1

A person is forbidden to walk behind a synagogue at the time that the congregation is praying, unless he is carrying a burden or there are two entrances to the synagogue on different sides. [In the latter instance], anyone who sees him would presume that perhaps he is planning to enter [the synagogue] through the other entrance.

Similarly, if there are two synagogues in the city, a person seeing him would say that perhaps he is going to his usual synagogue.

If one is wearing tefillin on his head, he is permitted to pass [a synagogue] even without any of these conditions, since the tefillin indicate that he is a person who is seriously interested in the performance of commandments, and not one to refrain from prayer.

א

אסור לו לאדם לעבור אחורי בית הכנסת בשעה שהציבור מתפללין אלא אם כן היה נושא משאוי או שהיה לבית הכנסת שני פתחים בשני רוחות שהרואה אומר שמא ילך ויכנס מפתח האחר וכן אם היה בעיר שני בתי כנסיות יאמר הרואה שמא ילך לבית הכנסת הרגיל בו ואם יש לו תפילין בראשו מותר לו לעבור ואע"פ שאין שם אחד מכל אלו שהתפילין מוכיחין עליו שהוא רודף אחר מצות ואינו ממבטלי תפלה:

A person is forbidden to walk behind a synagogue - This refers to the side of the synagogue on which there is an entrance. However, a person walking on the other side of the synagogue does not appear to dismiss the idea of prayer, since he has not willfully abstained from entering the place of worship (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 90).

at the time that the congregation is praying, - Rashi, Berachot 61a, explains that a person passing by appears to be fleeing from the synagogue and the obligations observed therein.

unless he is carrying a burden - Since he is carrying a bundle, it is clearly understood why he is not entering the synagogue.

Berachot 8b quotes the above prohibition in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. It then quotes Abbaye who mentions the various qualifications related by the Rambam.

or there are two entrances to the synagogue on different sides. [In the latter instance], anyone who sees him would presume that perhaps he is planning to enter [the synagogue] through the other entrance. - Berachot 8b mentions the idea of two entrances to the synagogue. However, the specification that the entrances be on different sides is the Rambam's addition. Only in such a case could one seeing the person imagine that he is entering the synagogue by its other entrance. If the entrances are on the same side, the observer need simply wait to see if he also passes by the second entrance.

Similarly, if there are two synagogues in the city, a person seeing him would say that perhaps he is going to his usual synagogue - and is not shirking his responsibility to pray.

If one is wearing tefillin on his head, - See Hilchot tefillin 4:25 which mentions the obligation to wear tefillin throughout the entire day, even after one finished prayer. At present, as explained in the Tur (Orach Chayim 39), it is customary to wear tefillin only during prayer.

he is permitted to pass [a synagogue] even without any of these conditions, since the tefillin indicate that he is a person who is seriously interested in the performance of commandments, and not one to refrain from prayer.

2

One praying with a congregation should not lengthen his prayer excessively. [However,] he may do so when praying alone. If, after praying, he desires to [add to his prayers], he may, including even the confession of Yom Kippur.

Similarly, he may add in each of the middle blessings something relevant to that blessing if he desires.

ב

המתפלל עם הציבור לא יאריך את תפלתו יותר מדאי אבל בינו לבין עצמו הרשות בידו ואם בא לומר אחר תפלתו אפילו כסדר וידוי יום הכפורים אומר וכן אם רצה להוסיף בכל ברכה וברכה מן האמצעיות מעין הברכה מוסיף:

One praying with a congregation should not lengthen his prayer excessively - From the passage from Berachot quoted below, it would appear that the prohibition was instituted to prevent the discomfort that would be caused were the congregation to be forced to wait for one individual to finish his prayers. Rav Kapach notes that even if the congregation would not necessarily wait, it is forbidden to do so, lest one appear haughty.

[However,] he may do so when praying alone. - Berachot 31a states:

This was the custom of Rabbi Akiva; when praying in a congregation he would shorten his prayer in order not to bother those present, but when he prayed alone, one would leave him while he was in one corner of the room and [return and] find him in the other corner because of his bowings and prostrations.

