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 Hilchos Tefilla 102-103 (page 263)
  מסעיף ד עד תחילת סימן קד

Passing in Front of Someone Davening
Passing in Front of Someone Davening in Order to Catch a Minyan
Stepping Into the Domain of Someone Davening

Passing in front of someone davening
It is forbidden to pass within four amos in front of someone reciting Shemoneh Esrei because doing so separates between the supplicant and the Shechina and is likely to disrupt his kavanah. It is proper to be careful about this even when the person davening has his eyes closed. The poskim discuss whether this rule is limited to the area directly in front of the supplicant or whether it includes the visible areas on each side as he faces forward.  (It is permissible to be lenient when necessary.) According to the Zohar, one should not pass to the right or left of the person davening, either. It is also proper to avoid passing in front of someone who is reciting the first pasuk of Shema. One opinion extends the prohibition to passing before people reciting kaddish (until da'amiran b'olma) or kedusha as well.
( סימן קב, סעיף ד, ס"ק טו-יח, וביה"ל ד"ה אסור; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 24)

Passing in front of someone davening in order to catch a minyan
It is forbidden to pass before someone who is reciting Shemoneh Esrei even in order to join a minyan. There is an opinion which permits a person to do this if he is needed to complete the minyan. The poskim discuss whether a person who is carrying the Torah to read it in shul is permitted to pass before people davening. A kohen is permitted to pass in front of people who are davening in order to go up for birkas kohanim, but he may not be able to pass them to go wash his hands. (Included in the discussion is whether he can rely on having washed his hands in the morning if he didn't take his mind off that washing.) It is certainly permissible for him to rely on the lenient opinion above which permits passing on the sides of someone davening. Someone who has a strong need to use the bathroom may also pass before those who are davening.
( סימן קב, ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 21)
Stepping into the domain of someone davening
A person is forbidden from taking three steps back after Shemoneh Esrei if there is someone else davening fewer than   four amos behind him (or someone who will be fewer than four amos behind him once he takes his steps back). This rule is in effect even if the person behind him started davening after he did, and even if the person in back is extending his tefilla . If someone is davening behind the chazzan, the chazan may take his three steps back to the side to avoid passing in front of a supplicant. According to some poskim, it is permissible to take three steps back into the domain of someone who has completed his own Shemoneh Esrei but is waiting for someone behind him to complete his tefilla . Other poskim permit this only if necessary for a mitzva (e.g. reciting tachanun seated). It is forbidden to take the customary three steps forward before beginning Shemoneh Esrei if, in order to do so, one must pass someone davening Shemoneh Esrei.
( סימן קב, סעיף ה וס"ק כ-כא; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 25, 27)

  • It is forbidden to sit within four amos in any direction of someone davening Shemoneh Esrei.
  • It is, however, permissible to sit in that area when one is involved in other aspects of tefilla, such as the recitation of karbanos, since this is also service of Hashem. There is an opinion that permits a person to sit and study Torah near someone who is davening, and this opinion may be relied upon in order to sit behind the davener or anywhere else within his four amos if a special need arises.
  • If someone was sitting in shul and a person came up and began Shemoneh Esrei near him, 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 walk in and daven, he is not required to rise (although it is praiseworthy if he does).

  • Dealing with a child during Shemoneh Esrei

  • Clarifying a halacha during Shemoneh Esrei

  • Relocating during Shemoneh Esrei



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.