Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Shemone Esrei
To dedicate this lesson
At the Shabbat Table

Terms of Service


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Cheshvan 21 5781
David exhaled slowly. The setting sun, casting its rays upon those assembled in the synagogue courtyard, lent an ethereal quality to the prayer experience. A gentle breeze lightly ruffled the page of his siddur, as he attempted to focus on the words of shemoneh esrei in front of him. "He remembers the kindness of the forefathers," David whispered. He felt himself suddenly entranced by the concept. He thought of the patriarch Avraham, and his kindness and hospitality toward travelers.
"It would be great if someone over here could help me!" The eager voice, coming from just beyond the boundary of the courtyard, drew David’s gaze away from his siddur. A somewhat bedraggled looking man called out again. "My car broke down not far from here, and I really wouldn’t mind getting a bite to eat!"
David was amazed. Here, he had just been thinking about the hospitality of Avraham, when a real live traveler came by, looking for assistance! True, David was in the middle of praying shemoneh esrei, during which all interruptions are forbidden. On the other hand, here was an opportunity to put the lessons of Avraham’s kindness into action!
Without another thought, David closed his siddur, and hurried to greet the man. "Please, come to my house!" David enthused. "I would be so happy to give you something to eat."
The man followed David down the road to his house. David opened the refrigerator door, and was pleased to see that there were enough Shabbat leftovers to make a respectable meal. He hurried to seat the man at the table, set out an elegant place setting, and proceeded to warm the leftovers in the microwave. Half an hour later, after the guest had gone, and David stood washing the dishes, David couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction. After all, wasn’t he following in Avraham’s footsteps?
The next morning, David sat with his friend Shimon, drinking coffee and catching up on the news. In the course of their conversation, David proudly related the story of his hospitality.
"Wait a second, David," Shimon interjected. "You mean you were in the middle of shemoneh esrei, and you stopped to help this guy?"
"Why not?" David challenged. "After all, Avraham himself interrupted a conversation with G-d, in order to help travelers! Why is this any different?"
Is David right? Was he allowed to stop in the middle of shemoneh esrei in order to give food to a stranger?
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita:
David was forbidden from interrupting his shemoneh esrei in order to take in a guest. A person who is engaged in prayer is not allowed to interrupt his prayer, in order to perform a different mitzva, such as hachnasat orchim (hosting guests).
One is even forbidden from tending to a king, while praying shemoneh esrei. (That is, unless the king is a secular king, who might cause physical harm to the one who is praying.) Even a person who is in the middle of performing hachnasat orchim must stop in the middle of serving his guests, if the time to pray will pass, otherwise.
The comparison to the patriarch Avraham is incorrect. Avraham was not engaged in service of G-d, in the story that David mentioned. Rather, Avraham was receiving the presence of G-d as a reward for Avraham’s actions. Therefore, it was permitted for him to interrupt his interaction with G-d, in order to welcome guests.
(This story appears chapter 9 of the book Sichot L’sefer Bereishit, which relates stories of Rabbi Nebenzahl. The book was compiled by Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu.)

את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר