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 Hilchos Tefilla 102 (page 262)
  מתחילת סימן קב עד סעיף ד

Sitting in Front of People Davening
Standing in Front of People Davening
May a Person Remain Seated if Someone Starts Shemoneh Esrei Behind Him?

Sitting in front of people davening
It is forbidden to sit within four amos in any direction of someone davening Shemoneh Esrei. One reason for this is that the seated person would appear to lack interest in joining the person who is standing in prayer in accepting the yoke of Heaven. Additionally, since the area surrounding someone who is davening is imbued with holiness, sitting and pursuing mundane activities in that area demonstrates a denial of this holiness. It is permissible to sit in that area when one is involved in other aspects of tefilla such as the recitation of karbanos, though, since these are other forms of service of Hashem. Some hold that it is permissible to study Torah near someone davening, and this opinion may be relied upon in order to sit behind the davener or to sit in other areas around him when a special need arises. Thinking Torah thoughts without verbalizing them is not enough to permit one to sit near someone davening.
( סעיף א וס"ק ב, ה, ו ו־ז; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 7 ו־9)
Standing in front of people davening
A standing person who is leaning so heavily on an item that if it was removed he would fall is considered to be sitting. Light leaning is permissible if necessary. According to one opinion cited by the Mechaber, it is forbidden to sit directly in front of someone davening (as far ahead as the davener can see), even if the person seated is engaged in tefilla-related activities. Two reasons for this are given: 1) it could appear that the person davening is bowing to the one seated, and 2) sitting there could disturb the davener' s concentration. It is proper for a person to avoid standing directly in front of someone davening [within his four amos], unless the one standing in front is also davening. It is permissible to stand more than four amos in front of someone davening, especially if one is studying Torah.
( סעיף א, ס"ק א, ד, ח ו־ט, ושעה"צ ס"ק י ו־יב)
May a person remain seated if someone starts Shemoneh Esrei behind him?
If someone was sitting in shul and a person came up and began Shemoneh Esrei near him [within his four amos], he must rise unless he is learning Torah. If, however, he was sitting in his home or in another place which is not open for people to come in and daven, he is not required to rise (although it is praiseworthy if he does). Once he stands, he may not sit back down. According to one opinion, even in shul a person does not need to rise, unless the minyan is davening. It is proper for a newcomer to avoid davening near a person who is not required to stand. Likewise, a person should not set himself up to daven near people who are required to rise if there is reason to assume that they will not rise.
( סעיף ג וס"ק יב-יג; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 16-18)

  • Ideally, everyone should daven and recite berachos in Lashon Hakodesh. In doing so, a person can fulfill his obligation even if he does not understand the words (with the exception of the first beracha of Shemoneh Esrei and possibly the beracha of Modim, which must be understood).
  • Someone who feels he can daven with greater intensity in a language other than Lashon Hakodesh is permitted to so on an occasional basis. However, if that degree of intensity is not his objective, he should stick with Lashon Hakodesh because it offers many benefits. 
  • According to some poskim, praying in other languages is permissible only when davening with a tzibur. Tefillos written in Aramaic (e.g. Yikum Purkon) should not be recited without a minyan, but may be recited by an individual when the tzibur is reciting a different section of the prayers.


  • Passing in front of someone davening

  • Passing in front of someone davening in order to catch a minyan

  • May the chazan pass in front of someone davening?



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.