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Chapter 12:4-6
Preparing Oneself to Pray

4.A person who is sure that he cannot contain himself from releasing gas until after he concludes the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh [should refrain from reciting these prayers].* It is preferable that he delay until after the times for the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh pass than to pray without a clean body. Should the time for prayer pass, [it is not his fault]. He is prevented by factors beyond his control (and may compensate, as will be explained in Chapter 21).

* {The Shulchon Oruch HoRav 80:3 and the Mishnoh Beruroh 80:3 require that one recite the Shema and its blessings at the proper time. However, one should refrain from wearing tefillin. It must be emphasized that this applies only to someone who is sure that he will not be able to hold himself back from releasing gas. However, if a person merely suspects that he might do so, he should pray.}

If he is sure that he can contain himself during the recitation of the Shema, he should put on tefillin between the blessing habocher b'amo Yisroel B'ahavoh and the Shema, recite the blessing upon them, and recite the Shema.

5.. A person must wash his hands to the wrists before prayer. Therefore, even though he washed his hands in the morning, if his hands touched a place of filth - i.e., a portion of the body which is sweaty and usually covered: he scratched his head, or in the morning, he did not wash them until the wrists - he must wash them again before prayer.

If there is no water available, he must search for it, even though it requires walking as far as four milin* before him or one mil behind him. However, should he fear that in doing so the time for Shemoneh Esreh will pass without his praying, he should clean his hands with a shard, dust, or any other material, and pray.

* {The above applies when a person is on a journey. If one does not intend to travel, there is no difference between in front of him or behind him. There is no need to search further than a mil. A mil is approximately a kilometer in contemporary terms.

[This may be derived from Psalms 26:6]: "I will wash my hands in cleanliness and encircle Your alter." If possible, I will wash my hands not, If not, I will achieve "cleanliness" through other means.

6. Even though he washed his hands in the morning properly, and he does not know that his hands have become dirty, it is still necessary for him to wash them with water before prayer, because he diverted his attention [from his hands. This applies] even though he [only] studied in the interim.

However, in this instance, there is no need to search for water. If he does not have water available, and searching for it will prevent him from praying with a minyon, he need not search for it.* Rather, he should clean his hands with other materials and pray with the minyon.

* {The Shulchon Oruch, Orach Chayim 92:5 states that in such an instance, one need not search for water, and does not make the leniency dependent on the concept of communal prayer.

Should he have prayed despite the fact that he felt a need, his prayer is acceptable after the fact, provided he feels that he would have able to contain himself for the time it takes to walk a parsoh (one hour an twelve minutes). If not, despite the fact that he has already prayed, his prayer is considered an abomination and he must pray again. *

* {Most authorities (Mogen Avrohom, Shulchon Oruch HoRav, Chayei Odom) maintain that this applies only if one feels he must defecate. If he needs only to urinate, he is not required to pray again. However, other opinions are most stringent.}

Others maintain that a person who can contain himself for the time it takes to takes to walk a porsoh is granted permission to pray. One may rely on this opinion if waiting to relieve oneself will cause one to miss the time for the morning prayers. (See also Chapter 18, Law 16.)

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