[There are many practical Halachic differences that result depending on which of the aforementioned reasons we wash our hands, (one who was up all night, one who slept with gloves etc.) but it is beyond the scope of this email to delve into all of them at this time]
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) Children from the age of Chinuch (from around age 5) also must wash Negel Vasser.
Some Poskim (The Chazon Ish, The Steipler, Zichronam L'Vracha and others) were extremely stringent regarding children, and urged parents to wash their children's hands from when they were newborn.
2) Walking around without washing Negel Vasser is not something that should be taken lightly, as the Zohar and other Kabalistic sources write terrible things about people who are negligent in this matter. (In the next few days we will touch on some of these things more in detail)
Halachos for Sunday, February 1, 2015
1) Before washing Negel Vasser upon waking, one should be careful not to walk more than 4 Amos (between 6 and 8 feet, depending on various halachic opinions).
It is for this reason that many people have the custom to prepare a cup of water [and a basin] near their bedside to be able to wash their hands before even getting out of bed.
2) Those who do not do this rely on the Poskim that are of the opinion that a person's room, even if it is very large, is halachically considered like "4 Amos", and thus there is no problem walking to the sink. (If this applies only to a sink (or bathroom) in one's room, or even to the entire house, is questionable.)
If relying on the above, and walking to the sink, it is best to go as fast as possible, as not to have the "Ruach Ra- impure spirit" rest on the body for any longer than necessary (based on the conclusion of Mishna Berura Siman 1 S"K 2 and and Shone Halachos ibid.)
Halachos for Monday, February 2, 2015
1) If one gets out of bed in middle of the night and plans to go right back to sleep, many Poskim rule that there is no problem at all with walking 4 Amos without Negel Vasser, as his/her obligation to wash Negel Vasser doesn't start until he/she wakes up for the day.(See Eishel Avraham Butchatch, Siman 4.See also Halichos Shlomo ;Tefilah;Perek 13:16. See also Mishna Berura Siman 1 S"K 2, where he states "...K'Sheyisorer M'Shnaso V'Eino Rotzeh Lishon, Yitol Yadav- When he awakens, and doesn't want to sleep anymore, he should wash his hands...")
Other Poskim (The Shelah Hakadosh and others , based on the Zohar's extreme stringency of all matters containing to Ruach Ra. See also Kaf Hachaim Siman 4:4) maintain that even when planning to go back to bed, Negel Vasser is still required before being allowed to walk 4 Amos.
The consensus of the contemporary Poskim seems to be that if one merely gets up to use the restroom, quiet a baby etc. and is still "half asleep" he/she can rely on the lenient opinions, and not wash Negel Vasser. (especially if by washing Negel Vasser, one will awaken further, and thus have a harder time falling asleep again, and subsequently wakeup late for davening or find himself tired in Shul due to his being "awake" during the night, etc.)
However, if one is "fully awake" (be it an insomniac in search of a midnight snack or any other reason) he should be stringent and wash Negel Vasser before walking 4 Amos, even if he plans on returning to sleep for the rest of the night.
2) Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatzal said in the name of the Gaon of Vilna Zatzal , that after the public burning of Avraham Ben Avraham (Count Pototski, The Ger Tzedek) who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church, on the 2nd day of Shavuos, 1749, for converting to Judaism) the Kiddush Sheim Shomayim (sanctification of Hashem's name) that resulted because of his actions, significantly weakened the "Ruach HaTuma- spirit of impurity" that rests on Jewish people upon waking, and thus the stringency of not walking 4 Amos before Negel Vasser is not as strict anymore. (See Halichos Shlomo;Tefilah;Perek 20, Orchos halacha footnote 49. The Ger Tzedek is buried in the cemetery in Vilna, Lithuania in the same tomb as the Gaon of Vilna. For the story Click HERE )
Halachos for Tuesday, February 3, 2015
1) Before washing Negel Vasser, one should be extremely careful not to touch their mouth, nose, ears, eyes, or any other cavities in the body, with their hands ( Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:3. Using the wrist or arm to touch these areas is OK, as only the parts of the hand that require washing are subject to this prohibition)
Although some Poskim (Malbim in Artzos Hachaim and others)extend this prohibition, even when touching these areas indirectly, with a piece of clothing, the accepted custom is to allow the touching of these areas (e.g. rubbing the eyes) with an article of clothing.
2) One should be careful not to touch any food items before washing Negel Vasser, lest the impure spirit be transferred to the food item. If food was touched, it may still be eaten, but if possible, the food should be rinsed with water three times before being eaten. (See Mishna berura Siman 4 S"K 14)
Halachos for Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Aino-Yehudim are not required to wash Negel Vasser, thus there is no problem with them touching food without properly washing their hands. (Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 10)
Not-yet-observant Jews, however, are subject to the impurities that result from not washing Negel Vasser, therefore if possible, they should be asked to wash their hands before handling food that will be eaten by Jews.
2)Food touched by a child below the age of Chinuch (around 5 years old) is less of a problem. ( See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Mahadura beis, Siman 4:2 where he is lenient. The Mishna Berura (ibid.), however, seems to be more stringent, thus it's prudent to accustom children, from a very young age, to wash negel vasser.)
It is best not to smoke cigarettes before washing Negel Vasser.(Mishna berura Siman 4 S"K 14)
If a woman is nursing her baby before washing Negel Vasser, she should be careful not to place her fingers inside the baby's mouth.
Halachos for Thursday, February 5 , 2015
1) In order to ensure that the impure spirit leaves the body after waking in the morning, it is important to make sure to wash Negel Vasser properly. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:
The hands must be washed , alternately, 3 times each, starting with the right hand. (See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 10. The Gaon of Vilna required a fourth washing for each hand, as to wash away the impure water from the hands. The Mishna Berura, ibid., seems to agree with this stringency). A left handed person still must wash the right hand first.(See Mishna Berura Siman 4:22 and Kaf HaChaim Siman 4:35)
Negel Vasser must, L'Chatchilah, be washed from a cup with the strength of a person, and not simply by allowing running water to pass over the hands. (See Rama Siman 4:7 Be'er Heiteiv Os 7.If you find yourself in a situation where you have no utensil, you can open the sink and wash the right hand. Close the sink. Re-open the sink and wash the left hand etc. and do this procedure for each of the hands 3 [or 4] times. See Mishna berura Siman 159 S"K 64)
A minimum of a Revi'is of water should L'Chatchilah be in the cup at one time.(between 3 and 4 fl. oz, depending on various opinions.See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 15)
There should be no obstructions (Chatzitzah) that prevents the water from reaching the skin.(Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:7;for more details see Siman 161). Thus, Rings and band aids etc. should be removed before washing. If one has a cast on one hand, he should wash the other hand with all the Halachos, and can then recite the Bracha of Al Netilas Yadayim. (See Biur Halacha Siman 4:2)
The hands must be washed all the way until the wrist, each of the six [or 8] times. It is important to make sure that both the outside of the hand as well as the inside (palm) get fully washed each time.(See Mishna berura Siman 4 S"K 9 and 57)
2) If one wasn't able to wash with some (or all) of the aforementioned conditions, he should still wash with as many of them as possible, and recite a Bracha. ( Ruling of the the Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 7 and 16.The Gaon of Vilna in Biur hagra Siman 4:1 and 22,and The Shulchan Aruch Harav, in his Siddur, argue and maintain that no Bracha is recited unless all the conditions were met. See also Biur halacha Siman 4:7 Dibur Hamaschil U'sha'ar Devarim)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, February 6, 2015
Double Portion L’Kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) After washing Negel Vasser, one should wash his/her face, out of respect for our Creator, Hashem. (Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 2)
Many also have the custom to rinse out their mouths, as to have a "pure mouth" with which to utter the names of Hashem while davening. On a fast day, this should not be done. (See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 9)
2) A Jew who did not wash Negel Vasser, should not help wash the hands of another Jew. (This is common with older people in hospitals, nursing homes etc. where a non religious Jewish nurse may want to help them wash). (Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:11)
However, the Jew with the unwashed hands may bring the water to the bedside of the other Jew. (Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 23)
Halachos for Shabbos kodesh
1) After washing Negel Vasser in the morning, the Bracha of "Al Netilas Yadayim"[as well as the Bracha of "Asher Yatzar", if the bathroom was used] needs to be recited.
However, there is a debate among the Poskim as to when exactly this Bracha should be recited.
(Note: The following machlokes is for Negel Vasser only, and should not necessarily be applied to Netilas Yadayim for bread or other hand washing throughout the day, which may have different Halachos; as we will B'Ezras Hashem see when we get there)
2) Some Poskim say to recite the blessing immediately after washing the hands, and it isn't necessary to dry the hands first.
(See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 2.The Bais Yosef Siman 6 Dibur hamaschil V'Im, and others take it a step further and say that the Bracha should intentionally be recited before drying the hands, thus making the Bracha "Over L'Asiyasan")
Other Poskim maintain not to recite the blessing until after the hands are dried. There are two reasons given for this. 1) The Ruach Ra doesn't leave the body until the hands are dried. 2) The drying is necessary to remove the impure water from the hands. (See Mishna Berura ibid. According to the second reason, if one washed 4 times each hand as the Vilna Gaon says, then the impure water was already removed, and no drying is necessary anymore to make the blessing. See kaf hachaim Siman 4:8)
A third opinion, and one that is most prevalent, is that the Bracha of Al Netilas Yadayim [and Asher Yatzar] should be recited together with the rest of Birchas HaShachar (the morning blessings) which are recited at the start of Tefilas Shacharis, even though this will cause a separation between the washing and the Bracha. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 6:2)
The ideal way to follow the last method, while still avoiding the separation between the washing and the blessing, is to wash the hands again immediately prior to davening, and right away recite Al Netilas Yadayim, and the rest of Birchas HaShachar. (See Biur halacha siman 4:1)
Halachos for Sunday, February 8, 2015
1) Women, even if they are not able to daven Shacharis, should recite the Bracha of Al Netilas Yadayim after washing Negel Vasser, as it was instituted as an independent Bracha and not only as a part of Tefilah . (See Aruch Hashulchan Siman 6:10)
2) Ideally, women should try and daven at least a short prayer and request from Hashem each morning, even if they can't daven the entire dvening. (as they may be exempt due to their responsibilities taking care of the children etc. see Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 4 Siman 101 for more on this topic. We will discuss this more in detail in te near future as well.)
Halachos for Monday, February 9, 2015
1) Besides the requirement to wash one's hands each morning, there are many other situations throughout the day that require washing of the hands.Over the next few days we will learn about these requirements and discuss some of their details.
2) There are eleven primary situations that necessitate washing the hands with water.(See Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:18)
The first two are:
a) After using the restroom (and possibly even after simply being in one. See Mishna berura S"K 40. Though, in bathrooms that also have showers and other functions in there, as many do nowadays, there may be room for leniency. See Chazon Ish Orach Chaim Siman 17:11 and 12)
b) After bathing in a bathhouse or showering at home (See Shu"t Tzitz Eliezer, Vol. 7 Siman 5 that if the room is clean, nowadays, no washing is necessary simply after entering, provided there is no toilet in the room as well)
Halachos for Tuesday, February 10, 2015
1) The next of the situations that require washing of the hands are:
c) After cutting the nails of your fingers or toes.
Some Poskim are lenient and don't require washing after "biting" nails as this is done out of nervousness and not with intention to cut the nails (See Shmiras Shabbos K'Hilchaso Perek 42 footnote 159. See also Orchos rabbeinu Vl. 3 page 186 where the steipler Zatzal quotes in the name of th Chazon Ish that after biting one nail no washing is required. See also in the Hosafos ibid. page 9 that even after biting all the nails, no washing is required.)
2) d) After touching shoes, that were walked in outside at least once. (See Sdei Chemed; Chalitzah Siman 2. Thus, in a shoe store, after trying on new shoes, washing isn't necessary)
Some Poskim require this after touching any shoes, not just leather shoes, while others rule that washing is required only after touching leather shoes. (See Orchos Rabbeinu ibid. See also Kaf Hachaim Siman 554:73 quoting the Ben Ish Chai and Halichos Shlomo; Tefilah; Perek 20:18 that it applies to any shoes as it's an issue of cleanliness, not an issue of Ruach Ra)
Halachos for Wednesday, February 11, 2015
1) The next of the situations that require washing of the hands are:
e) After touching bare feet. If one always walks around with bare feet, there may be room for leniency. (See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 54)
2) f) After scratching the head.
This only applies if you scratch deep enough to scratch the scalp, but not simply for touching the hair on the outer layer. (See Mishna Berura Siman 162 S"K 58 and Siman 164 S"K 10. Therefore, no washing is necessary after donning the Tefilin Shel Rosh each morning, or after adjusting one's hat or Yarmulka or after similar actions.)
Halachos for Thursday, February 12 , 2015
1) The next of the situations that require washing of the hands are:
g) After being in a cemetery or at a funeral, in a house where there lies a dead body, or after touching a dead body. (Some are stringent with this washing and require three times per hand. See Mishna berura Siman 4 S"K 39)
It is best to wash right away after leaving the cemetery or funeral, but surely before entering into a house. Some have the custom to wash their face as well.(See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 42 and 43. The Mishna Berura here quotes the rama, Yoreh deah Siman 376, that "Minhag Yisroel torah". a custom that was accepted by Klal Yisroel has the status of Torah and should not be disregarded or treated flippantly; an important dictum to remember in all aspects of learning halacha, where many of the "rulings' are based on accepted customs which have holy sources.)
2) h) After engaging in marital relations. (See Mishna berura Siman 4 S"K 39, that some are stringent with this washing and requires 3 times per hand. This requirement, as with all the washings we are currently discussing, applies to both men and women. See Ben Ish Chai, year one, Parashas Toldos Os 16)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, February 13, 2015
Double Portion L'Kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) The final 3 situations that require washing of the hands are:
i) After touching lice (According to the Kaf Hachaim Siman Siman 4:85, this applies also after touching any impure animal. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav,Siman 97:3, however, disagrees.)
j) After touching any places on the body that are normally covered (According to many Poskim, including Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zatzal, one does not need washing after diapering a baby or touching any other part of an infant that is usually covered, as there is no status of "Ervah" for infants. See sefer Ishei Yisroel page 29 footnote 148)
k) After getting a haircut. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:19. See Kaf Hachaim Siman 4:92 that also the one giving a haircut to another person needs to wash his hands.)
After just cutting, trimming or shaving the beard, but not the hair of the head,no washing the hands is required. (See Shu"t Ohr L'Tzion Vol. 2 Perek 44:5)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) After letting blood, washing the hands is required. (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 4:19. Blood letting as a means to cure ailments
used to be very common, but nowadays is almost unheard of)
According to Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal, washing is not necessary after drawing blood for a blood test, or after donating blood. (Quoted in Sefer Nishmas Avraham Siman 4:4)
2) Some of the aforementioned situations require washing due to Ruach Ra, and many are simply because of Nekiyus- cleanliness.
Most of the aforementioned situations do not require a utensil, and do not require washing each hand 3 times; simply rinsing the hands with water suffuces. (A full detailing of the many different opinions for each of the above, and a discussion as to the reason behind each one's requirement to wash, is beyond the scope of this email.)
Halachos for Sunday, February 15 , 2015
1) It is prohibited to talk while using the restroom (even if the person you are talking to doesn't know you are in the bathroom).
Even to utter one word or short sentence ("Yes", No" or "I'm in the restroom) is prohibited. If extremely urgent to say something, one may say only what is necessary, provided he/she isn't actually relieving him/herself at that moment.
(See Rama Siman 3:1, Mishna Berura S"K 4, Sefer Chareidim Siman 47:7 and Kaf Hachaim Siman 3:6)
If one is in the restroom for any other reason, besides for using the facilities (e.g. brushing teeth, washing hands, giving a child a bath etc.) then it is permitted to speak, according to most Poskim, as the main reason for the prohibition is due to Tznius concerns (see Talmud Brachos 62a) , and those concerns obviously aren't warranted when not in there to use the facilities. [There are also Kabalistic reasons for not speaking in a bathroom at any time, even when not using the facilities, however most contemporary Poskim are lenient when doing chores in the restroom other than using the facilities]
2) It is best to refrain from bringing food and drink items into a restroom, and surely it is best to refrain from eating in there.(See Be'er Heitev Siman 3:2)
Food that was brought in to a restroom should ideally be rinsed off three times before using. If the food was in a sealed container or bag, there is no problem, and may even be brought in and stored in a restroom if necessary. (See Shu"t Yabia Omer Vol. 4 Siman 5 and Shu"t B'Tzel Hachachma Vol. 3 Siman 11)
Halachos for Monday, February 16 , 2015
1) Each time one uses the the restroom throughout the day, the hands must be washed and the blessing of "Asher Yatzar" recited. The bracha of "Al Netilas Yadayim" is not recited upon exiting the restroom, besides for once in the morning. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 7:1)
this is in order to thank Hashem for the "working pipes" in his/her system, which is an amazing act of wisdom that only Hashem Himself could possibly orchestrate. (Think about it: How is it that the many different fluids in our bodies do not leak out from the many different openings in our body? Only Hashem can manage to make it work that way!)
2) In fact, this Bracha of Asher Yatzar is so significant that the Shulchan Aruch discusses its wording and meaning at length, something that isn't done for any of the other Berachos. (I would humbly suggest a thorough learning of Shulchan Aruch Siman 6 with Rama and Mishna Berura, as it can change a person's entire appreciation for the abundant kindness bestowed upon us by Hashem daily. It is beyond the scope of this email to delve into the many lessons that can be learned from this chapter in Shulchan Aruch.)
Halachos for Tuesday, February 17, 2015
1) There is no minimum requirement for Asher Yatzar.
As long as even one drop came out when using the restroom, Asher Yatzar must be recited afterward. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 7:4)
2) It is best to recite Asher Yatzar immediately after using the bathroom, though if one forgot, it can be recited for a while afterwards, as long as one doesn't need to use the restroom again.(See Kaf Hachaim Siman 7:8 where he rules that after half an hour passes you can no longer recite the Ashar yatzar. However many Poskim allow it beyond a half hour as long as the restroom is not needed again. It is best to not push it off at all though)
If one does indeed require using the restroom again, he/she should have in mind when reciting the Asher Yatzar after the second use, that the Bracha is exempting the previous use of the restroom as well.
(See Mishna berura Siman 7 S"K 1)
Halachos for Wednesday, February 18, 2015
1) Upon hearing someone recite a Bracha, one is required to answer "Amen". There is no difference if the person reciting the Bracha is exempting the listener with the Bracha or not; the obligation to answer Amen is the same. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 215:2. According to the Ramban and others, when hearing a Bracha that is a biblical obligation, such as Birchas Hamazon, the answering of Amen is also a biblical obligation. See Pri Megadim;Eishel Avraham, Siman 215 S:K 7)
2) The simple meaning of the word "Amen" , and the minimum one should think when saying Amen after hearing a Bracha, is: "The Bracha that was just recited is true, and I believe it" (for example when one recites a "Shehakol" on a glass of water, by reciting "Amen" you are affirming that indeed it is true that Hashem created everything with His word, and that you believe that Hashem can ,and does, create everything! See Shulchan Aruch Siman 124:6. See also Mishna berura S"K 25 for some differences between Birchos hoda'ah and Tefilah).
There are many other more lofty, complex and detailed "Kavanos" involved in the recital of "Amen" which differ based on the type of Bracha recited , but we will not delve into those details at this point.
Halachos for Thursday, February 19 , 2015
1)The Talmud (Berachos 53b) teaches that the person answering Amen is greater than the person reciting the initial Bracha.
Furthermore, the Talmud (Shabbos 119b) states that one who answers Amen with all his strength ((which means "full concentration" according to Rashi, and "in a loud voice", according to Tosefos; both aspects according to Rabbeinu Yonah in Sefer Hayirah) merits having the gates of Gan Eden opened up for him/her.
2) Another thing the Talmud (ibid.) teaches is that one who answers "Amen Yehei Shemai Rabba" with all their strength will merit having bad heavenly decrees against them ripped up. (The Zohar, Parashas Emor states that he will merit having 70 years of bad decrees ripped up!)
There are many more such wonderful Maa'marei Chazal regarding the beauty and power of answering "Amen". There are many great contemporary Sefarim and books dedicated to this subject and I encourage everyone to read up on this topic as best as they can. (One fascinating book I read a while back about the power of Amen is called "Serenade The King")
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, February 20, 2015
Double Portion L’Kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) One Posuk in Tehillim (Psalms 24:1) says "L'Hashem Ha'Aretz U'MeLoah - the earth and all its contents belong to Hashem".
Another Posuk (Tehillim 115:16) states "Hashamayim Shamayim L'Hashem, V'HaAretz Nasan L'Bnei Adam - the Heavens are for Hashem and the earth was given [by Hashem] to mankind".
This apparent contradiction is explained by Chazal (Talmud Brachos 35a) as follows: Before one recites a blessing on any enjoyment on this earth, the thing he/she is enjoying belongs to Hashem, and if utilized it is as if he/she desecrated something holy.
After one recites a Bracha and expresses thanks to Hashem for this earth and its worldly pleasures, then Hashem gives it to mankind to utilize and enjoy.
2) It is due to the aforementioned explanation, that Chazal instituted Brachos to be recited before enjoying virtually all pleasures that mankind can enjoy on this earth (waking up, wearing clothing,eating, drinking, smelling something nice etc.).
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) The morning blessings, collectively referred to as "Birchos HaShachar, that we recite each morning, were initially instituted to be recited as each pleasure was being experienced (e.g. "Elokai Neshama" was to be recited upon waking, "Malbish Arumim" was tto be recited upon getting dressed, "PoKeach Ivrim" was to be recited upon rubbing one's eyes , and so on until all the Birchas HaShachar have been recited). (See Talmud Brachos 60b)
2) However, for various reasons the Minhag nowadays is to recite them all together when one is ready to begin davening Shacharis. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 46:2)
Halachos for Sunday, February 22 , 2015
1) Although the Birchos HaShachar contain very specific, personal sounding Brachos, it is important to keep in mind that they were also instituted as a general giving of thanks to Hashem for providing all of mankind's needs.