If, after praying, - i.e., after he has completed Shemoneh Esreh

he desires to [add to his prayers] he may, - The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 8a and Berachot 31a) states that even though generally one should limit his requests during the recitation of Shemoneh Esreh to the blessing of שומע תפילה, this restriction does not apply after one concludes praying.

including even the confession of Yom Kippur. - The Talmud (ibid.) (and, similarly, the authoritative Oxford manuscript of the Mishneh Torah) states that after prayer, one may add “the order of the day of Yom Kippur” and does not mention וידוי (confession).

One might conclude that this indicates that one may add as much as he likes. The prayers of Yom Kippur are mentioned since they serve as the paradigm of long prayer.

Similarly, he may add in each of the middle blessings something relevant to that blessing if he desires. - as explained in the following halachah.

3

What is implied?

If one has a sick person [for whom he wants to pray], he should request mercy for this person in the blessing for the sick as eloquently as he can.

If he requires sustenance, he should add a supplication and request in the blessing for material prosperity. The same applies regarding each of the other blessings.

Should one desire to ask for all his needs in the blessing of "the One who hears Prayer," he may do so. However, he should make no requests in the first three or last three [blessings].

ג

כיצד היה לו חולה מבקש עליו רחמים בברכת חולים כפי צחות לשונו היה צריך לפרנסה מוסיף תחנה ובקשה בברכת השנים ועל דרך זה בכל אחת מהן ואם רצה לשאול כל צרכיו בשומע תפלה שואל אבל לא ישאול לא בשלש ראשונות ולא בשלש אחרונות:

What is implied? - by the last clause of the previous halachah.

If one has a sick person [for whom he wants to pray] he should request mercy for this person in the blessing for the sick, - Avodah Zarah 8a notes:

Even though [the Sages] taught that a person should make his special requests in [the blessing of] שומע תפילה, one may add at the end of each blessing something relevant to that blessing.

The Talmud quotes a second teaching which specifically mentions the two examples given by the Rambam.

as eloquently as he can. - Note Chapter 1, Halachah 4, which explains that the reason the Sages established a standard text of prayer was to prevent people from praying in a non-eloquent manner. Though a person is allowed to make whatever additions to prayer he desires, he should try to use the most elegant means of expression as possible.

If he requires sustenance, he should add a supplication and request in the blessing for material property. - The sixth of the intermediate blessings.

The same applies regarding each of the other [blessings]. - For example, Rashi (Avodah Zarah, ibid.) explains that one desiring not to forget that which he has learned should make such a request in חונן הדעת [the first of the intermediate blessings].

Should one desire to ask for all his needs in the blessing of "the One who hears Prayer," he may do so. - without qualms. There is no requirement to make one's requests in the other blessings as mentioned above.

However, he should make no requests in the first three or last three [blessings]. - See Berachot 34a and also Chapter 1, Halachah 9, and commentary.

4

A person is forbidden to taste anything or to do any work from dawn until after he has recited the Morning Prayer. He should also refrain from visiting the house of a friend to greet him before he has recited the Morning Prayer; nor should he set out on a journey before he has prayed.

However, one may taste food or do work before reciting Musaf or Minchah, although he should not have a full meal close to the time for Minchah.

ד

אסור לו לאדם שיטעום כלום או שיעשה מלאכה מאחר שיעלה עמוד השחר עד שיתפלל תפלת שחרית וכן לא ישכים לפתח חבירו לשאול בשלומו קודם שיתפלל תפלת שחרית ולא יצא בדרך קודם שיתפלל אבל טועם ועושה מלאכה קודם שיתפלל מוסף וקודם מנחה אבל אינו סועד סמוך למנחה:

A person is forbidden to taste - This includes both eating and drinking and indicates that one is forbidden from even tasting the smallest amount of food.

anything - Berachot 10b relates:

What does [Leviticus 19:26]: "You should not eat with blood" mean? You should not eat before you have prayed al dimchem [lit. “for your blood”]...
Anyone who eats and drinks and [only] afterwards prays - about him [I Kings 14:9[ states: "... and you have cast Me behind your body." Do not read גויך (your body), but rather גאיך (your pride). The Holy One, blessed be He, says: "After you have acted proudly and haughtily [by eating], will you accept upon yourself the sovereignty of Heaven?"

