One who stands in prayer before her Creator must be extremely careful not to interrupt by talking about other matters in the middle of praying. It is even forbidden to interrupt by walking or hinting. The status of the Amida differs from that of Pesukei De-zimra and Birkhot Keri’at Shema, during which one may walk, hint, and in cases of great need, like greeting a person who will otherwise be insulted, even speak (below, 16:14 and Peninei Halakha: Prayer 14:4 and 16:5-6). However, in the middle of the Amida, it is forbidden. The Sages only allow interruption in life-threatening situations or for the sake of prayer itself. If we stand before a human king in dread and are careful not to interrupt with other matters, then we certainly must be careful not to interrupt while standing before the supreme King of kings.
Even if a Jewish king greets someone while she is reciting the Amida, she may not respond. However, if a non-Jewish king, who is liable to kill her, addresses her in the middle of her prayer, she must interrupt to respond, for saving a life takes precedence over prayer (Berakhot 30b).
If a non-venomous snake is wrapped around the leg of the person praying, she should not interrupt her prayer to request assistance. However, if it is a snake or scorpion that may be venomous, she must call for help, for saving a life takes precedence over prayer (Berakhot 33a; SA 104:1-4).
Walking is not considered a significant interruption. Therefore, when began praying in a place where it is hard for her to concentrate, she may move elsewhere. For instance, if a non-venomous snake approaches her, disrupting her kavana, she may move elsewhere to continue praying kavana, even though the situation was never life-threatening (MB 104:10).
One who is praying the Amida and hears Kaddish or Kedusha may not respond. However, she may silently concentrate on the ĥazan’s words, and it is considered as if she recited those words. This is indeed the custom. Nevertheless, if such an interruption will disturb her kavana, she may continue praying (Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 17 n. 11).
If, in the middle of praying, one becomes uncertain regarding a law that may prevent her from continuing, such as a case in which she forgets to recite a particular passage and does not know what to do, she may walk to find a book to determine the correct practice. If she does not know how to search for the answer in a book, some say that she may even interrupt verbally to ask for a ruling (MB 104:2). 1
- As explained above, 13:2, if the interruption lasts the amount of time it would take for her to recite the entire Amida, then according to Sephardic custom she must return to the beginning of the Amida. According to Ashkenazic custom, if the interruption was due to elements out of her control, such as the presence of excrement or danger, then she must repeat the Amida. However, if she interrupts of her own volition – including to ask a halakhic question – she returns to the place where she stopped. ↩