Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

"Just as one separates oneself from excreta, urine, a foul odor, a corpse and the sight of nakedness for Kri'at Shema, so too, he should separate himself for Shemoneh Esreh". (Rambam. Hilchos Tefillah 4:8 in translation.) One "should wear suitable clothes when he goes to pray, like one who goes before an important minister". (Online translation of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 12:1.) The Rambam seems to agree. (Hilchos Tefillah 5:5 in translation.)

At hashkafah.com, the user named "critic" asks:

If someone has body odor (BO) and they can't smell themselves, would they be able to make a bracha?

I also wonder: May they say words of Torah?

If I'd gone jogging in mid-morning, and was meeting an important minister in mid-afternoon, I wouldn't just change. I'd also shower: even though I normally don't notice it, jogging does makes me smell. Before saying blessings to the King of Kings, and before discussing His laws, must I shower?

Please cite sources.

Related: "Near a bad smell, one might want to do Sh'ma, the Amidah, blessings, loud study, or silent study. Is halacha equally strict about all five?"

share|improve this question
3  
Is BO a bad odor WRT Torah? It's my impression that it's decay, not sweat, that is the issue. Also, for what it's worth everyone smelled strongly in earlier times. –  yitznewton Apr 15 '12 at 20:43
3  
Why would this be a problem? –  Yaakov Kuperman Apr 15 '12 at 20:59
1  
Well if they do not smell themselves then they do not know they have body odor, then they will not be asking this question? –  Gershon Gold Apr 16 '12 at 13:47
1  
Can you please clarify why you think this might (or might not) be an issue? You may not say words of Torah around exposed or olfactorily detectable feces. Otherwise I believe, as others have stated, the only issue would be concentration during prayer. –  Seth J Apr 16 '12 at 15:57
    
@SethJ and YaakovKuperman: Thank you for your comments. In response, I've edited the question. –  unforgettableid Apr 30 '12 at 18:58
show 4 more comments

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+50

The sefer Semeichim Leshomro asks if a person with BO may pray.

The author answers:

  • He may pray. The odor probably comes from a lack of washing, not from excrement. Since he is probably used to his own smell, based on the Mishna Brura (86:1), there wouldn't be a problem.

But wait. It seems to me personally:

  • This Mishna Brura implies the opposite: that the criteria for smell is not just what he himself is bothered by, but actually what others are bothered by. You see, it says that to pray, "one must separate himself from a smelly pit as far as excrement. [However], this is true only if it smells so badly that people are bothered by the smell".
share|improve this answer
    
Maybe dinonline.org/2010/06/15/davening-in-freshly-painted-place sheds light on the problem that you raise. –  unforgettableid May 1 '12 at 2:29
    
I don't have a good sense of smell. Does BO count as just "unpleasant"? Or does it count as "very foul"? –  unforgettableid May 1 '12 at 2:30
    
Thank you for your answer. I've offered a bigger bounty, which you might get if you improve your answer enough. (Or you might not get it. Maybe someone else will write a better answer than yours.) –  unforgettableid Jul 10 '12 at 21:51
    
the link to Semeichim Leshomro doesn't seem to be working –  Menachem Jul 4 '13 at 20:45
    
R' Yaakov Sasson seems to agree one's own perceptions don't matter. He writes: "One may not pray or speak words of Torah in a place where there is an offensive odor such as in the presence of a sewer leak, in a place where there are fields fertilized with animal manure, or in the presence of a child with a dirty diaper. "Even if the specific individual wanting to pray does not smell the offensive odor, so long as other people do, he may not pray there." (Emphasis mine.) –  unforgettableid Jul 5 '13 at 19:07
add comment

The issue is whether the smell bothers you, and will ruin your concentration.

Eruvin 65a says that R. Samuel did not pray in a house that contained beer, because the smell bothered him. And R. Papa did not pray in a house that contained fish.

So, if your BO isn't gross to you, it shouldn't be a problem.

share|improve this answer
    
that may be lechumra, not lekula –  Shmuel Brin Nov 7 '13 at 2:41
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.