Thus, it is clear that one must deal with his spiritual obligations before fulfilling his physical needs.

Note Chapter 5, Halachah 2, where the Rambam states that one who is hungry or thirsty is considered sick and must eat or drink before prayer in order to pray with proper intention. For this reason, medicines also present no problem and may be taken before Shacharit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 89:3).

The Mishnah Berurah (89:22) grants permission to drink tea or coffee before prayer, if this will help one's concentration during prayer. However,he suggests not putting sugar into the drink. The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 89:23) allows one to add sugar to tea and even suggests that adding milk is permissible.

or to do any work - Berachot 14a relates:

A person is forbidden to deal with his personal matters before he prays, as [Psalms 85:14] states: "[He will place] righteousness before him and he will place his feet in the path."

Rashi explains that first one must pay heed to the righteousness of the Creator, and only then walk in the way - i.e., do work that is necessary for his own personal needs.

from dawn until after he has recited the Morning Prayer - Dawn is the earliest possible time for the Morning Prayer. (See Chapter 3, Halachah 7.) Therefore, as soon as the obligation of prayer exists, one is forbidden to eat or drink.

He should also refrain from visiting the house of a friend to greet him before he has recited the Morning Prayer; - Berachot 14a relates:

Anyone who greets his friend before praying has, so to speak, made his friend into an altar, as [Isaiah 2:22] states: "Desist from the man whose life is in his nostrils, as for what is he considered." Do not read bemah (“for what”) but rather bamah (“an altar”).

Nevertheless, the Talmud explains that this prohibition only applies to going to a friend's house to greet him. Greeting him in the street is permitted.

nor should he set out on a journey before he has prayed. - Berachot 14a derives this law based on the same verse used as the source for the prohibition of working before praying.

However, one may taste food or do work before reciting Musaf or Minchah - Berachot 28b quotes two opinions, one of Rav Huna forbidding eating before Musaf, and one of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi forbidding eating before Minchah, but does not accept either of them as binding.

although he should not have a full meal close to the time for Minchah - Though the Talmud rejects the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi regarding טעימה (tasting). However, there are restrictions in regard to eating a meal as explained in the following halachah (Kessef Mishneh).

5

Once the time for Minchah Gedolah arrives, one should not enter a bathhouse, even [if only] to sweat, until he has prayed, lest he faint and neglect prayer.

He should not eat, even a snack, lest he continue eating and neglect prayer, nor [should he] judge [a court case], even if only to render a final judgment, lest the decision be questioned and the matter be drawn out and cause him to miss prayer.

Similarly, one should not sit in a barber's chair, even for a regular haircut, until he prays, lest the scissors break. He should not enter a tanning house close to Minchah before he has prayed, lest he see a deficiency in his work which he will deal with, and [thereby] be delayed from praying.

If he begins doing one of these things, he need not stop, but may finish and then recite Minchah.

ה

כיון שהגיע זמן מנחה גדולה לא יכנס למרחץ אפילו להזיע עד שיתפלל שמא יתעלף ויבטל מן התפלה ולא לאכול אפילו אכילת עראי שמא ימשך באכילה ולא לדון אפילו בגמר דין שמא יסתר הדין וימשך ויבטל מן התפלה וכן לא ישב לפני הספר לספור אפילו תספורת הדיוט עד שיתפלל שמא ישבר הזוג ולא ליכנס לבורסקי סמוך למנחה עד שיתפלל שמא יראה הפסד במלאכתו ויתעסק בה ויתעכב מן התפלה ואם התחיל באחת מאלו לא יפסיק אלא גומר ואחר כך מתפלל תפלת מנחה:

Once the time for Minchah Gedolah arrives - i.e., six and a half hours (שעות זמניות) of the day, as explained in Chapter 3, Halachah 2.

one should not enter a bathhouse - This and the following laws are based on the Mishnah (Shabbat 9b): "One should not sit in front of the barber close to Minchah until he has prayed..." The Talmud explains that this refers to Minchah Gedolah.

even [if only] to sweat, until he has prayed - This person is not interested in bathing in the hot or cold bath or washing himself well, which are time-consuming activities. Nevertheless, since a prohibition was instituted against bathing...

lest he faint and neglect prayer - the restriction was enforced even in this instance.

