Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Behar/Bechukosai
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS BEHAR-BECHUKOSAI
PROPER KAVANAH at SHEMONEH ESREI
WHICH PARTS of SHEMONEH ESREI REQUIRE KAVANAH?
L'chatchilah, one must concentrate on the meaning of all of the words in
the entire Shemoneh Esrei(1). Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to
maintain that level of concentration, kavanah. In such a case, one must make
an effort to have as much kavanah as possible. We will list, in order of
halachic preference, the minimum levels of kavanah which are required.
Kavanah is required:
for the first blessing (Avos), the blessing of Modim and the ending of
each blessing (the chasimas ha-berachah)(2);
during the first blessing and the blessing of Modim(3);
during the first blessing only(4).
One who is temporarily unable to concentrate even during the first
blessing, is advised not to daven just then(5) even if he will miss the
halachically correct time for davening(6). He should instead daven the next
tefillah twice, as a tashlumim (makeup).
One who davened but did not have kavanah during the first blessing, has not
fulfilled the obligation of davening Shemoneh Esrei(7). He may not, however,
repeat the first blessing, since there is a strong possibility that he will
not have the proper kavanah the second time either. If, however, he realizes
before he finishes the first blessing that he did not have proper kavanah,
he should begin anew [from Elokei Avraham, etc.(8)]. Once he says Baruch
atah Hashem, however, he must continue(9) on(10) to recite the rest of
Shemoneh Esrei(11), with particular concentration on the blessing of
If one failed to have proper kavanah during the first blessing because of a
specific distraction, such as a disruptive child or because he was holding
something, he may repeat the first blessing [or the entire Shemoneh Esrei]
once the source of the distraction is gone(13).
WHAT CAN ONE DO IF HIS KAVANAH IS BEING DISTURBED?
Proper kavanah is the most important ingredient of davening. Consequently,
it sometimes overrides other halachos. Therefore:
If a sefer falls to the floor and that interferes with one's kavanah, he may
pick it up after finishing the blessing that he is presently reciting(14).
This may be done even if he needs to take a few steps in order to pick up
the sefer(15). If, however, the fallen sefer does not disturb his kavanah,
then he may not pick up the sefer during Shemoneh Esrei(16).
Each individual needs to judge for himself if it is better for him to daven
with a siddur or not, since some people concentrate better if they daven
from a text, while others have better kavanah davening with their eyes
closed(17). If one begins davening without a siddur and suddenly requires
one in order to continue davening properly, he may go and get one if he
knows its exact location. He many not, however, start searching around for a
If one is davening and is in doubt of a halachah concerning the Shemoneh
Esrei, he may go and look up the halachah in a sefer. If he has no other
choice, he may even ask another person what the halachah is(19). This should
be relied upon only when not resolving his question might invalidate the
A child [or an adult(21)] who is disturbing the davening may be signaled to
with hand motions. If that does not work, one may walk away from the
disruptive child [or walk over to the child to quiet him down(22)], but he
may not talk to him in order to quiet him down(23).
It is proper for a father to show his child where and what to daven before
Shemoneh Esrei begins. Even if this will cause the father to start his
Shemoneh Esrei later than the tzibur, he should still do so(24).
If someone is knocking on the door or ringing the bell, or if the telephone
rings during Shemoneh Esrei and it is interfering with his concentration,
one may walk to the door and open it, or walk to the phone and lift the
receiver off the hook. He may not speak, however(25).
QUESTION: How many people should be finished with Shemoneh Esrei before the
chazan may begin his repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei(26)?
DISCUSSION: The poskim debate this issue. Some maintain that the chazan may
not repeat Shemoneh Esrei until there are nine other people listening to
him. Those who are still davening Shemoneh Esrei are not included(27). Other
poskim are more lenient. They allow the chazan to begin the repetition as
long as there are six people listening to him(28).
The Mishnah Berurah does not directly rule on this issue. On a related
matter, he quotes both views and suggests that in a situation when the
chazan suspects that there may not be nine people answering "amen" to his
repetition, he should make a condition (tenai) before starting that his
Shemoneh Esrei is a tefillas nedavah, a voluntary prayer, should nine people
not answer "amen" to his blessings(29).
L'chatchilah, therefore, since some poskim rule strictly on this issue, the
chazan should wait for nine people to finish their Shemoneh Esrei. If,
however, people are rushing to go to work, etc., we may rely(30) on the more
lenient view and begin Shemoneh Esrei before all nine people have
finished(31). The chazan should do so with the aforementioned precondition.