Therefore, every Jew may recite all the Brachos upon waking up in the morning, even those that may not pertain to them personally (e.g. one who slept clothed can still recite the blessing of "Malbish Arumim", as it is a thanks for Hashem's providing clothes to mankind and not only for your clothing this particular morning; one who walks barefoot can still recite the blessing of "SheAsah Li Kol Tzorki", as it thanks Hashem for providing shoes for mankind, and isn't referring only to your own shoes; one who is blind R"L can still recite the blessing of "PoKeach Ivrim", as it thanks Hashem for allowing mankind to see [and thus others can help him get around], and isn't only referring to his own eyesight, and so on for all the brachos. Ruling of the Rama Siman 46:8 and Mishna Berura S"K 25. The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch Siman 46:8 rules that the brachos that don't apply to you should be recited without Shem U'malchus; Sephardim follow his ruling)
2) One who was awake the entire night is not obligated to recite the following 3 Brachos , and may therefore not recite them by him/herself , and should rather try and hear them from someone else who is reciting them and thus be exempted:
a)"Al Netilas Yadayim" (Unless the restroom was used before davening) b)"Elokai Neshama"c)"HaMaavir Sheina M'Enai". (See Mishna Berura Siman 4 S"K 30 and Siman 46 S"K 24)
Halachos for Monday, February 23 , 2015
1) Birchas HaShachar may be recited while sitting. (See Shu"t Yaskil Avdi Vol. 8 Siman 3)
The Siddur Yaa'vetz (before the morning Bracha of Al Netilas Yadyim)writes that the custom is to stand by all Brachos of Shevach V'Hoda'ah, and this seems to be the prevalent Minhag amongst Ashkenazic Jews.
2) Women are obligated in all the Brachos of Birchas HaShachar.(See Aruch Hashulchan Siman 70:1 and Mishna Berura Siman 70 S" K 2)
The only difference is that women should recite "SheAsani K'Retzono - Hashem created me according to His will" instead of "SheLo Asani Isha- Hashem did not create me as a woman (who is obligated in fewer Mitzvos than a man) , as men say. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 46:4)
The Chida (in Avodas Hakodesh) and The Yaa'vetz (in his siddur) bring a Sephardic custom for women to say "Shelo Asani Goya" rather than the masculine "goy" and "Shelo Asani Shifcha"(female maidservant) rather than "Eved" (male slave) (This was the minhag of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky A"H, wife of Rav Chaim Kanievsky Zatzal, who recited this Nusach each morning, in the presence of her saintly husband, who answered Amen to her brachos.)
However, most Poskim say that this change should not be made and women should say the same nusach as men as the collective goy includes women as does the collective Eved. (See Aishel Avraham, Butchatch Siman 46:4)
Halachos for Tuesday, February 24, 2015
1) One who is already wearing Tefilin before he recites the Birchos Hashachar (as was the Minhag of the Belz Rebbe MaHaraSH Zt"l and many other Chasidic Rebbes), should touch his Tefilin Shel Rosh upon reciting the Bracha "Oter Yisrael B'SifArah- Hashem crowns Jews with his glory". (See Mishna berura Siman 25 S"K 13)
2) There is, however, no obligation to don Tefilin before Birchas HaShachar.
Halachos for Wednesday, February 25, 2015
1)Every Jewish male has an obligation to recite [at least] 100 Brachos every single day. (Shulchn Aruch Siman 46:3. See Mishna Berura S"K 14 where he enumerates the 100 brachos that are recited on a usual day)
Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal (Minchas Shlomo; Tefilah, Perek 22:25) and Yblc"t Rav Shmuel Wosner Zatzal (Shu"t Shevet haleivi Vol. 5 Siman 23), and others maintain that women and children are not obligated in this requirement, but do get reward if they try and fulfill this obligation.
It is best to recite Birchos Hashachar (and all Brachos) by yourself rather than hear them from someone else (As Shomea K'Oneh, may only work B'Dochek, if at all, for the obligation of 100 Brachos. See Emek Bracha, Krias Hatorah Siman 1)
On Shabbos it is more difficult to satisfy the obligation of making 100 blessings, as Shemona Esrei has fewer Brachos, and most likely one will be 13-20 Brachos shy of the 100. Therefore one should try and add as many Brachos as possible to his routine on Shabbos (e.g. eat more fruits, Birchas Hagafen on a glass of wine etc.) in order to reach the requisite 100 Brachos. (See Mishna Berura ibid. See also Mishna Berura Siman 6222 S"K 5 that the recital of "Ein Keilokeinu" can also count toward the 100 brachos. Note that the stanzas of Ein Keilokeino (acrostically) Ain… Mi… Nodeh… spell out AMEN and are followed by stanzas beginning with BARUCH and ATA… alluding to them being akin to Brachos )
2) One who does not know how to recite Birchos HaShachar (or any Bracha for that matter) on his/her own, may listen to someone else recite them [and answer Amen] and thus satisfy the obligation. (See Mishna Berura Siman 46 S"K 13)
Halachos for Thursday, February 26 , 2015
1) Every morning, before Shacharis, we say the Shevach, praise,of "Adon Olam Asher Malach..." [Master of the world, who reigned before anything was ever created...].
The Tefilah of Shacharis was instituted by our patriarch Avraham Avinu, who was the first person to refer to Hashem as "Adon" [Master of the world], thus it is appropriate to praise Hashem in the morning with the title "Adon".
The Eliya Rabbah (Siman 46:15)quotes earlier Poskim who say that one who concentrates on the[meaning of the] words of Adon Olam while reciting it will merit having his/her prayers answered, and the Satan will not get in the way of having his prayers go up directly to heaven.
2) It is praiseworthy to recite the Parsha of the Akeidas Yitzchak daily [before reciting the Parsha of Karbanos], as to invoke the merit of our forefathers each day before we begin to pray.(Shulchan Aruch Siman 1:5)
It is also advisable to say the Parsha of the Mann [that fell in the desert], to strengthen our belief that each person's daily sustenance comes directly from Hashem with Hashgacha Pratis (divine providence). In fact, Chazal say that one who reads this Parsha [of the Mann] daily, is guaranteed that his daily bread (i.e. sustenance) will not be lacking. (See Mishna Berura Siman 1 S"K 13)
The Seforim bring in the name of Rabeinu Tam to say the Pesukim of the Parsha of the Mann Twice followed by the Targum once, as doing so is extremely Mesugal (beneficial) for Parnassah. (See Sefer Noheg K'Tzon Yosef (Rebbi of the Kav HaYashar) Siman 34 who quotes the Sefer HaYashar of Rabbeinu Tam. Se also Mekor Chaim Siman 1:5 )
The prevalent Minhag for those who recite the Parshas Haman is to do so after the completion of Shacharis, and not before davening. (Most Siddurim nowadays have it printed at the end of davening as well)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, February 27, 2015
Double Portion L’Kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) Amongst the Tefilos that are said in the morning before davening are "Shma Yisroel..." , Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuso...", "Atah Hu Ad Shelo Nivra HaOlam...Baruch Mekadesh Es Shimcha B'Rabim (or "HaMekadesh Sh'mo B'Rabim", according to the Nusach of the Gaon of Vilna. See Rama Siman 46:9)
2) When reciting the aforementioned "Shema Yisroel..." it is important to specifically have in mind that you do not want to satisfy your obligation of Krias Shema with this recital, as it is better to satisfy the obligation of the morning Krias Shema during Shacharis, along with Birchos Krias Shema (Yotzer Ohr and Ahavas Olam/Ahava Rabba, the way it was instituted by Chazal . (Mishna Berura Siman 46 S"K 31)
However, if by waiting until during davening to say Shema, one will miss the proper time of reciting Krias Shema, then he should indeed have in mind to satisfy his obligation with the earlier recital, even though it is being recited without the Birchos Krias Shma. (ibid.)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) The Talmud (Megilah 31b) teaches us that nowadays that we don't have a Bais Hamikdash (may it be rebuilt speedily in our day) , any person that delves into [the learning about] Karbanos (ritual sacrifices ) is considered as if he actually brought that sacrifice.
Therefore it is a good custom to recite [and ideally understand the meaning of] the Pesukim of the Karbanos each morning before praying. It is also a good custom to recite the Parshiyos of the Kiyor (ritual water basin), Ketores (ritual incense) and Terumas HaDeshen(ritual Mizbayach ash shoveling) each day along with the Parsha of Karbanos.(See Shulchan Aruch Siman 1:5 and 9. See also Mishna Berura Siman 48 S"K 1. The Mekor chaim Siman 1:9 quotes the the RiKanti (one of the Rishonim) that saying these Parshiyos is a Segulah for a good memory.)
2) There is a dispute amongst the Poskim if one is required to stand while reciting the Karbanos. It is therefore best to stand, if possible. If one can't stand for all of it, at least when reciting the Parshas HaTamid he should stand (Ruling of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Zatzal in his Sefer Orchos Yosher page 102. See also Aruch Hashulchan Siman 1:26 that Kohanim surely should stand when reciting the parshiyos of Korbanos)
The Shulchan Aruch Harav quotes Rabbeinu Yonah that women are also obligated to recite Parshas HaTamid. Though most women nowadays do not have the custom to say Karbanos or Parshas HaTamid, if a woman knows that she is obligated in bringing a korban (were the Bais Hamikdash standing, for instance a Korban Yoledes 41 days after giving birth to a son or 81 days after giving birth to a daughter, or if she committed a sin by mistake, and thus would be obligated to bring a Korban Chatas, and the like) she should indeed read that Parsha in the Chumash to satisfy her obligation.
Halachos for Sunday, march 1 , 2015
1) every jew (male and female alike) , regardless if they plan on learning any torah that day or not, is obligated to say "birchos hatorah" (blessings before learning ,reciting, hearing or even writing any torah) every day. This is an extremely important obligation, and every effort should be made to be meticulous with these blessings. (shulchan aruch siman 47:1-3)
the talmud (nedarim 81a) relates that the reason that Eretz Yisroel was destroyed, even though they were great scholars and learned torah all day, was because they weren't careful to recite birchos hatorah before learning (according to rashi and ran's interpretation), and thus showed that they didn't revere the holiness of the torah and rather regarded it as any other subject matter to be learned (i.E. Science, astronomy, astrology, etc.)
having this attitude towards the torah is extremely harmful to the jewish people. Our holy torah is the vehicle through which each and every jew merits olam haba as well as olam hazeh, and isn't simply another subject matter! (see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 2)
2) one who isn't careful to recite birchos hatorah will g-d forbid not merit to have sons who are talmidei chachamim, torah scholars. It is also important to recite the birchos hatorah with extreme simcha (joy) and concentration, and with great thanks to hashem for choosing us as his nation and giving us his most prized possession [the torah)] .It is also the accepted custom to recite the birchos hatorah while standing.(see chayei adam klal 9:2 and mishna berura ibid.).
Halachos for Monday, march 2 , 2015
1) according to many poskim (including ramban, rashba, sefer hachinuch, rambam [according to the interpretation of the aruch hashulchan siman 47:2], and others) birchos hatorah are a biblical obligation. (see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 1)
others (including rambam [according to the interpretation of the sha'agas aryeh], levush, and ma'amar mordechai) maintain that it is a rabbinic obligation. We are stringent and are concerned for the latter opinion, and thus if one isn't sure if he recited them or if one was awake all night, he/she should not say them him/herself and should rather hear them from someone else or have in mind by the blessing of "ahava rabba"/"ahavas olam" to satisfy the obligation. (see mishna berura ibid.)
2) the following 3 brachos form "birchos hatorah", and each serves a unique purpose (see shulchan aruch siman 47:5):
a) ...Asher kideshanu...La'asok b'divrei torah (a birchas hamitzvos. Necessary as learning torah is a mitzvah like many other mitzvos that require a bracha before performing them)
b) v'haarev na...V'nih'yeh anachnu v'tzetza'enu... (birchas hanehenin. Necessary as learning torah and doing mitzvos is full of sweetness and enjoyment like other pleasurable things in life that require a bracha before we may partake of the pleasures)
c) ...Asher bachar banu mikal haamim...(birchas hashevach. Necessary as we must praise and thank hashem for giving us his holy torah,which is the most valuable gift in the entire universe, as it transforms us from lowly creatures into spiritual, lofty vehicles of kedusha etc. See tur siman 47. See taz siman 47:5 that this bracha is signed off with " nosein hatorah", present tense, and not "nasan hatorah", past tense, as hashem constantly gives us the torah anew each day, and allows us to constantly delve deeper and find new understanding in its holy words.)
Halachos for Tuesday, march 3, 2015
1) immediately after reciting birchos hatorah, some torah must be learnt, and it is prohibited to make an interruption between the brachos and the learning. (ruling of the mishna berura siman 47 s"k 19 and most poskim, who argue on the mechaber, siman 47:9, who is more lenient.)
2) therefore,the custom was instituted to recite the pesukim of birchas kohanim, "yevarechecha hashem v'yishmirecah..." and the mishnah of "eilu devarim she'ain lahem shiur..." and the talmudic statement of "ailu devarim she'adam ochel peiroseihem...", immediately following birchos hatorah . (see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 20 and 21 that these satisfy mikrah, mishna and gemara, the 3 main varieties of torah learning)
Halachos for Wednesday, march 4, 2015
1) reciting the bracha of ahavah rabah/ahavas olam, exempts you from reciting birchos hatorah. (shulchan aruch siman 47:7)
it is best to specifically have this intent in mind when relying on this. (see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 14 and biur halacha dibur hamaschil poteres)
thus if one did not recite birchos hatorah before davening, once ahava rabbah/ahavas olam is recited, he/she may no longer recite them.
2) if one relied upon ahava rabbah/ahavas olam to exempt birchos hatorah, it is imperative to remember to learn some torah immediately after finishing to daven. The rest of the davening that he recites between ahava rabbah/ahavas olam and the learning is not considered an interruption.(see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 15)
if torah was not immediately learnt, the recital of birchos hatorah will be necessary before commencing to learn later on that day, according to most poskim. (see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 17 and biur halacha dibur hamaschil v'yesh l'histapek . See shulchan aruch harav siman 47:6 where he rules not to recite them again as we can rely on the minority opinion that the reading of krias shema in davening can suffice for the "torah learning" that followed the recital of ahava rabbah/ahavas olam)
Halachos for Thursday, march 5 , 2015
1) l'chatchilah, one should not rely on the bracha of ahava rabbah/ahavas olam to exempt his/her birchos hatorah and should rather recite the birchos hatorah immideately following birchos hashachar. (shulchan aruch siman 47:8)
2) if one already began pesukei d'zimrah and remembered that he didn't yet recite birchos hatorah, he should interrupt the pesukei d'zimrah, recite birchos hatorah and then resume pesukei d'zimrah, as in order to recite the pesukim of pesukei d'zimrah, birchos hatorah is first required, ccording to some opinions. (see mishna berura siman 51 s"k 10. See also shu""t yabia omer vol. 4 siman 7)
if, however, one already began the bracha of yotzer ohr, he shouldn't interrupt, and indeed have in mind by ahava rabbah/ahavas olam to exempt birchos hatorah.(ruling of the mishna berura siman 52 s"k 9. See also shu"t yabia omer ibid. Where he rules that here too you should interrupt and recite birchos hatorah)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, march 6, 2015
double portion l’kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) according to some opinions, it is permitted to think torah thoughts before reciting birchos hatorah. (shulchan aruch siman 47:4)
2) others maintain that birchos hatorah is required even before thinking torah thoughts. (ruling of the gaon of vilna. See mishna berura siman 47 s"k 7 and biur halacha dibur hamaschil hameharher. See also shu"t har tzvi orach chaim vol. 1 siman 42)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) if reading torah thoughts from a sefer, it may be considered more than just thinking torah thoughts and thus it is surely best to recite birchos hatorah first. (see mor u'ktzia siman 47)
hearing words of torah from someone (e.G. Listening to a live or recorded shiur on a torah topic) according to many poskim, is more stringent than just thinking torah thoughts and surely requires birchos hatora beforehand. (see sha'arei teshuva siman 47:2.See also shu"t haelef leca shlomo siman 35 where he rules more leniently in this matter)
2) there is a dispute amongst the poskim if writing torah thoughts requires birchos hatorah beforehand. Thus, it is best to recite birchos hatorah and recite some words of torah before commencing to write words of torah. (see mishna berura siman 47 s"k 4)
Halachos for Sunday, april 26 , 2015
1) women are also obligated to pray each day. (see rambam hilchos tefilah perek 1 halacha 2 and shulchan aruch siman 106:1 and mishna berura s"k 4 at length)
2) however, according to many rishonim and poskim their obligation is not the same as men, and those that cannot daven the entire tefilah each day (due to raising young children, or other valid exemptions) could instead recite a "tefilah ketzarah", a short prayer which includes a request , a praise and a giving of thanks to hashem. (see mishna berura ibid, kaf hachaim siman 110:11. See also shu"t machaze eliyahu siman 19:14 what he quotes from the chazon ish. See also halichos bas yisroel perek 2 footnote 2.)
Halachos for Monday, april 27 , 2015
1) women who cannot daven the entire tefilah, yet can do more than a simple tefilah ketzarah, should keep in mind that certain parts of tefilah are bigger obligations for them than other parts and therefore they should say the more important parts first. We shall discuss these obligations in detail over the next few days b'ezras hashem.
2) women [who are able to] are obligated to recite birchos hatorah. (see shulchan aruch siman 47:14)
according to many poskim their obligation is to recite these brachos is based on their obligation to learn the portions of torah that apply to them. According to these poskim, a woman may even exempt a man with these brachos. (see biur halacha end of siman 47)
other poskim (including the gaon of vilna) maintain that women are exempt from any torah learning and only recite these brachos similar to them reciting brachos on other mitzvos asei shehazman grama, time-bound mitzvos. According to this opinion, they may not exempt men with these brachos. (biur halacha ibid.)
Halachos for Tuesday, april 28 , 2015
1) women are obligated in all the brachos of birchos hashachar.(see mishna berura siman 70 s"k 2 and aruch hashulchan siman 70:1)
the only difference, as far as the text of the birchos hashachar, is that women should recite "sheasani k'retzono- hashem created me according to his will" instead of "shelo asani isha- hashem did not create me as a woman (who is obligated in less mitzvos than a man) , which is the version men say. (shulchan aruch siman 46:4)
2) the chida (in avodas haKodesh) as well as the ya'avetz (in his siddur) bring a custom for women to say "shelo asani goya" rather than the masculine "goy" and shelo asani shifcha"(female maidservant) rather than "eved" (male slave).
However, most poskim say that this change should not be made and women should say the same nusach as men as the collective goy includes women as does the collective eved. (see aishel avraham, butchatch, siman 46:4)
Halachos for Wednesday, april 29, 2015
1) women [who are able to] should recite pesukei d'zimrah, including baruch sheamar beforehand and yishtabach afterwards. (see mishna berura siman 70 s"k 2 where he rules, based on rav akiva eiger, that this is an obligation. However, the shulchan aruch harav siman 70:1 and the aruch hashulchan siman 70:1 rule that it is not mandatory. See also shu"t shevet haleivi from harav shmuel wosner zatzal, vol. 6 siman 12, hanhagos os 3, where he deems it a reshus, permissible, and not a chovah, an obligation. See also aruch hashulchan siman 47:25 that although they arent obligated according to the letter of the law, women have accepted upon themselves to say pesukei d'zimrah and shiras hayam (az yashir) and as such it is incumbent upon them to recite these texts as if they were obligatory)
2) women are exempt from birchos krias shema, the brachos before and after krias shema, both in the morning and in the evening. (see mishna berura siman 70 s"k 2.)
if they want to recite them, however, they may, as with other brachos on mitzvos asei shehazman grama. (even sephardic women who follow the ruling of the bet yosef not to recite brachos on time-bound mitzvos, may recite birchos krias shema, according to the kaf hachaim siman 70:1. However, harav ovadiah yoseph zatzal in shu"t yabia omer vol. 2 siman 6 rules that sephardic women should not recite these brachos. For halacha l'ma'aseh each woman should consult her rav.)
Halachos for Thursday, april 30 , 2015
1) women are exempt from reciting the entire krias shema, as there is a specific time for these to be said, once in the morning and once in the evening and they are thus mitzvos asei shehazman gerama. (shulchan aruch siman 70:1)
2) however, they should recite the first pasuk of "shema yisroel..." and "baruch sheim...", (and if possible, also the first parasha of v'ahavta), as they are definitely obligated in kabolas ol malchus shamayim (accepting upon themselves the yoke of hashem's kingdom). ( shulchan aruch and rama siman 70:1 and mishna berura s"k 5. See pri megadim, aishel avraham, siman 70:1 and mishna berura siman 66 s"k 11 regarding "baruch sheim")
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, april 30 , 2015
double portion l'kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) even women who have accepted upon themselves to recite all three parshiyos of krias shema each day, are not obligated to do so before the end of zman krias shema, the timeframe in which males are obligated to recite krias shma. (ruling of the aishel avraham, butchatch, siman 70:1)
2) women are obligated in remembering hashem's redeeming us from the slavery in mitzrayim (egypt) each day (and according to some poskim each night as well. See below.), and are therefore obligated in saying "emes v'yatziv..." after krias shema of shacharis (and possibly "emes v'emuna" after krias shma at night).(see mishna berura siman 70 s"k 2 and shu"t shevet haleivi vol. 6 siman 12)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) women who daven shemona esrei, which according to many poskim, is also an obligation for them, should also say shemona esrei immediately after finishing the bracha of "ga'al yisroel" (l'hasmich geula l'tfilah). ( see mishna berura siman 106 s"k 4)
2) women who daven ma'ariv should also recite the brachos of emes v'emunah and hashkiveinu, followed immediately by shemona esrei.
Most women, however, do not daven ma'ariv (see mishna berura ibid. That they aren't obligated in shemona esrei of maariv, although many rishonim and poskim, including rabbeinu yonah in igeres hateshuva, drash 3:79,kaf hachaim siman299:62, aruch hashulchan siman 106:7 and others maintain that they are indeed obligated) and it isn't prevalent for them to recite the brachos of emes v'emunah and hashkiveinu without following it with a shemna esrei, as some poskim rule they should indeed do. (see mishna berura siman 70 s"k 2 at length)
Halachos for Sunday, may 3 , 2015
1) a woman who cannot daven shemona esrei in the morning, due to a valid reason, is still obligated to daven mincha, if she isn't otherwise busy with the children etc. At that time. (as being preoccupied during one tefilah doesnt automatically exempt her from all tefilos. See shu"t yechaveh da'as vol. 3 siman 7)
2) a woman who accepted upon herself to daven (one, two or all the tefilos), every day and did not stipulate that the acceptance was "bli neder- without the stringency of a vow" is obligated to always daven (those tefilos that she accepted). If she wants to renege on this obligation, hataras nedarim (nullification of her vow) is required.
However, if a woman didn't accept upon herself to daven daily, and rather started davening with the intention that she would do so whenever she had the opportunity to do so, isn't obligated to daven on days that she is otherwise occupied etc. (even if she davened every day for weeks or months already, and once in a while a day comes along when she is unable to do so)
Halachos for Monday, may 4 , 2015
1) as we discussed, there are certain tefilos that women are more obligated in than others, and thus when faced with a shortage of time, or other valid reasons, and they can't daven the entire tefilas shacharis, they should recite the most obligatory parts first and then add in other parts, as much as they can.
2) as a review of what we previously discussed, and for the purpose of having this list handy, the order of tefilos, by their importance, for women, is as follows:
a) tefilah ketzarah, a short tefilah that includes a praise, a request and a thanks to hashem.
B) shemona esrei
c) emes v'yatziv, and recite shemona esrei immediately after "ga'al yisroel".
D) birchos hashachar
e) birchos hatorah
f) boruch she'amar, ashrei and yishtabach (i.E. An abridged pesukei d'zimrah)
g) the first posuk of krias shema and "boruch sheim"
h) pesukei d'zimrah in its entirety
i) the 3 parshiyos of krias shema with its preceding brachos.
Halachos for Tuesday, may 5 , 2015
1) a woman who accepted upon herself to daven daily is subject to the laws of proper tefilah. If she forgot something in tefilah that requires the repeating the tefilah for men (e.G. Mashiv haruach, ya'aleh v'yavo etc.), it will require her to repeat as well. Similarly, if she forgot or was unable to daven one of the tefilos, she is required to daven two shemona esreis at the subsequent tefilah.
2) a woman who usually davens shacharis and mincha, but not ma'ariv (as is the custom of many women), may still daven ma'ariv twice, if she forgot or was unable to daven mincha. She may not, however, skip ma'ariv (as is her custom) and then daven twice at shacharis, as the "make-up tefilah" must be the tefilah immediately subsequent to the tefilah that was missed.(ruling of rav shlomo zalmen auerbach zatzal in halichos shlomo; tefilah perek 13:8, based on the mishna berura siman 263 s"k 43).
(regarding a woman who always davens ma'ariv, and forgets, there is a dispute in the poskim if she may, must, or can't daven twice at shacharis. A woman who doesn't usually daven, or only davens when she is able, does not repeat anything that she inadvertently forgot in davening and does not daven a "make-up" tefilah ever. For halacha l'ma'aseh, as always, a rav must be consulted.)
Halachos for Wednesday, may 6, 2015
1)the ideal place [for men always, and for women when possible] to daven is in a shul with a minyan. (shulchan aruch siman 90:9)
a tefilah davened in shul with a minyan is the most heard and accepted tefilah by hashem and is a bigger mitzvah than tefilah that isn't in shul with a minyan. (shulchan aruch ibid. See also aruch hashulchan siman 90:13)
2) one who has a shul in his city, and never goes there [to daven] is considered a "shachen ra - a bad neighbor", and brings galus, exile, upon himself and his family (unless he davens in another shul in that city or davens with a minyan in his home, which although isn't as good as shul, still doesn't earn him the title of "bad neighbor". (shulchan aruch siman 90:11. See mishna berura siman 90 s"k 37 through 39)
Halachos for Thursday, may 7 , 2015
1) the talmud (brachos 6a and ta'nis 8a) teaches that one who davens with a minyan in a shul has less of a chance of his tefilah being scrutinized by hashem for perfect kavanah, and a better chance of his tefilah being accepted. One who davens alone has every word scrutinized, and there is a good chance that his prayers will be rejected for lack of sincerity or other reasons (see rashi taanis 8a divrei hamaschil b'tzibur)
2) davening in a shul is important, as the holiness of the shul adds kedusha to the davening. Even if one has an opportunity to daven with 10 people in his home, it is better for him to go to a shul (unless he has a permanent minyan in his home, then many poskim say that it is just as good as a shul, even though his minyan is smaller). (see mishna berura siman 9 s:k 27)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, may 8 , 2015
double portion l'kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) davening in a shul is so important that even if there is no longer a minyan in shul, one should daven alone in the shul rather than alone in his own home, due to the added holiness inherent in a tefilah davened in a shul. (shulchan aruch siman 90:9 and mishna berura s"k 33)
however, if in his home he will have a minyan and in shul he won't then it is better to daven at home with a minyan than in shul alone. (mishna berura siman 90 s"k 28)
2) if by davening alone in the shul it will cause a chilul hashem (e.G. A talmid chacham seen davening late by himself can be a source of chilul hashem) or if one is afraid to be in a shul alone and will thus not concentrate as well, then it is better to daven at home. (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 33 and kaf hachaim siman 90:70)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) it is a mitzvah to daven in a shul that has a large amount of people, as the pasuk (mishlei 14:28) says "brov am hadras melech - with a large assemblage the glory of the king [hashem] is multiplied." (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 28)
2) there are various exceptions to this rule, and certain times it is deemed halachically superior to daven in a smaller place and forego the "brov am hadras melech".
A few examples of the many such exceptions:
a)davening in a bais hamidrash or yeshiva , where people learn torah all [or a large part of the] day (even if you yourself do not learn there) is better than davening in a shul (i.E. Bais hakneses that is used only for tefilah), even if there
Halachos for Sunday, may 10 , 2015
1) even if one is unable to daven in a shul (due to being ill, or any other halachically acceptable reason), and he cannot easily arrange a minyan to daven in his home, he should at least daven [shemona esrei] at the same time that the shul in his city is davening. (see shulchan aruch siman 90:9 and mishna berura siman s"k 29 and 30 regarding not missing davening with a minyan due to wanting to earn money)
2) if there are many shuls in his city, he should daven at the time that the shul that he usually davens in is davening. (rav shlomo zalmen auerbach zatzal in halichos shlomo, tefilah, perek 5:18 maintained that one may choose any shul [in his city] that is davening at that time, and have in mind while davening at the same time that they are davening, to daven along with them and thus be a part of the "tzibbur"; he must choose a shul though and specifically have this in mind, and not simply daven and assume that there is a shul somewhere in the city that must be davening now.)
Halachos for Monday, may 11 , 2015
1) if one is davening shacharis at home at the same time that the minyan is davening musaf in shul (or vice versa) it isn't considered "davening at the same time as the tzibbur, and thus does not give him any benefits of "tefilah b'tzibur"". (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 30)
2) however, if one is davening shacharis in shul while the rest of the shul is davening musaf (or vice versa) it is suffices for his obligation to daven at the same time as the tzibbur, and may even be considered "tefilah b'tzibur". (see mishna berura ibid. See also mishna berura siman 236 s"k 11)
if the shul one usually davens with has the custom to daven ma'ariv before sunset, and he is davening at home, he should rather wait until after sunset and not daven at the same time as them. (mishna berura siman 90 s"k 32)
Halachos for Tuesday, may 12 , 2015
1) it is a mitzvah to run (or walk fast) when one is going to shul (as well as on the way to perform any mitzvah). (shulchan aruch siman 90:12. See mishna berura s"k 40 that this is especially true when he gets near the shul when it will be evident to where it is that he is running)
one should run until he reaches the door of the shul, and should then stop running, and enter calmly, as it is prohibited to run inside a shul as one must act with awe in a shul. (mishna berura siman 90 s"k 41 and shulchan aruch harav siman 90:13)
2) even on Shabbos and yom tov, when it is otherwise prohibited to run, one should run to shul, as when running to shul it is evident that the running is for the performance of a mitzvah. (shulchan aruch ibid. See also aruch hashulchan siman 90:16)
some poskim (including the tzlach brachos 6b) maintain that only to avoid coming late to shul may one run on Shabbos, but if by walking he/she will also arrive on time, it is better to walk on Shabbos rather than run. (see shu"t tzitz eliezer vol. 12 siman 17:2 where he brings a support to the ruling of the tzlach based on the rambam)
Halachos for Wednesday, may 13, 2015
1) when leaving a shul it is prohibited to run, as it seems like you are hurrying to get away from shul. (shulchan aruch siman 90:12 and mishna berura s"k 43)
2) however if one is leaving shul with the intent to return right away, or if he is leaving to go learn torah, running is permitted, and is even considereda mitzvah. (regardless if people know why you are running, as these prohibitions aren't for the benefit of other people as much as they are for the person running to know that running to shul is commendable and running away from shul is frowned upon. (see mishna berura ibid. And mogen avrohom siman 90:26)
Halachos for Thursday, may 14 , 2015
1) a person should always try and be from the first ten people to arrive in shul, as the first ten people receive s'char (heavenly reward) equal to all the s'char received by all the people who subsequently arrive. (i.E. If 100 people or more davened in that minyan, the first ten people receive reward equal to all of them!). (see talmud brachos 47b and shulchan aruch siman 90:14)
moreover, even among the initial 10 people who arrive, the first receives more s'char than the second, the second receives more s'char than the third and so on. (see machtzis hashekel siman 90:28
this applies to shacharis, mincha and ma'ariv, and is only the case if you are davening with them.(just being in shul to learn, or any other reason, isn't enough to get s'char equal all the people davening) (see kaf hachaim siman 90:99 and mishna berura siman 90 s"k 47)
2) even if there are already 10 people in shul, the 11th person is better off than the 12th, the 12th is betetr off than the 13th, and so on. Thus, the earlier one can arrive for davening, the more beneficial it is for him, as he is closer to the root of the shechinah. (see aruch hashulachan siman 90:18. See also ateres zekeinim to shulchan aruch siman 90:14)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, may 15 , 2015
double portion l'kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) it is important to have a set, steady place to daven.(see talmud brachos 6b. See rabbeinu yonah there at length that this also assists in the tefilah being more accepted in shomayim as it shows humility and that he takes tefilah seriously. See she'arim metzuyanim b'hlacha on the kitzur shulchan aruch siman 12, kuntres achron 10 that this halacha only applies to shemona esrei and not to the other parts of davening. Not all poskim agree with that.)