He should not eat, even a snack, lest he continue eating and neglect prayer - In the previous halachah, the Rambam rules that one may taste food before Minchah, but forbade eating a meal. Here, he states that even a snack is forbidden. The Kessef Mishneh explains that eating a כביצה (the equivalent of an egg, 52 or 100 cubic centimeters, according to Shiurei Torah and the Chazon Ish, respectively) of fruit, or a כזית (an olive size, approximately 26 or 50 cubic centimeters, according to the same references cited) of bread constitutes achilat ari’ai which we have translated as a snack.

nor [should he] judge [a court case], even if only to render a final judgment, lest the decision be questioned and the matter be drawn out and cause him to miss prayer. - The Mishnah quoted above states simply that one must not sit in judgment close to Minchah. In his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states:

Even if the case is finished and the judges have heard the claims of the adversaries in the case, and have deliberated [and reached a verdict], and need only announce their final decision, the judge should not sit to render this decision close to the time of Minchah, lest he see the case in a different light and be required to start again, or the adversaries restate their claims and the matters drag on until the time [for Minchah] passes.

Similarly, one should not sit in a barber's chair, even for a regular haircut - as opposed to the especially intricate haircut given the High Priest, called the haircut of "ben Elasa" (Shabbat 9b). (See also Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 5:6)

until he prays, lest the scissors break - and the time for prayer pass before the barber can secure another scissors.

He should not enter a tanning house close to Minchah before he has prayed, lest he see a deficiency in his work which he will deal with, and [thereby] be delayed from praying. - The Rambam explains, in his commentary on the Mishnah, that if one sees a deficiency in the skin he will attempt to stop further damage, and his involvement in this work could last until after the end of the time for Minchah.

The Rambam's interpretation of the mishnah is not accepted by other authorities. Tosafot (Shabbat, loc. cit.) rules that only complicated activities are forbidden and simple acts, e.g., a snack or a normal haircut are permitted.

This disagreement finds expression in the rulings of the later authorities. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 232:2) quotes the Rambam's view. The Ramah brings a third opinion (of the Ba'al HaMa'or) which rules that even a large meal is permissible before Minchah Gedolah, and that a snack is permissible even before Minchah K'tanah. He adds that perhaps the reason for this leniency is that since it was customary to call people to synagogue, it is unlikely that they would not forget to go. However, he advises following the more stringent view when praying alone.

If he begins one of these things - Even if he began after the time of Minchah Gedolah and, therefore, his beginning was a transgression (Hagahot Maimoniot).

he need not stop, but may finish and then recite Minchah - This leniency is also based on the Mishnah (Shabbat, loc. cit.). After listing all the activities that are forbidden once Minchah Gedolah arrives, the Mishnah concludes: "And if he starts, he need not stop."

The Kessef Mishneh explains that this is the case only if he will be able to recite Minchah before the conclusion of the appropriate time. To emphasize this point, the Rambam mentions explicitly: "and then recite Minchah" - i.e., after he finishes doing whatever it is that he has started doing. However, if there will not be time to pray afterwards, he must stop and pray. Only then may he resume his activity.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 232:2, follows this interpretation of the Rambam and adds that if there will not be time afterwards, one must stop what he is doing immediately. The Magen Avraham points out that this means that even if it is still relatively early, if one is eating and expects the meal to continue until after the time of Minchah, he must stop immediately and pray, rather than wait until sometime later before the end of the day.

6

When is the beginning of a haircut? When he puts the barber's cloth over his knees.

When is the beginning of a bath? When he takes off his underclothes.

When is the beginning of [work in the] tanning house? When he ties the apron between his shoulders, as is the way of artisans.

When is the beginning of eating? For those who live in Eretz Yisrael, it is when one washes his hands. For inhabitants of Babylonia, it is when they loosen their belts.

When is the beginning of judgment? When the judges robe themselves in their taleisim and sit down. If they were [already] sitting, it is when the adversaries begin to make their claims.

