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 Hilchos Kriyas Shema 71 (page 210)
 מתחילת סימן עא עד סעיף ב

The Exemption of Onen
Why an Onen may Eat Without a Beracha
Davening Near the End of Zeman Tefilla

The exemption of onen
The term onen describes someone whose close relative (i.e. father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or wife) has died but has not yet been buried. During this period it is forbidden for him to perform any mitzvos, whether d'oraisa or d'rabonon. The purpose of this withdrawal from mitzvos is to show that the onen is not cavalier about  his relative's passing. The onen is exempt from mitzvos even if others are handling the funeral arrangements. According to the Chazaon Ish, however, the onen is obligated to recite Shema and Shmoneh Esrei if others are handling the arrangements. The onen is obligated to daven and perform all mitzvos once the chevra kadisha takes possession of the body of the deceased and all accounts (e.g. the grave site, payment, eulogies, etc.) are settled. If the onen will not be participating in the funeral, he becomes obligated in all mitzvos when the funeral starts.
( ס"ק א, ד, ה, ו ו־ז; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 7 ו־21)
Why an onen may eat without a beracha
An onen may not violate any mitzvos lo sa'aseh, whether d'oraisa or d'rabonon. He may, however, eat without a beracha, because the prohibition against eating without a beracha is based on the requirement to say one, from which he is exempt. The poskim discuss whether washing before eating is a requirement from which he is exempt or a prohibition for which he is responsible. Some poskim require the onen to wash neigel vaser in the morning, to wash after using the bathroom, and to wash mayim acharonim. An onen is permitted to wear tzitzis, and he may study the halachos relevant to his situation. The poskim discuss whether he is permitted to think about Torah.
( ס"ק ד וביה"ל ד"ה מי; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 2, 4 ו־5)
Davening near the end of zeman tefilla
Someone who did not get to daven until close to the end of zeman tefilla should skip parts of pesukei d'zimra (as explained in siman 52:1) to enable himself to recite Shemoneh Esrei before it is too late. If there is not enough time, he may even skip all of pesukei d'zimra including Baruch Sheamar and Yishtabach. Even though the end of zeman kriyas Shema has passed at this point -- and saying Shema would be only considered 'reading the Torah' as a preparation for Shemoneh Esrei -- he should not omit Shema or the berachos, even at the expense of missing zeman tefilla.
( ס"ק ד; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 9 ו־14)


  • It is forbidden to begin a meal within half an hour before alos (dawn). The meal could drag on, and participants might end up neglecting to recite Shema or daven. All eating is forbidden after alos because there is a special prohibition against eating prior to davening.
  • It is forbidden to commence any activity from dawn until after davening Shema and Shemnoeh Esrei. Chazal were concerned that the job would drag out and distract the person from davening.
  • Someone involved in one mitzva is exempt from beginning a second one until the first mitzva is completed. The second mitzva should be performed if it is easy to fulfill it (or at least part of it)  without interfering with the first one.

  • Performing mitzvos in the proximity of a dead body

  • Davening near a dead body

  • Aninus on Shabbos and Yom Tov



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.