“Take your shoes off of your feet” (Shemos 3,5). Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to remove his footwear when he stood before the Shechinah. Similarly, we find that the kohanim served in the Beis Hamikdash with their feet uncovered.
On the other hand, Chazal tell us, “It is disrespectful to uncover one’s feet in front of his master” (Chagigah 13b). Certainly in a country where everyone covers their feet, it is disrespectful to pray to Hashem in such a manner. Thus the Shulchan Aruch rules, “A person should not pray barefoot, unless it is the custom of people to stand in front of important individuals without shoes and socks” (Shulchan Aruch 91,5).
The Shulchan Aruch seems to permit walking barefoot in shul. Some commentators explain that this refers to countries where a person was obligated to appear in front of the king without socks and shoes on. In such a place, one is obligated to follow this same dress code for prayer as well (Leket Hakemach Hachadash 91,6).
According to this ruling, it would seem that a person should remove his head covering for prayer in countries where that is the respectful mode of dress in the presence of royalty. While the Torah tells us that removing one’s shoes is a sign of respect for the Shechinah, this is not true of removing one’s head covering (Leket Hakemach Hachadash, ibid.). On the contrary, taking off one’s hat is considered a lack of respect in front of Hashem, and it is forbidden to pray in such a manner (see Dressed to Serve the King III).
Minchah at the Beach
Going to a separate beach is popular summer recreation. Inevitably, some people will not have recited Minchah beforehand, and as the sun starts to set, minyanim will form. What guidelines of dress must one follow when praying at the beach?
Even at the beach one is obligated, as much as possible, to try to dress for tefillah in a respectable manner. No one would appear in front of a dignitary in a bathing suit, T-shirt and sun hat, and one should not recite Shemoneh Esrei in such attire; rather, he should put on his regular clothes. However, if one is in his beach apparel and has no other clothing, he may recite Shemoneh Esrei as long as the top and bottom of his body are covered (Rav Elyashiv, shlita, as cited in Avnei Yashpeh 1,2).
In addition to the problems of dress, there are numerous other issues involved with praying at a beach. Generally, it is forbidden to pray in an open area outside a shul, and surely concentrating at a busy, hot, noisy beach is difficult. Considering all the complications that arise concerning praying on the beach, one should try to make sure that he will not have to recite Shemoneh Esrei there.
Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org