2) this refers [to the best of one's ability] to always daven in the same shul or bais midrash, as well as to davening in the same spot (or within 4 amos of that spot) within the shul or bais midrash. (shulcban aruch siman 90:19 and mishna berura s"k 60. According to many poskim, it is acceptable to have one steady place for shacharis, another for mincha and another for maariv, or to have one place for the weekday and another place for Shabbos, or one place forwinter and another for the summer and similar situations, as long as there is some semblence of steadiness to ones davening routine. See aishel avraham, butchatch siman90:19, pri megadim, aishel avraham siman 90:34 and halichos shlomo, tefilah, perek 5 footnote 2.)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) it is best to not change the place of davening unless for a mitzvah purpose (e.G. Davening in a bais avel, davening at a bris) or for another significant reason, or if one is compelled to change. (shulchan aruch ibid. See also kaf hachaim siman 90:118 and aruch hashulchan siman 90:22)
2) even one who davens at home, due to necessary circumstances (or women, who usually daven at home), should have a set place in the home where he davens. This place should be in a quiet area where the people in the household will not interfere with his davening. (see mishna brura siman 90 s" k 59 and aruch hashulchan ibid.)erura siman 90 s"k 28)
Halachos for Sunday, may 17 , 2015
1)the ideal way (mitzvah min hamuvchar) to daven shemona esrei, if possible, is to stand facing a wall, with nothing [significant] in between you and the wall. (the main reason for this is to maximize your concentration during shemona esrei. The poskim give other reasons as well.) (shulchan aruch siman 90:21, shulchan aruch harav siman 90:20 and mishna berura s"k 63. See rama ibid. And mishna berura s"k 68 regarding the size of the item as it relates to it being deemed significant enough to be a separation.)
2) if the item between you and the wall is something that stays put, and doesn't move from there (like a dresser, book shelf or a bench in shul etc.) it isn't deemed a separation, and it is considered like you are at the wall. (shulchan aruch ibid. Chairs in a shul, even though they aren't rooted to their place like benches, are still deemed as items that stay put, and are not considered a separation. See halichos shlomo, tefilah, perek 8, dvar halacha 1)
likewise, if the thing separating you from the wall is used for davening (e.G. A shtender, or table for your siddur) it isn't considered a separation. (mishna berura s"k 66)
Halachos for Monday, may 18 , 2015
1) when davening in shul with a minyan, it usually isn't possible for each member of the minyan to daven against the wall and of course the davening should not be stopped because of this. The best thing to do when a wall isn't available, is to close your eyes for the duration of shemona esrei, or to keep your eyes focused directly in your siddur, in order to not have your concentration disturbed by outside occurrences. (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 63 and kaf hachaim siman 90:133)
2) if another [jewish] person is standing between you and the wall, it isn't considered a separation. (non-jews, according to some poskim, as well as animals, according to the rama, are indeed considered a separation). (see shulchan aruch and rama siman 90:21 and mekor chaim on the shulchan aruch)
however, it is best to try and not daven directly behind someone (as it will seem as if you are bowing to that person.) (shulchan aruch siman 90:22)
in a shul where it is virtually impossible not to daven behind someone, it is perfectly acceptable (even l'chatchilah) to daven behind someone. (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 69
Halachos for Tuesday, may 19 , 2015
1) one should not daven (any part of davening) while sitting or standing in front of paintings, tapestries, or other wall decorations, as they will cause him/her to not concentrate on davening. (see shulchan aruch siman 90:23 and machatzis hashekel s"k 37)
2) if one finds himself in such a situation (common while davening in a shiva house or in a sukah) he should close his eyes while davening. (shulchan aruch ibid.)
if the decorations are higher than the height of a person , it isn't an issue to daven directly below them, as in that case they won't be a distraction. (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 71)
Halachos for Wednesday, may 20, 2015
1) one should not davening from a siddur that has illustrations on the pages, as it will be a distraction from his davening. (rama siman 90:23. See eliyah rabbah siman 691:5 that for this reason, it is also best to avoid using an illustrated megilas esther when listening to the megilah, as it will be a distraction from following along and hearing all the words properly.)
2) it is never acceptable to daven in front of a mirror, even with closed eyes, according to many poskim, as it will seem that you are bowing to your own reflection. (see mishna berura siman 90 s"k 71. See shu"t ohr l'tzion vol. 2, tefilah, siman 11 where he rules leniently in cases wher the eyes are closed.)
similarly, one should refrain from davening in front of a window at night, when they can see their own reflection. (see shu"t shevet haleivi vol. 9 siman 21 where he is stringent only for an actual mirror.)
Halachos for Thursday, may 21 , 2015
1) it is prohibited to daven in a shul that does not have a [kosher] mechitza (separation) between the men and the women. Even if the women are dressed modestly, it is still prohibited to daven without a mechitza.
The poskim rule that it is better to daven without a minyan than to daven in a shul that lacks a proper mechitza. Many even prohibit davening in a side room of such a shul, due to maris ayin. (see shu"t menachem meishiv orach chaim siman 9)
2) many poskim (including harav moshe feinstein zatzal, in igros moshe orach chaim vol. 1 siman 39) maintain (based on the talmud sukkah 51b and other sources) that a mechitza in a shul is a biblical obligation, regardless of how modest (or g-d forbid immodest) the women are dressed, as not having the separation will lead to a lightheadedness between the sexes, and may lead to touching and/or excessive talking. (see igros moshe orach chaim vol. 1 simanim 39, 41, 42 and 43 at length for lengthy discussions and sources on this topic.)
Halachos for erev shabbos kodesh, may 22 , 2015
quadruple portion l'kavod shabbos kodesh and chag hashavuos
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh
1) the mechitza in a shul must be a minimum of 3 amos high (60 inches, according to the igros moshe orach chaim vol. 4 siman 30) but ideally should be significantly higher to ensure no women can be seen from within the men's section.
Rav moshe feinstein zatzal adds that those who make it higher, to the point that no part of the women's heads can be seen, will receive additional heavenly blessings, especially in shuls where there are women who do not have their heads properly covered in accordance with halacha. (see shu"t igros moshe orach chaim vol. 4 siman 30-32 and shu"t tzitz eliezer vol. 7 siman 8)
2) rav moshe zatzal maintains that these halachos are not only pertinent during davening, but also at any gathering in the actual shul (funeral, simchas bais hashoeva, sheva brachos etc.) where men and women are present, a mechitza must separate them.
Halachos for shabbos kodesh, erev chag hashavuos
1) it is forbidden to daven in a place that is specifically designated for activities that are deemed pritzus and holelus (immoral and lightheaded. E.G. A hall designated for mixed dancing or forbidden parties). (see igros moshe orach chaim vol. 4 siman 31)
2) it is prohibited to daven there even if no forbidden activities are taking place at the time and even if not davening there will cause you to not daven with a minyan. Rav moshe zatzal (ibid.)writes that the shechinah is not present in such a venue, as it is deemed a "hated venue" and any tefilos davened there will not go up to shomayim. (see also igros moshe vol. 2 siman 30, that if he will miss zman tefilah by not davening there he should daven there despite the fact that his tefilos won't reach heaven, as his obligation to pray before the deadline cannot be exempted.)
halachos for sunday, first day of chag hashavuos
1) if a venue which was designated for forbidden activities is purchased and designated anew as a place where only holy, acceptable things will take pace, its status as an unacceptable place is negated and it is permitted to daven there, l'chatchilah.(igros moshe orach chaim vol. 1 siman 31)
2) however, if the venue is only rented for a fixed time period, and will revert back to its originally intended use for forbidden activities, it does not suffice and it is prohibited to daven there.(ibid.)
halachos for monday, second day of chag hashavuos (isru chag in eretz yisroel)
1) if forbidden activities (such as mixed dancing and the like) take place in a shul that was originally designated and used for holy activities, it does not render the shul as a "hated place" where it is forbidden to daven, despite these offensive activities having taken place within its walls. (see b'er heitev siman 151:1 and biur halacha there. See also shut igros moshe ibid. And shu"t tzitz eliezer vol. 12 siman 15)
(there is a lot more to write about these important topics of tznius, mechitza, kalus rosh between men and women and many more sources that discuss the various aspects and implications of these important halachos, but they are beyond the scope of this email. As always, and especially with matters pertaining to arayos, it is vital for each individual to seek, and follow, the guidance of their rav.)
2) it is forbidden to daven in a "synagogue" which follows the ways of non-orthodox judaism, where their traditions involve heretical beliefs which do not believe in many tenets of our holy torah.
It is also forbidden to rent a room within that "synagogal" in which to establish a separate orthodox minyan. (see shu"t igros moshe vol. 3 siman 25 and 30 and vol. 4 siman 91:6. Although in most cases these jews, our uneducated, not yet religious brothers and sisters, are tinokos shenishbu, and through no faut of their own find themselves belonging to a tradition that is not in accordance with hashem's torah, it is still forbidden to daven there, even if being done for purposes of kiruv, as their "synagogue" is not the proper place for such kiruv. See igros moshe ibid. At length)
halachos for tuesday, may 26 , 2015
1) the pasuk (amos 4:12) states "hekon likra'as elokecha yisroel, prepare yourself [when you go to] greet hashem".
Chazal (shabbos 10b) derive from this pasuk that when one davens [to hashem] he/she must act as if he/she is standing in front of a king and talking to him with trepidation and awe.
Indeed, when davening we are standing in front of the king of kings, melech malchei hamelachim hakadosh baruch hu. (see also rashi to brachos 25a dibur hamaschil aval l'tefilah)
2) therefore, it is extremely important when davening (as well as when making any brachos, though possibly to a lesser degree) to be dressed appropriately and respectfully. We shall discuss more details of this in the coming days b'ezras hashem.
Halachos for wednesday, may 27, 2015
1) while davening one should be clothed in garments that cover his/her entire body properly, for the entire duration of the tefilah. (see shulchan aruch siman 91:1 and mishna berura s"k 2)
2) one should preferably not daven while wearing short pants or other articles of clothing with which he would never stand before a king or other dignitary, (see halichos shlomo, tefilah, perek:15. See also shu"t igros moshe yoreh deah vol. 3 siman 68:4)
one should not daven with his jacket or coat loosely hanging over his shoulders, without properly inserting his hands into the sleeves, as he would not speak to important dignitaries while clothed that way. (see halichos shlomo ibid., dvar halacha 23)
a man who normally dons a hat and jacket during davening should not daven without them, unless he will not find a later minyan with which to daven with them on, as tefilah b'tzibur is extremely important. (halichos shlomo ibid.)
halachos for thursday, may 28 , 2015
1) in extreme situations (sh'as hadchak) when covering up adequately is impossible, as long as the makom haervah (areas of nakedness) is covered one may recite krias shema and other brachos and tefilos.
The exception to this is shemona esrei which may not be recited in any state of undress, even if by not doing so you will miss the z'man tefilah (the proper time to say shemona esrei), as by shemona esrei one is standing in front of the king, and is thus more stringent. (see shulchan aruch siman 74:6 and mishna berura s" 21-24. See also levush siman 74:6. See also ma'amar mordechai siman 91:1 and shu"t igros moshe yoreh deah vol. 3 siman 68:4.)
2) however, if one transgressed the above halacha and davened shemona esrei while in a state of undress, as long as the makom haervah was covered he/she has satisfied their obligation, and there is no requirement to repeat the shemona esrei. (shulchan aruch siman 91:1)
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh, may 29 , 2015
double portion l'kavod shabbos kodesh
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh
1) it is proper to wear an outer garment (jacket or robe) while davening shemona esrei. (shulchan aruch siman 91:6. Many poskim, including rav chaim kanievsky shlita are of the opinion that the outer garment should be worn for the other parts of davening as well, not just shemona esrei; as quoted in ishei yisroel perek 10 footnote 11. See also kaf hachaim siman 91:26)
2) even by shacharis when married men (and in many communities, single boys as well) wear a tallis, a jacket should still preferably be worn. (see kaf hachaim ibid.)
halachos for shabbos kodesh
1) it is not proper to daven while wearing pajamas.
