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102:1. (1) It is forbidden to sit (2) within four amot [footsteps] (3) of one who is praying [Shmoneh Esrei], whether you are in front of him, or to his sides (4) {or behind him – Tosfot, the Mordechai, and the Ashri}, and therefore one must distance oneself four amot. But if one is involved in things that have to do with the prayer service, even if one is studying (5) Eizehu M’koman [a chapter of Mishna found in the Siddur before the Psukei D’Zimra, the Verses of Praise], one is not required to distance oneself. (6) And there is one opinion that permits [sitting within the four amot] (7) if one is involved in [studying] words of Torah even though they are not connected in any way to the prayer service. And there is one who says that these exclusions only apply when one is seated on either side, (8) but it is forbidden to sit in front of someone praying even as far away as he can see, (9) even if one is saying Sh’ma.

MB 1: It is forbidden to sit – And even leaning is forbidden. If one is leaning only a bit, meaning that if the support should move, one would be able to stand [and not fall over], one may be lenient in the case of pressing need.

MB 2: Within the four amot – And even when he sits at a diagonal, he need only be four amot away, not at a distance of the corner of a four amot square [four times the square root of two amot away], so says the Magen Avraham , and also see the Pri Megadim. The Chayei Adam writes that if the individual is praying on one side of a fixed object that is ten handbreadths high and four handbreadths long, it is permissible to stand within the four amot on the other side, as this object ends the distinct domain allotted to the praying individual. However, it may be forbidden to pass by on the other side of the object as long as the individual praying can see over, and this is how the Hilchot K’tanot ruled. The Pri Megadim, in Siman 90, subparagraph 5, agrees with this stringency of not passing by an individual who is praying when one is on the bimah, even though the bimah is a separate domain. He does permit sitting in a separate area even within four amot {this Siman, subparagraph 2 of the Mishbezot Zahav.}

MB 3: Of one who is praying – Even if the individual praying is saying the additional prayers after the Shmoneh Esrei, it is still forbidden as long as he has not stepped back. The same is true regarding not passing in front of one who is praying.

MB 4: Or behind him – This was agreed upon by the later authorities.

MB 5: Eizehu M’koman – The same is true regarding someone who is studying Pirkei Avot [Chapters of the Fathers] at Mincha on Shabbat, he is also allowed to sit on the side of the individual who is praying.

MB 6: And there are those who permit [being within four amot] – This opinion believes that the sages did not forbid sitting on the side of one who is praying except when one is sitting silently doing nothing, as it looks as if one does not accept upon oneself the Kingdom of heaven. However, if one is sitting and learning Torah, it shows the acceptance of the Kingdom of heaven. And look in the later authorities, who explain that it is good to be stringent and to stand in accordance with the first opinion, if he does not need to sit. And regarding the reference to sitting behind an individual praying, it appears to me that one need not be stringent [apparently, as long as one is learning Torah –YM].

MB 7: Of those who are involved in words of Torah – Specifically if he is speaking words of Torah from his mouth, however this does not apply to those who are simply mulling over Torah in their minds. And even if one is thinking about preparations for the prayers [this does not apply], as some might suspect that he is not accepting upon himself the kingdom of heaven.

MB 8: But opposite him, etc. – Because it appears that the individual praying is bowing to him. According to this, only sitting is forbidden, but standing is allowed even within four amot. His opinion may be, however, that standing [within four amot] is forbidden, because this may disrupt the individual’s focus upon prayer.

MB 9: Even if one is saying Sh’ma – Meaning one who is saying the Sh’ma sitting in front of an individual who is praying. The Pri Chadash decided the law like the first opinion, that there is no difference between being in front or to the sides of one who is praying, while the rest of the later authorities wrote that it is good to be strict [like the opinion that one should not sit in front of a person who is praying even at a great distance]. And it appears to me that regarding standing outside of four amot, one need not be strict, and perhaps even within four amot one need not be strict, as it seems to me above in MB 8.

101:2. There is an opinion that says that if the person seated to the side of the praying individual is (10) weak, (11) this is permitted.

MB 10: Weak – In other words, it is well known that he is weak and unable to stand. Therefore it is permissible to sit, because his weakness shows itself as the reason why he is sitting. One should, however, sit only to the side of the praying individual, as there are those who are stringent about sitting in front of an individual who is praying, even for a weak person.

MB 11: This is permitted – And one may rely on this opinion if one cannot easily move four amot away.

101:3. If one is already seated, and an individual comes and stands for prayer on one’s side, one need not (12) arise, as the individual praying (13) has entered the seated person’s domain. {It is, however, (14) a pious act to arise in this case – Bait Yosef in the name of the MaHaRI”A}.

MB 12: Arise – Rather the individual praying should distance himself four amot from the seated individual when he wishes to rise for prayer.

MB 13: Has entered the seated person’s domain – This opinion only applies in one’s home, but if one is praying with a set prayer group or in a synagogue, where the area is designed to be used by everyone, one must stand. Even if there are set places for individuals that were acquired for money, one should be stringent. However, concerning one [seated] who is involved in Torah, he need not be stringent, and all the more so in a situation where a Rav who is sitting with his students and learning, and then ten men come to pray, there is no need for the individuals who were there first to arise, and there is even no reason to do so out of piety.

MB 14: A pious act – In order to remove a stumbling block from in front of one’s friend, who acted improperly by standing for prayer within four amot of one who was already seated with permission, and someone sitting is a degradation of the holy place created by the prayer.

Ira Rosen [email protected]

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Siman 102 . Not to interrupt someone who is praying

102:4. (15) It is not allowed to pass by within four Amos [footsteps] of someone praying. This only applies (16) in front of the individual, (17) but to the sides it is allowed (18) to pass by and stop.

MB 15: It is not allowed – Because you disturb his concentration. Therefore, it is not allowed even if he is saying the Sh’ma. The Chayei Adam writes that the reason is because one makes a partition between the person praying and the Divine Presence.

MB 16: In front of him – Concerning to the side but in front of a person praying, the Magen Avraham in subparagraph 6 considers this like passing in front of the person, but according to the Elyah Rabah this is allowed.

MB 17: But to the sides – The Zohar in Sedrah Chaye Sarah does not allow even to the sides within 4 Amos.

MB 18: to pass by and stop – i.e. to pass by but stop and not go further, so as not to be directly opposite his face. For if the person praying can see him, even though he is to the side, it is the same as passing in front and is forbidden because he will interrupt the praying person’s concentration. According to this it would surely not be allowed to stop in front of him within four Amos. This is the view of the Magen Avraham. However, the Elyah Rabah holds that it is only forbidden to pass in front within four Amos, but to go within four Amos and then stop is permitted even in front. Possibly, in case of urgency one could be lenient.

102:5. If one finished praying and there was someone else (19) praying behind him, he should not take (20) three steps back until the person behind him has finished praying, because if he does so it is like passing in front of someone praying. One should be particular about this even if the person behind only started praying after (21) he [the first person] already started.

MB 19: Praying behind – But if he is not directly behind but slightly to the side, it would appear according to the above Elyah Rabah that it is allowed [to step back].

MB 20: Three steps – whether within four Amos or through taking the steps he would come within four Amos.

MB 21: He already started – And this is not considered to be invading the first person’s space, even if he takes a long time to pray; on the contrary, he who steps back is now entering the others’ space.