ו

מאימתי התחלת תספורת משיניח מעפורת של ספרין על ברכיו ומאימתי התחלת מרחץ משיפשוט הבגד הסמוך לבשרו ומאימתי התחלת הבורסקי משיקשור בגד בין כתפיו כמו שהאומנין עושין ומאימתי התחלת אכילה לבני ארץ ישראל משיטול ידיו ולבני בבל משיתיר חגורו ומאימתי התחלת הדין משיתעטפו הדיינים וישבו ואם היו יושבין משיתחילו בעלי דינין לטעון:

When is the beginning of a haircut? - In Halachah 5, the Rambam taught us that if one had already begun his involvement in any of these activities, he need not stop in order to recite Minchah. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what constitutes involvement in these activities.

When he puts the barber's cloth over his knees - The מעפורת is an apron used to collect the hairs falling from one's head during a haircut, so that they do not fall onto his clothes. (Shabbat 9b) In his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states that one who has put the cloth over his knees "is prepared for a haircut." From that point on, even though no hair has actually been cut, he is considered involved in the haircut, so that he need not stop to pray.

When is the beginning of a bath? - i.e., when is he considered to be bathing, so that he need not stop to pray?

When he takes off his underclothes - literally, "the garments next to his skin." This is based on the Rambam's interpetation of Shabbat 9b: "When he removes his מעפרתו from himself." Rashi, in his commentary on that passage, offers a different interpretation - one's outermost garment, i.e., the first garment removed. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 232:2) rules in line with Rashi's position.

When is the beginning of [work in the] tanning house? When he ties the apron between his shoulders, as is the way of artisans. - Shabbat 9b states simply: "When he ties between his shoulders." In his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam explains that it is when he ties his belt in order to work with the skins. Evidently this means the belt around his apron. There is a version of the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah which mentions also that he begins working with the skins. This is, however, hard to understand in light of his commentary here in the Mishneh Torah.

When is the beginning of eating? For those who live in Eretz Yisrael, it is when one washes one's hands - Shabbat 9b records a disagreement between Rav and Rabbi Chanina. Rav states that washing one's hands constitutes the beginning of eating, whereas Rabbi Chanina is of the opinion that loosening one's belt before eating is the beginning of the meal. The Talmud concludes that there is no real argument. Rav described the halachah for inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael, and Rabbi Chanina, for those of Babylonia.

For the inhabitants of Babylonia, it is when they loosen their belts - Rashi explains that the custom in Babylonia was to wear their belts particularly tight, necessitating that they be loosened prior to eating. This was not the case in Eretz Yisrael.

It is interesting to note that in his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam mentions only the halachah of washing one's hands. Since the Mishnah was written in Eretz Yisrael, its interpretation must be in line with the customs and realities of Eretz Yisrael. However, in the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam focuses on the actual halachah. Hence, he defines the beginning of eating in line with both positions, one relevant to Eretz Yisrael and the other to Babylonia.

When is the beginning of judgment? When the judges robe themselves in their talleisim and sit down. - Rashi explains that the judges wore their talleisim in court in order to focus their attention on the serious nature of the matter at hand. Shabbat 10a states: "Any judge who adjudicates a judgment of absolute truth ..., is considered by the Torah to be a partner with God in the creation of the world."

If they were [already] sitting, it is when the adversaries begin to make their claims - Shabbat 10a makes this point of clarification.

7

Even though the Evening Prayer is not obligatory, one should not come home from his work and say: "I will eat a little and sleep a little and then I will pray," lest sleep overtake him and he sleep all night. Rather, he should [first] pray, and afterwards he may eat, drink or sleep.

It is permissible to have a haircut or enter a bathhouse before the Morning Prayer. [The Sages] only established their decree before Minchah, since it is common for most people to go there during the day. However, in the morning, [these actions] are uncommon. Hence, they did not establish a decree.