1 O.C. 101:1. Some poskim (Yad ha-Melech, Rambam Tefillah; Chidushei R'
Chayim Soloveitchik on Rambam Hilchos Tefillah) add that although one has
fulfilled his obligaton if he did not concentrate on the meaning of the
words, nevertheless if during the Shemoneh Esrei his mind wandered to the
degree that he does not realize that he is standing in front of Hashem, his
tefillah is invalidated. Other poskim (Chazon Ish and Avi Ezri, Tefillah
4:6), however, do not agree with this strict interpretation of the halachah.
2Shulchan Aruch Harav and Mishnah Berurah 101:1 quoting the Tur.
3 Mishnah Berurah 101:3; Da'as Torah 101:1.
4 O.C. 101:1. In addition, one must not think other thoughts during the
first blessing of Shemoneh Esrei, even when not actually saying the words.
According to some poskim, those thoughts may constitute a hefsek which may
invalidate the blessing ? see Mishnah Berurah 63:13 and Beiur Halachah 101:1
quoting the Rashba and Igros Moshe O.C. 5:5.
5 Mishnah Berurah 101:3. See Aruch ha-Shulchan 101:2 who remains undecided
concerning this halachah.
6 Yabia Omer 3:9. One who, for some reason, usually finds himself in a
situation in which he cannot have the minimum kavanah, should consult his
rav for guidance on how he should conduct himself.
7 O.C. 101:1. Many poskim point out, however, that although he has not
fulfilled his obligaton of tefillah, it is still not considered as if he
recited 19 berachos l'vatalah ??see Chayei Adam 24:2 (quoted in Beiur
Halachah 101:1); Chidushei R' Chaim Halevi on Hilchos Tefillah; Yad Eliyahu
1:8; Pri Yitzchak 2:1; Kaf ha-Chayim 101:4; Eretz Tzvi 22; Kehilos Yaakov,
Berachos 26; Harav Y. Kamenetsky (quoted in Orach Yisrael, pg. 133); Harav
S.Z. Auerbach (Siach Halachah, pg. 183, 237).
8Mishnah Berurah 101:4 quoting the Chayei Adam. For an explanation of why
one cannot begin from Baruch atah, see Orach Yisrael, pg. 108, quoting Harav
Y. Kamenetsky and Harav M. Bik, and Yabia Omer 3:9-7; 3:10.
9 Some poskim advise that before continuing the Shemoneh Esrei, one should
review the first berachah in his mind and then continue ??Orchos Rabbeinu
1:59 quoting the Chazon Ish; Yalkut Yosef, pg. 157.
10 It is not advisable to say lamdeini chukecha and start over again ??oral
rulings by Harav M. Feinstein, Harav Y. Kamenetsky and Harav Y. Roth (quoted
in Orach Yisrael, pg. 108).
11 See Beiur Halachah who advises one to wait and listen carefully to the
chazan's repetition of the first blessing during chazaras ha-shatz.
Obviously when davening alone, or during Ma'ariv, this solution would not
work. See also Shevet ha-Levi 1:1, Yabia Omer 3:10 and Orchos Rabbeinu 1:59
for discussion of the problem with this approach and why it is not customary
to do so.
18 Rama O.C. 96:2, according to the explanation of Chayei Adam 22:7; 25:9
and Mishnah Berurah 104:2. According to Aruch ha-Shulchan 96:2, he may not
walk to get a siddur even if he knows where one is located. See Hebrew
Notes, pg. 269, for discussion.
19 Mishnah Berurah 104:2 and Kaf ha-Chayim 96:11 quoting the Chayei Adam.
Several poskim (R' Shlomo Kluger in Ha-elef Lecha Shelomo O.C. 50; Eimek
Berachah, pg. 7) disagree strongly with this ruling ??even to merely look in
a sefer, much less to ask a question. See Yalkut Yosef, pg. 177 who rules
like Chayei Adam (concerning looking in a sefer). Beis Baruch 25:22 also
agrees with the Chayei Adam,
26 Our discussion covers Chazaras ha-Shatz only. The halachos of Kaddish are
27 Shulchan Aruch Harav 55:7; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 20:2; Kaf ha-Chayim
55:48. This ruling is based on the view of the Taz 55:4.
28 Aruch ha-Shulchan 55:13; Imrei Yosher 2:9-1; Eimek Berachah, Tefillah 6.
This ruling is based on the view of Magen Avraham 55:8. This also seems to
be the view of the Pri Megadim (MZ 55:4) and Beiur Halachah 55:6. See Tzitz
Eliezer 12:9 for an explanation.
31 According to Chayei Adam 29:1 and Eimek Berachah, Tefillah 6, this should
not be relied upon unless there are at least eight people who finished
Shemoneh Esrei. See also Orchos Rabbeinu 1:51 that this was the view of
Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky.