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Shabbat Parashat R'ei 5775

Ask The Rabbi: Listening to Laining During Shemoneh Esrei

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: If a person comes late to davening, is he allowed to continue with Shemoneh Esrei during Kri’at Hatorah (=laining). Does it make a difference if z’man tefilla is coming soon?


Answer: This question is not found in classical sources, but there is much to learn from similar cases that are discussed.

Rashi (Sukka 38b) says that one who is in the midst of Shemoneh Esrei when the tzibbur is up to Kedusha or Kaddish should listen without speech to them and thereby fulfill the mitzvot of answering these passages. Tosafot (Berachot 21b) forbids this since listening to fulfill these mitzvot is equivalent to reciting them, which is forbidden during Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 104:6). The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules like Rashi, that one may listen. Thus, we seem to assume that listening to things during Shemoneh Esrei is not a fundamental problem, and listening to laining is ostensibly the same.

Arguably, listening is more justifiable for laining. Perhaps, Tosafot objects to listening only to things like Kedusha, which needs to count like speaking in order to fulfill the mitzva. For laining, listening alone suffices, and it should thus not be equated to speaking (Az Nidberu XIV:29; see Lev Avraham (Weinfeld) I:26). Indeed, Az Nidberu allowed a yeshiva in which many talmidim took a very long time for Shemoneh Esrei to continue their practice of stopping to listen to laining.

On the other hand, there are several reasons against listening to laining during Shemoneh Esrei. First, the need to listen to Kaddish and Kedusha may be more pressing than to laining, as there are serious opinions that the obligation of Torah reading is on the tzibbur, not the individual (see Ran, Megilla 3a of Rif’s pages; Yabia Omer VIII, OC 54). Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 146:2) cites some opinions that exempt individuals from listening to laining in various circumstances. While not discussed in that context, a desire to not take a long pause in Shemoneh Esrei is at least as important a reason not to listen to the laining.

Why do we interrupt Shemoneh Esrei even for Kaddish and Kedusha, considering that “one who is occupied with a mitzva is exempt from another mitzva” (Sukka 26a)? Teshuvot V’hanhagot (II:70) says that divorcing oneself from the praise of Hashem going on around him is like disgracing Him; he posits that this logic does not apply to not listening to laining. Lev Avraham (ibid.) suggest that since Kaddish and Kedusha are also forms of tefilla, the mitzva of Shemoneh Esrei does not “knock off” its “brother mitzva.” Another distinction is based on the halacha that we do stop mitzva #1to perform mitzva #2 when it is not difficult to do so (see Rama, OC 38:8). Arguably, stopping for the shorter, less confusing Kedusha and Kaddish is easier than for a series of aliyot of laining. Finally, since part of the reason to rule like Rashi regarding Kedusha is minhag (see Tosafot ibid.; Be’ur Halacha to OC 104:7), the minhag might not exist for laining.

In summary, it is not forbidden to listen to laining during Shemoneh Esrei (compare to Yabia Omer VII, OC 12), but it is likely inadvisable (see Halichot Shlomo, Tefilla 12:4). There are different accounts of the practices of important rabbanim (see Dirshu notes 104:36; Ishei Yisrael 32:(56)), but probably a lot has to do with the halachic common sense of the circumstances (see Az Nidberu ibid.). Being very late to tefilla may be different from davening much slower than one’s surroundings (although the latter is not always a good idea) and in the former case, perhaps one does not deserve to fulfill laining in such a strange manner.

In any case, if listening means finishing Shemoneh Esrei after sof z’man tefilla, one should continue davening. While otherwise it is more appropriate to listen to laining during Psukei D’zimra and even Kri’at Shema (see Mishna Berura 66:26), this should not be at the expense of z’man tefilla (Ishei Yisrael 13:9). Skipping parts of Psukei D’zimra would be preferable, though, to missing laining (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 52:1).


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