One who must daven while wearing pajamas (e.G. If one is ill at home and doesn't plan to get dressed that day, or if one is in the hospital r"l) should ideally put on a jacket, or at least robe on top of his pajamas for davening if possible. (see mishna berura siman 91 s"k 11 and 12. If not possible, an ill person can be lenient, l'chatchilah. See shu"t yaskil avdi vol. 8, hashmatos, siman 2)
2) as well, one should ideally not daven while wearing a yarmulka that is designated for sleeping (shluf kappel). (mishna berura ibid.)
halachos for sunday, may 31 , 2015
1) one should l'chatchilah not daven while barefoot. (shulchan aruch siman 91:5)
if nothing is available with which to cover the feet, or if they must be uncovered for medical or other valid reasons, it is acceptable to daven that way. (see rambam hilchos tefilah perek 5:1 and 5 and shu"t igros moshe yoreh deah vol. 3 siman 68:4.)
2) if one is wearing a long robe that totally covers the bare feet, it is acceptable. (see mishna berura siman 91 s"k 13)
likewise, if one lives in a hot climate where it is common to stand barefoot even in the presence of dignitaries, he may daven that way, even if the feet will be visible. (mishna berura ibid.)
halachos for monday, june 1 , 2015
1) it is permitted to daven while wearing a winter coat or rain coat. (see aruch hashulchan siman 91:6 where he gives the general rule that any clothing one would wear outside in public, is acceptable for davening. See also halichos shlomo; tefilah, perek 2:18)
2) gloves should not be worn during davening, and surely not while davening shemona esrei, as doing so is a sign of haugtiness. (see mishna berura siman 91 s"k 12)
in extremely cold climates, or during the winter in the event that the heat isn't working properly, where it is evident that they are being worn to protect from the cold, there is room for leniency.(see halichos shlomo ibid. See also shu"t be'er moshe vol. 4 siman 39 and shu"t neta sorek orach chaim siman 6)
halachos for tuesday, june 2 , 2015
1) a laborer, a serviceman and the like who wear "work clothing" that often get dirty, should ideally change into cleaner, more respectable clothing before davening. (see talmud shabbos 144a and shulchan aruch siman 98:4 where he likens davening to the offering of korbanos in the bias hamikdash, where the kohen was required to don special clothes before commencing holy service.)
2) in areas where it isn't acceptable to meet with respectable people and dignitaries while wearing boots, sandals or crocs without socks underneath or with slippers, they should also not be worn while davening, and surely not while davening shemona esrei. Likewise, davening while only wearing socks should be avoided. (see aruch hashulchan siman 91:5 and mishna berura siman 91 s"k 12 and 13. It is questionable if rubbers on the shoes is like boots or not. There are various opinions in the poskim, and every individual should consult a rav for a psak halacha l'ma'aseh. The poskim point out that on yom kippur and tisha b'av, it is of course permitted to daven with socks, slippers etc.)
some poskim are lenient regarding davening while wearing a plastic hat covering which is commonly worn to protect the hat from the rain, if it is attached well to the hat. (see halichos shlomol tefilah, perek 2:18. Some poskim are stringent and recommend removing it. A regular shopping bag on top of the hat is surely not acceptable though)
halachos for wednesday, june 3, 2015
1) it is proper to have a belt tied around the waist while davening shemona esrei. This is indeed the prevalent minhag amongst chasidim, who don a special belt, called a "gartel" while davening. (see shulchan aruch siman 91:2)
many rishonim and poskim are of the opinion that as long as one already has a separation between the top and the bottom of his body (bein libo l'ervah) via the waist of his pants or via his regular belt, no additional "gartel" is required for davening unless it is that person's minhag to wear a "gartel" all day, in which case if he took it off before davening, he must put it back on for shemona esrei. (see mishna berura siman 91 s"k 4 where he concludes that even according to these opinions, it is still praiseworthy, midas chasidus, to do don this "gartel" regardless.)
2) the prevalent custom amongst most non-chasidic ashkenazic jews as well as amongst most sephardic jews is to daven without donning a "gartel". (see shu"t teshuvos v'hanhagos vol. 1 siman 69 for more about this. Interestigly he writes there that the chazon ish zatzal wore a "gartel" for shemona esrei in order to satisfy the "midas chasidus" cited in the mishna berura above, whereas the chofetz chaim zatzal, the author of the mishna berura, himself, seemingly did not wear one.)
if one's family minhag is to wear a "gartel" he should hold on to this minhag and not change. If one's family minhag is not to wear a "gartel", he should consult with a rav before deciding to adopt this minhag.
Halachos for thursday, june 4 , 2015
1) a jewish male may not recite devorim shebikedusha, holy utterances (e.G. Brachos, davening, words of torah etc.) or even enter a shul, with his head uncovered. (see shulchan aruch siman 91:3 and mishna berura siman 2 s"k 12. He writes that males putting on and reciting the bracha on the tefilin shel rosh, where it is common to momentarily uncover the head, should be aware not to recite the blessing until the head is once again covered.)
m'ikar hadin, all females, including those that are married may daven and recite brachos without a head covering, though it is praiseworthy, and it is indeed the accepted custom, for married women to cover their heads when davening [and reciting brachos], even when they are not in the presence of men. (see halichos shlomo; tefilah perek 2:17; dvar halacha 28 and footnote 88 at length what is quoted from the chasam sofer. He rules that divorced women as well should ideally cover their heads when davening and reciting brachos.)
2) it is ideal, if possible, not to say "shalom aleichem" or "shalom" to a man who is not wearing a head covering, lest he respond with the word "shalom", which is a name of hashem, while with a bare head. It is better to greet him with an alternate greeting such as "hello" or "how are you doing". ( see shu"t igros moshe orach chaim vol. 4 siman 40:24. See also halichos shlomo; tefilah, perek 2, dvar halacha 26 where he is more lenient with regard to this.)
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh, june 5 , 2015
double portion l'kavod shabbos kodesh
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh
1) placing your own hand on your head does not suffice to be considered a proper head covering, and davening this way is akin to davening with a bare head. Someone else's hand on your head suffices. (shulchan aruch siman 91:4)
2) extending the sleeve of your shirt or jacket over your palm and covering your head with the cloth suffices as a head covering. (see mishna berura siman 91 s"k 10. See also mishna berura siman 2 s"k 12 that for a bracha, b'sha'as hadchak, there may be room for leniency, but he concludes that it is better not to rely on this leniency.)
halachos for shabbos kodesh
1) a male who davens with a bare head, even b'shogeg, unintentionally, according to harav moshe feinstein zatzal (igros moshe orach chaim vol. 4 siman 40:14) must daven again, as he hasn't satisfied his obligation, even b'dieved. He writes there that this tefilah is deemed "toeva", an abomination.
Harav shlomo zalmen auerbach zatzal (halichos shlomo; tefilah, perek 2:16) rules more leniently, and maintains that if it was done unintentionally, b'dieved he has satisfied his obligation and does not need to daven over.
2) if one's yarmulka, talis or other head covering falls off in the middle of davening shemona esrei, he should stop davening to retrieve it, even if he has to step out of his place to do so, before resuming shemona esrei. (see halichos shlomo; tefilah, perek 2, dvar halacha 27)
halachos for sunday, june 7 , 2015
1) nowadays, when it is acceptable to wear a yarmulka virtually everywhere, at all times, the poskim prohibit a jewish male from even walking less than 4 amos (approximately 8 feet) without a head covering, and even require a head covering when sitting at home and not walking anywhere, and preferably even while sleeping. (see mishna berura siman 2 s"k 11 quoting the taz that it is "asur gamur" to be without a head covering. Regarding the minimum size of the required head covering see igros mosher orach chaim vol. 1 siman 1. See also shu"t rivevos ephraim vol. 5 siman 40 quoting rav moshe feinstein zatzal regarding what one should do if he cannot find a job unless he will sit in his office with a bare head. As with everything, a rav must be consulted for proper halachic guidance in all situations.)
however, while sitting and not saying any devorim shebikedusha, holy utterances, covering your head with your own hand will suffice for it to be considered covered. (mishna berura ibid.)
2) boys should be taught to wear a yarmulka from a very young age, as this fosters fear of heaven. (mogen avraham, based on talmud shabbos 156b, quoted in mishna berura ibid.)
the accepted age for boys to begin wearing yarmulkas is three years old, though some people begin earlier, as soon as the child will keep it on his head and not throw it off. (see kitzur shulchan aruch siman 3:6 and commentary of she'arim metzuyanim b'halacha there in kuntres acharon)
halachos for monday, june 8 , 2015
1) when davening shemona esrei, it is proper for jewish males to wear a hat (or talis by shacharis) on top of their yarmulka.(see shulchan aruch siman 91:6 and mishna berura s"k 12. If one never wears a hat at any time (even when visiting gedolim, on shabbos, at weddings etc.) he should consult a rav regarding the proper way to daven shemona esrei)
2) ideally, a married man's head should be covered with his tallis [during shachris] for the entire length of davening, not just for shemona esrei, as this covering lends itself to subordination before hashem and an increase in yiras shomayism, the fear of heaven. (see mishna berura siman 8 s"k 4)
single boys and men who have the minhag to wear a tallis (as is the prevalent minhag in sephardic, german and communities) should nevertheless not cover their heads with their tallis, and should wear a hat instead. (see mishna berura ibid. And kaf hachaim siman 8:12)
halachos for tuesday, june 9 , 2015
1) it is important to prepare the body, and make sure that there is no need to use the restroom, before beginning to daven. (see mishna berura siman 2 s"k 13)
2) it is important to wake up in the morning early enough before davening to ensure adequate time to determine that the body is clean. (see mishna berura siman 1 s"k 9 where he writes that one should arise a minimum of half an hour before the time davening begins to accomplish this. Before mincha and maariv, less time is needed, than in the morning upon waking, to determine that the body is clean before starting to daven.)
halachos for wednesday, june 10, 2015
1) one who davens [shemona esrei] without a clean body (i.E. While needing the restroom urgently and being unable to withhold it for 72 minutes, the halachic time period known as "halichas parsah"), the tefilah has a status of a "toeva, an abomination", and must be repeated after the body is cleaned.(shulchan aruch siman 92:1)
2) if one has even a slight urge to use the restroom, even if he/she is sure he/she can withstand the urge for 72 minutes, he/she should still, l'chatchilah, not begin to daven in that state. (see aruch hashulchan siman 92:3 that every person has to know their own body and its limits, to determine if indeed they can go beyond 72 minutes in this state or not.)
halachos for thursday, june 11 , 2015
1) when determining how urgently one needs to use the restroom, the 72 minutes have to be calculated if one can "walk" for 72 minutes without using the restroom, and not simply if able "sit" in one place for that amount of time (see biur halacha siman 92 dibur hamaschil shiur parsa)
2) as we mentioned, l'chatchilah, one should not daven shemona esrei if there is any urge at all to use the restroom, even if he knows that he can withhold using the restroom for longer than 72 minutes. This is the case even if by doing so he will miss tefilah b'tzibur. (mishna berura siman 92 s"k 5)
if, however, by using the restroom now, he will totally miss the z'man tefilah, shemona esrei may be recited before using the restroom, as long as he knows he can indeed withhold using it for 72 minutes. (mishna berura ibid.)