ז

אף על פי שתפלת ערבית רשות לא יבא אדם ממלאכתו ויאמר אוכל מעט ואישן קמעא ואח"כ אתפלל שמא תאנוס אותו שינה ונמצא ישן כל הלילה אלא מתפלל ערבית ואח"כ אוכל ושותה או ישן ומותר להסתפר וליכנס למרחץ סמוך לשחרית מפני שלא גזרו אלא סמוך למנחה שהוא דבר המצוי שרוב העם נכנסין שם ביום אבל בשחר דבר שאינו מצוי לא גזרו בו:

Even though the Evening Prayer is not obligatory - See Chapter 1, Halachah 6 and the commentary there.

one should not come home from his work and say: "I will eat a little and sleep a little and then I will pray," lest sleep overtake him and he sleep all night. Rather, he should [first] pray, and afterwards, he may eat, drink or sleep. - Berachot 4b discusses the decree of the Sages requiring the recitation of the Shema before midnight even though its actual time lasts until dawn (See Hilchot Kri'at Shema 1:9.). That passage states:

The Sages produced a support for their words in order that a person not come in from the field in the evening and say: "I shall go home, eat a little, sleep a little and then recite the Shema and pray," lest he be overcome by sleep and sleep all night.
Rather, he should come from the field in the evening and enter the synagogue. If he is accustomed to recite the Shema immediately, he should. If he is accustomed to study Torah first, he should study, recite the Shema, pray and then eat his bread and recite grace.

In contrast to the restrictions mentioned in the previous halachah in regard to the afternoon prayers...

It is permissible to have a haircut or enter a bathhouse before the Morning Prayer. [The Sages] only established their decree before Minchah, since it is common for most people to go there during the day. However, in the morning, [these actions] are uncommon. Hence they did not establish a decree. - Since the Mishnah cited above mentions only "close to Minchah," the Rambam assumes that the halachot apply only to מנחה and not to שחרית for the reason he explains.

The Rambam does not mention going to the tanning house or eating in this halachah, because they are included in Halachah 4 regarding working or eating before the Morning Prayer, both of which are prohibited.

8

A person who is involved in the study of Torah when the time for prayer arrives must stop and pray. If the study of Torah is his full-time occupation and he does not work at all, and he is involved in the study of Torah at the time of prayer, he need not stop, since the commandment of the study of Torah is greater that the commandment of prayer.

Anyone involved in efforts for the welfare of the community is like one involved in Torah study.

ח

מי שהיה עוסק בתלמוד תורה והגיע זמן התפלה פוסק ומתפלל ואם היתה תורתו אומנותו ואינו עושה מלאכה כלל והיה עוסק בתורה בשעת תפלתו אינו פוסק שמצות תלמוד תורה גדולה ממצות תפלה וכל העוסק בצרכי רבים כעוסק בדברי תורה:

A person who is involved in the study of Torah when the time for prayer arrives must stop and pray - The Mishnah (Shabbat 9b) states that one must stop for Kri'at Shema, but not for prayer. The Talmud (11a) explains that this refers to one involved in the study of Torah.

If the study of Torah is his full-time occupation and he does not work at all, - Shabbat (ibid.) continues:

This applies only to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his colleagues, whose full time occupation was the study of Torah, but we stop studying to recite the Shema and to pray.

Rashi explains that anyone who interrupts his studies in order to work, must also interrupt his studies in order to pray.

and he is involved in the study of Torah at the time of prayer, he need not stop, since the commandment of the study of Torah is greater than the commandment of prayer - In Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:3, the Rambam states: "There is no commandment among all the commandments that is equal to the study of Torah. Rather, the study of Torah is equal to all the other commandments, since study brings one to action. Therefore, study comes before action at all times."

A person involved in Torah study achieves a level of unity with God that is unparalleled by any other activity. One's intellect and God's wisdom become inextricably linked, until they are indistinguishable during the moments of one's actual involvement in study. On this basis, we can understand the description of Torah with the metaphor of bread (Proverbs 9:5, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 4:13). After bread is consumed by a person, it becomes assimilated into his blood and becomes part of the person himself. Similarly, when Torah is studied, it becomes absorbed into the person's character and becomes an integral part of his being (Tanya, Chapter 5).

As explained in the introduction to this text, prayer focuses on our attempt to relate to the Godliness that permeates our worldly existence. Though this is an extremely significant service, the connection established through Torah study is more complete. Thus, Shabbat 10a records how Ravvah rebuked Rav Hamnuna for neglecting his Torah studies to prolong his prayers. By doing he was "abandoning eternal life for transcient life." Therefore, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his colleagues whose commitment to Torah was all encompassing were not required to interrupt their studies for prayer.

