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Mitzvah Objects and Siddurim

The exception to the previous halachah is holding timely mitzvah objects, such as a lulav on Sukkos. Since one performs a mitzvah while they are in his hands, holding them does not interfere with one’s concentration (Shulchan Aruch 96,1). What is the deeper rationale behind this halachah?

During tefillah a person fortifies his relationship with Hashem by speaking to Him. When one performs a mitzvah he connects to Hashem by doing His will. Since tefillah and mitzvos both have the same goal of bringing one closer to Hashem, doing them simultaneously is not a contradiction (Rashi, Berachos 23b).

Holding on to items during prayer is forbidden, because they impede one’s tefillos. Since using a siddur during prayer augments one’s concentration, and many authorities maintain that one should make sure to use a siddur, it is permitted to hold a siddur during tefillah (Shulchan Aruch 96,2).

Generally, if a siddur falls on the floor, one is obligated to pick it up in order not to disgrace an item of kedushah. However, if one is in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei and his siddur falls down, he is not obligated to stop his tefillah and pick it up. If praying while a siddur is on the floor interferes with his concentration, one should pick the siddur off the floor.

What is the halachah if someone is praying without a siddur and forgets the continuation of that prayer, or he does not remember a special addition for that day? The halachah is that he may go to the bookshelf and get a siddur. If he does not know a certain halachah he is permitted to go and check it up, even while he is in the middle of prayer (Mishnah Berurah 96,7).

Heavy Loads

In the previous sections we discussed that carrying an item in one’s hands diverts one’s attention from tefillah. When one has the object over one’s shoulders, one is no longer disturbed by this fear, since it is strapped to his back. As long as the item is not so heavy and bulky that it disturbs our concentration, it is technically permitted to wear it during tefillah (Shulchan Aruch 97,5).

Wearing a backpack, however, shows that one is involved with activities other than speaking to the person in front of him. For this reason carrying a knapsack is a sign of disrespect. It should be removed before starting to pray.

In Israel, soldiers are obligated to carry a gun. When possible, a weapon should not be brought into shul, but if one must keep it at his side, he should try to put down his gun during tefillah. If for security reasons this is not possible, one can pray with a weapon strapped around his shoulder, even if it is heavy (Aruch Hashulchan 97,7).

Cell phones ringing undoubtedly disturb the concentration of everyone in shul and should definitely be turned off (Responsa L’Horos Nosson 11,9).


Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 
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