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh, june 12 , 2015
double portion l’kavod shabbos kodesh
halachos for erev shabbos kodesh
1) unlike shemona esrei, krias shema, as well as other brachos and learning torah may be recited, if necessary, if the usage of the restroom can be postponed for 72 minutes. (see mishna berura siman 92 s"k 7. He does quote some poskim who are more stringent. See also shulchan aruch harav siman 92:1 who rules to be stringent l'chatchilah)
if, however, one knows that he will be unable to postpone using the restroom for more than 72 minutes, it is forbidden to recite krias shema, any brachos or learn torah. (some only forbid saying the names of hashem while learning but allow other torah learning. See da'as torah siman 92:1. Some allow thinking in learning or listening to divrei torah, while others forbid it all while in this state.)
2) even if by using the restroom in such a case, where you cannot postpone using the restroom for 72 minutes, it will cause you to miss z'man krias shema or z'man tefilah, it is still forbidden to recite the shema , just as it is forbidden to recite shemona esrei. (see aruch hashulchan siman 92:1, that the urge for gedolim is more stringent than that of ketanim. See also mishna berura siman 92 s"k 5)
halachos for shabbos kodesh
1) if one started shemona esrei, shma or any bracha when they were forbidden to do so, as they urgently needed the restroom, they must stop mid-bracha and use the restroom before resuming. (this is surely the case when one had an urge for gedolim and may also be the case, according to many poskim when the urge was only for ketanim. See mishna berura siman 92 s"k 8 and 9)
2) if one did not stop davening shemona esrei, as he was supposed to, it must be repeated. (surely for gedolim, and possibly also for ketanim. See mishna berura siman 92 s"k 2 and biur halacha dibur hamaschil v'tzarich lachzor. Some poskim rule that when the urge was for ketanim, he should repeat the shemona esrei as a tefilas nedava, a non mandatory recital of shemona esrei. See sefer l'shichno tidreshu vol. 1, hilchos tefilah 28 quoting maran rav yosef shalom elyashiv zatzal)
however, if one did not stop saying shema or other brachos,including birchas hamazon, as he was supposed to, he does not need to repeat it. (see mishna berura siman 92 s"k 6 and 7 and biur halacha dibur hamaschil afilu)
Halachos for Sunday, June 14, 2015
1) If one started Shemona Esrei while not having any urge to use the restroom, and during Shemona Esrei the urge arose, he/she should not interrupt the davening, even if he/she cannot postpone it for 72 minutes, but should rather finish Shemona Esrei and then immediately use the restroom. (Mishna Berura Siman 92 S"K 8. He may not wait until after Kedusha, but must go immediately after he finishes his silent Shemona Esrei. If the urge is so great that he must go immediately, and he can't concentrate on davening, he may go even in the middle of Shemona Esrei. See Rama Siman 92:2 and Mishna Berura S"K 11 for a discussion about this.)
However, if in the middle of Shma or its Brachos the urge arose, he may (and according to some Poskim, if the urge is for gedolim, he must) stop and use the restroom before continuing, or alternatively he may (surely for ketanim, but here too, possibly not for gedolim) continue until Shemona Esrei and then use the restroom. Shemona Esrei, however, may not be started while in this state, as we learnt earlier. (See Mishna Berura Siman 92 S"K 9 and 12 and Biur Halacha Dibur Hamaschil Ya'amid Atzmo and Aruch Hashulchan Siman 92:7. See also Shulchan Aruch Harav Siman 92:2 and Kaf Hachaim Siman 92:9)
If the urge arose in middle of Pesukei D'Zimra, he/she may finish Pesukei D'Zimra, but may not begin the Brachos before Krias Shma, or even respond to Barchu. (See Mishna Berura ibid. and Mekor Chaim Siman 92:2. see also Shulchan Aruch Harav ibid.)
2) The rule of thumb is: If you started something before the urge to use the restroom arose, you may finish that subject which you started, but may not start a new subject (Some examples of individual "subjects": Pesukei D'Zimrah, Birchos Krias Shema and Krias Shema, Shemona Esrei, Halel, Birchas Hamazon, Krias Megilah, Learning a particular subject of Torah etc.)
Halachos for Monday, June 15, 2015
1) If the Ba'al Kriah, the one reading the Torah, or the Oleh, the one who received an Aliya to the Torah, have an urge to use the restroom, even if they cannot withhold it for 72 minutes, they are permitted to read the Torah and recite Barchu and the Brachos on the reading, respectively, due to Kavod habriyos, as it would be extremely embarrassing to require them to stop. (See Biur Halacha Siman 92:1 Dibur Hamaschil Haya tzarich)
2) This applies as well to other Devarim Shebikedusha as well, such as a Shliach Tzibur in middle of Hallel, a Ba'al Kriah in middle of reading the megilah, the leader of the mezuman in middle of Birchas hamazon, and the like. This also applies to one who is giving a Torah lecture. (See Mishna berura Siman 92 S"K 7)
Halachos for Tuesday, June 16, 2015
1) It is a Mitzvah to wash the hands, until the wrists, before each Tefilah. (See Rambam Hilchos Tefilah Perek 4:2 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 12:5)
If one washed Negel Vasser in the morning, and is davening Shacharis soon thereafter, as long as the hands did not touch any unclean areas of the body, an additional washing is not necessary. (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 92:5)
2) However, if a significant amount of time elapsed between washing Negel Vasser and starting to daven, an additional washing is indeed necessary. (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)
The washing in the morning surely does not suffice for Mincha, as we assume that at some point between the washing in the morning and the davening many hours later the hands became unclean, due to som much time elpsing. (See Mishna Berura Siman 92 S"K 23)
Halachos for Wednesday, June 17, 2015
1) If no water is available (something which isn't very common nowadays, Baruch Hashem, but can still happen when traveling and in other rare situations) before Mincha or Ma'ariv it isn't necessary to travel to find water (Up to a "Mil" as it is by Shacharis; we will discuss more about the "Mil" tomorrow B'Ezras Hashem) and rubbing the hands on a stone, wood, article of clothing or similar item that can cleanse the hands is sufficient. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 92:5 and Mishna Berura S"K 26)
However, since the primary Mitzvah is L'Chatchilah with water, it is praiseworthy to travel (or at least make a minimal effort) to find water even before Mincha and Maariv (See Bais Yosef Siman 92:4)
2) If the restroom was used before Mincha or Maariv, and no water is available, then one must travel up to a "Mil" to find water, and can't rely simply on rubbing the hands on something.(Mishna Berura ibid.)
Halachos for Thursday, June 18, 2015
1) The Halachic measurement of a "Mil" (not to be confused with a "mile") is 1,152 Meters (3779 feet) , according to the Chazon Ish Zatzal, and 960 meters (3149 feet) according the the measurements of Rav Chaim Na'eh Zatzal. The Poskim have determined that it takes approximately 18 minutes to walk the distance of a "Mil". (See Mishna Berura Siman 459 S"K 15)
Therefore, whenever one is Halachically obligated to walk a "Mil" (e.g. to find water with which to wash the hands before davening, to locate a minyan to daven with or to locate water to wash the hands before eating bread) it is only necessary to walk up to 18 minutes.
2) There is a discussion amongst the contemporary Poskim whether one who is driving in a car, needs to actually drive 18 minutes to find water, or must only drive the distance it would take to walk the 18 minutes (which is obviously a much shorter ride than 18 minutes).
Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita maintains that one would have to actually drive for 18 minutes. Rav Shmuel Wosner Zatzal was of the opinion that for locating water to wash before eating bread one must actually drive up to 18 minutes, whereas for washing before davening, as well as for traveling to find a minyan, one must only drive the distance it would take to walk 18 minutes.
(See Shu"t Shevet Haleivi Vol. 8 Siman 19 and Vol. 8 Siman 37. Also see Shu"t Teshuvos V'Hanhagos Vol. 1 Siman 98 for further discussion on this topic and also regarding the extreme importance of davening with a Minyan, even if it entails tarveling and some expense.)
It is praiseworthy to be stringent with this, if possible. (This is the case only only if one is positive that he will find water where he is going; if he isn't sure, though, if he will find water there, he can be lenient. See Mishna berura Siman 92 S"K 17)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, June 19, 2015
Double Portion L'Kavod Shabbos Kodesh
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1)The Pasuk (Tehillim 2:11) states "Ivdu Es Hashem B'Yirah - serve Hashem with fear". Chazal (Mishna and Talmud Brachos 30b)apply this Pasuk to Tefilah, which is considered "Avodah", service of Hashem, and is nowadays in lieu of Korbonos.
Therefore, one should not approach davening with jokiness, levity or anger. Rather, when one is ready to daven he/she should wait a few moments in order to get into the right frame of mind for Tefilah. His mindframe should also be one of Simcha Shel Mitzvah, the joy of being about to do a Mitzvah. (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 93:2 and Mishna berura S"K 3 and 4. See also Sefer Chasidim Siman 18 that one should avoid looking and acting tired as he gets ready to daven.)
2)Though the "Chasidim HaRishonim", the pious people of the earlier generations, in Talmudic times, used to wait an entire hour before beginning to daven, the Poskim say that for most people, nowadays, it is sufficient to wait a shorter amount of time. (See Mishna Berura Siman 93 S"K 1. Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv Zatzal, he Alter of Kelm, was known to advise people to sit for 5 minutes and prepare the mind for Tefilah. The Mishna Berura says that as long as one waits the amount of time it takes to walk 8 Tefachim it is OK. The exact amount of time isn't as important as the fact that one did indeed stop for a moment and get his/her mind ready to daven.)
Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh
1) Many people are careful to daven the entire Tefilah while looking into their Siddur, in order to ensure better concentration.(See Mishna berura Siman 93 S"K 2 where he writes that this was the custom of the Arizal. See also Even Sheleima from the Gaon of Vilna Perek 9 footnote 2. See also Mishna Berura Siman 96 S"K 9 that it is proper to follow along in the siddur during Chazoras Hashatz as well.)
Many people daven Shemona Esrei with their eyes tightly closed. The Poskim say that each person should do whatever it is that causes them to have better concentration. The main thing, even if looking in the Siddur, is to make sure not to look around and see, notice or look at other things while davening to Hashem. (See Biur Halacha siman 95 Dibur Hamaschil Tzarich)
2) Before starting Shemona Esrei it is important to purge the mind of all mundane thoughts that will disturb the concentration of Shemona Esrei. One should think that if he/she were to be presenting their case in front of a flesh-and-blood king (or judge, or president or CEO etc.) how much would he prepare his statements and not dwell on mundane things?
How much more so when we are about to talk to the King of Kings, Hashem Himself. (and that is exactly what we do 3 times a day!) (See Rambam Hilchos tefilah Perek 4 Halacha 16 and Shulchan Aruch Siman 98:1. See also Mishna Berura S"K 1 that one should avoid lofty kabalistic thoughts and Yichudim, and simply have in mind that he is talking to Hashem and have in mind the simple translation of the words he is uttering.)