Anyone involved in efforts for the welfare of the community is like one involved in Torah study - i.e., he can be compared to one whose full time occupation is the study of Torah. Therefore, he is exempt from the Amidah at that time.

This comparison of community work to the study of Torah is found in the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5:1. However, there it is taught in the context of praying in the midst of words of Torah. (See Chapter 4, Halachah 18.) Community work is also considered like Torah, so that one may pray after such work and it is considered as if he prayed in the midst of words of Torah.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that the Rambam derives this law from the continuation of the Talmudic passage (Shabbat 11a) cited above. The Talmud states that one involved in the decision of whether or not to proclaim a leap year (עיבור שנה) need not stop to pray, even though Torah study is not his full-time occupation. The Kessef Mishneh posits that the Rambam views involvement in עיבור שנה as community work. On this basis, he concludes that one need not stop in order to pray if he is involved in such activities.

9

One is forbidden to interrupt his Amidah except in a situation where his life is endangered. Even if the King of Israel greets him, he must not answer him. However, he may interrupt [to answer] a non-Jewish king, lest he kill him.

A person standing in the [midst of the] Amidah who sees a non-Jewish king or tyrant approaching him should shorten [his prayer]. If unable to do so, he may stop. Similarly, if one sees snakes or scorpions approaching him in a place where their bite is fatal, he should stop [praying] and flee. If they are not fatal, he should not stop.

ט

אין המתפלל מפסיק תפלתו אלא מפני סכנת נפשות בלבד ואפילו מלך ישראל שואל בשלומו לא ישיבנו אבל פוסק הוא למלך עובד כוכבים שמא יהרגנו היה עומד בתפלה וראה מלך עובדי כוכבים או אנס בא כנגדו יקצר ואם אינו יכול יפסיק וכן אם ראה נחשים ועקרבים באים כנגדו אם הגיעו אליו והיה דרכן באותן המקומות שהן ממיתין פוסק ובורח ואם לא היה דרכן להמית אינו פוסק:


One is forbidden to interrupt his Amidah except in a situation where his life is endangered - In Hilchot Kri'at Shema 2:15-17, we discussed the various situations in which one is allowed to interrupt his recitation of the Shema. Here, the Rambam teaches that the laws regarding the Amidah are much more strict. Only a threat to one's very life is considered sufficient cause to interrupt the Amidah.

Even if the King of Israel greets him, he must not answer him - The Mishnah (Berachot 29b) states: "Even if the king greets him, he may not answer." The Talmud explains that this applies only to a Jewish king, but not to a foreign king. A Jewish king is expected to appreciate the seriousness of prayer and realize that a person's unwillingness to interrupt his prayers is not intended as an insult to the king's authority, but rather, submission to an even greater authority.

It is interesting to note that this halachah is taught in the Mishnah within the context of halachot stressing the serious nature of the Amidah and the high level of concentration necessary. Just as we learned that the level of intention necessary for the Amidah is greater than that necessary for Kri'at Shema (see Chapter 5, Halachah 8 and the commentary there), so too, the halachot regarding interruptions are stricter, as mentioned.

However, he may interrupt [and answer] a non-Jewish king, lest he - fail to understand the concept explained above and...

kill him - as a rebel against the king.

Berachot 32b-33a relates the following story which shows that the Sages did not always avail themselves of the leniency granted:

A righteous man was once praying on the road. A minister approached him and greet him. However, he did not respond.
[The minister] waited until he had finished praying and said to him: "Empty one! Is it not written in your Torah: 'Take heed and watch yourself carefully' (Deuteronomy 4:9), and 'Guard yourselves very carefully' (Deuteronomy 4:15)."
"When I greeted you, why didn't you answer? If I had cut off your head with my sword, who would have sought vengeance for your life?"
He said to him: "Let me appease you with words. If you were standing in front of an earthly king and your friend came and greeted you would you answer him?"
[The minister] said: "No."
"And if you did answer him what would they do to you?"
He replied: "They would cut off my head!"
He said: "And is it not reasonable that if you [would not interrupt] while standing in front of an earthly king who is here today and in the grave tomorrow, so too I, standing in front of the King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He, who is eternally present, all the more so [should I not interrupt in order to return greetings]."
The minister was appeased immediately, and the righteous person returned home in peace."

A person standing in the [midst of the] Amidah who sees a non-Jewish king or tyrant approaching him should shorten [his prayer]. - Rabbenu Yonah explains that this means simply to recite the beginning and end of each blessing. The Kessef Mishneh also agrees with this explanation.

In Chapter 2, Halachot 2-3, the Rambam mentions the text for a shortened prayer. However, there is not necessarily a contradiction between this opinion and that law.

If unable to do so, he may stop. - Berachot 32b offers these two alternatives.

Rabbenu Yonah maintains that if possible, one should move slightly in order to avoid confronting the king or tyrant, and thus avoid the need to talk.

Similarly, if one sees snakes or scorpions approaching him in a place where their bite is fatal, he should stop [praying] and flee. If they are not fatal, he should not stop. - The Mishnah (Berachot 29b) states: "...and even if there is a snake curled around his ankle, he should not interrupt [his Amidah]." The Talmud (33a) mentions that a snake does not cause an interruption, but a scorpion does. Rashi explains that though snakes are not likely to bite, scorpions are likely to sting. Thus, the passage raises questions on the Rambam's decision, for he does not distinguish between snakes and scorpions.

The Rambam's statements appear to be based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5:1, which states that one ignores a snake only if it is simply curling around his leg. However, were the snake to approach him in a menacing fashion, appearing likely to bite, he may flee from the snake.

It is important to note that there is no actual need to interrupt his Amidah in the case of the dangerous creatures. He need simply leave that spot, find a safe place and continue praying.

Hagahot Maimoniot points out that in all the cases mentioned, even if he did actually speak in the middle of Shemoneh Esreh, he need only start again at the beginning of the blessing in which he stopped. If, however, he interrupted himself during the first or last three blessings, he should return to the beginning of the beginning of the first of the three blessings.

The laws mentioned in this halachah are discussed in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 104.

10

Women, slaves and children are obligated to pray. Anyone exempt from Kri'at Shema is also exempt from the Amidah.

All those accompanying the dead [for burial], even if they are not required to carry the coffin, are exempt from the Amidah.

י

נשים ועבדים וקטנים חייבים בתפלה וכל איש שפטור מקריאת שמע פטור מן התפלה וכל המלוין את המת אף על פי שאין למטה צורך בהן פטורין מן התפלה:

Women, slaves and children are obligated to pray - This is based on the Mishnah (Berachot 20a-b). This halachah is discussed in Chapter 1, Halachah 2.

Anyone exempt from Kri'at Shema is also exempt from the Amidah. - The laws regarding those exempt from Kri'at Shema are contained in Hilchot Kri'at Shema 4:3-6. The exemption of these people from the Amidah is stated explicitly in the Mishnah (Berachot 17b).

All those accompanying the dead [for burial], even if they are not required to carry the coffin, are exempt from the Amidah - This is also based on the Mishnah (Berachot 17b) which teaches that though there are differences between the obligations people have regarding the recitation of the Shema (See Hilchot Kri'at Shema 4:4.), "both are exempt from the Amidah."

Rashi and Tosafot explain that the distinction between Kri'at Shema and the Amidah is based on the fact that the recital of the Shema is a Torah obligation. Some commentaries explain that this explanation would even be acceptable according to the Rambam. Though he holds that the Amidah is also a Torah obligation (see Chapter 1, Halachah 1), it is only necessary to pray once daily in order to fulfill one's Torah obligation. Therefore, one may be more lenient in granting an exemption from the Amidah, since the Torah obligation may have already been fulfilled or may be fulfilled by another Amidah later in the day.

However, the Rambam, himself, offers a different explanation in his commentary on the Mishnah. There, he states that since one is troubled (לבו טרוד) by the burial, he is exempt from the Amidah. This seems to be a function of the greater need for intention in the Amidah rather than its non-Torah status.