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 Hilchos Tefilla 92 (page 250)
 מאמצע סעיף ב ודווקא עד סעיף ד

Human Dignity and Bal Tishaktzu
Bal Tishaktzu During Tefilla
Someone Who Needs the Bathroom During Other Parts of Davening

Human dignity and bal tishaktzu
It is forbidden for someone to hold himself back from using the bathroom when he has an urgent need. (There is no prohibition against holding back if the need isn't urgent.) This is a Rabbinic prohibition based on the pasuk "do not make yourself disgusting," and it can be overridden for the sake of human dignity. For example, it is permissible for a speaker standing before his audience to start speaking divrei Torah even if he has a strong urge to use the bathroom. Human dignity is a relative term in this case; it depends on what the individual in question would find degrading.
( סעיף ב, ס"ק ז ו־י, וביה"ל ד"ה היה; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 10, וראה שם, 11)
Bal tishaktzu during tefilla
According to some poskim, someone who has a strong need to use the bathroom while davening Shemoneh Esrei should stop in the middle and go to the bathroom, even if he feels that he can wait until completing the tefilla. Other poskim hold that the person can choose whether he wants to interrupt or complete his tefilla. According to all, if he is unable to wait, he must interrupt his tefilla and use the bathroom. If the path to the bathroom passes in front of other people who are davening, he is permitted to pass before them because the prohibition of bal tishaktzu supersedes the prohibition of walking in front of those who are davening.
( סעיף ב וס"ק יא-יב; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 19)

Someone who needs the bathroom during other parts of davening
Someone who feels an urge to use the bathroom during pesukei d'zimra may wait until after Yishtabach to do so (as long as he is not in violation of bal tishaktzu), but he may not continue past that point to answer barchu or begin birchos kriyas Shema until he attends to his needs. If he feels a need for the bathroom between geula and tefilla, he should go then. Up to Yishtabach or throughout the berachos of Shema and Shema itself he may recite Asher Yatzar, but it is preferable for him to recite the beracha between paragraphs. He may not recite the beracha between geula and tefilla (he must wait until after Shemoneh Esrei).
( סעיף ב, ס"ק ט, וביה"ל ד"ה אבל; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 15-17)

  • Before davening, a person should verify whether or not he needs the restroom.
  • If someone davened when needing the bathroom, the halacha will depend upon whether he would have been able to wait for seventy-two minutes (the span of a parsa) before relieving himself. If he would have been able to wait, he fulfilled his obligation to daven. If he could not have waited, he did not fulfill his obligation, his tefilla is considered a disgrace, and the many berachos he made were in vain.
  • It is forbidden for someone who needs the restroom (and cannot wait seventy-two minutes) to begin any divrei kedusha (e.g. kriyas Shema, berachos, divrei Torah).

  • Cleaning hands for tefilla

  • Cleaning hands without water

  • Cleaning hands for Mussaf


PLEASE NOTE:  The information in this email is for learning purposes only. Please review the Mishna Berura and Biurim U'Musafim before making a halachic decision. Hebrew words are occasionally transliterated to enable a smoother reading of the text. Common Ashkenazi pronunciation is generally used in these cases.