02. Preventing Possible Disruptions in Prayer

While reciting the Amida, one may not hold an object that she fears will fall, such as a book, bowl, or knife, because her concern that it may drop will disrupt her kavana (SA 96:1). However, one may hold a siddur, because it is necessary for prayer (ibid. 1-2). Even while reciting other parts of the prayer service it is good to be careful about this. Le-khatĥila, one should not hold anything in her hand while reciting the Amida, not even a valueless object, about which one is not concerned for it is not respectful to stand in front of God while holding something extraneous (see MB 96:1 and 5).

Before praying, one must turn off  her cellular phone. In a synagogue or where there are siddurim available, one should not use her hand-held device as a siddur so that it does not distract her and so that she does not appear to be reading messages during prayers. One who does not have a siddur available and must therefore use a device should first disable the possibility of receiving calls or messages. One who must be available for urgent calls may leave the device on, but should set it to vibrate, so that its ringing does not disrupt prayer.

Le-khatĥila, one should not recite the Amida with a knapsack on her back, for that is not a respectful way to appear before important people, and all the more so, it is not respectful to pray in that manner. However, if she is already traveling with a knapsack on her shoulders and it is more comfortable to leave it on, she may pray with it on her it weighs less than four kabin (c. 5.5 kg or 12 lbs, 1.5 oz). If the knapsack is heavier than four kabin, she may not pray while wearing it, as it is liable to impair her kavana (SA 97:4).

Additionally, if someone holding a wallet full of money or other expensive objects fears that if she puts these items down they will be stolen, and she does not have pockets in which to put them or a friend there to watch them, it is preferable, be-di’avad, to keep them in her hands while praying, so that she will be less troubled (MB 96:6; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 7). Likewise, if someone carrying a heavy knapsack on her back is worried that it will be stolen and she has no other choice than to carry it, she may pray while wearing it.

A woman may not pray while holding a baby in her arms, because the child requires constant attention to make sure he does not fall. Furthermore, the baby is likely to disturb her kavana. Even when the baby is wrapped inside an infant carrier or sling, it is not respectful to pray with him on her. Still, if no other option exists and the woman praying knows that she will be able have kavana in her prayer while holding the baby, she may pray with him on her. When there is concern that she will not be able to have kavana, she may not pray in that manner; instead, she fulfills her obligation by reciting Birkhot Ha-Torah and Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, which may be recited even while holding a baby.  1

  1. Le-khatĥila, one must not pray while holding a weapon  nor even enter the synagogue with it, for it is inappropriate to pray about life and peace while wearing an instrument of death. However, he may enter the synagogue and pray with it on him if he is carrying it for security reasons (see Tzitz Eliezer 10:8).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman