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If one is in a dark place where he can’t read the siddur without artificial light and there are no other lights available, would he be permitted to hold a smartphone, while occasionally pressing it so that the screen doesn’t go dark, in order to shed light on the siddur that he is davening Shemoneh esrei from, or would this be forbidden on account of holding something other than a siddur during Shemoneh esrei

  • The smartphone doesn’t have a siddur? – Alex Sep 4 at 1:14
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    Why not? However most smartphones have a flashlight feature so that you can just turn it on and use it without having to keep touching the screen. – sabbahillel Sep 4 at 1:15
  • There are people who daven three times a day on smartphones. It's not a practice I'm wild about, but if leniency is extended to using a smartphone instead of a siddur, I can't fathom how it would be an issue to use a smartphone to see an actual printed siddur – Josh K Sep 4 at 1:27
  • @Josh K because when someone davens from an iphone, the iphone is the siddur. Here he is holding a siddur in addition to an iphone. – user19718 Sep 4 at 1:32
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I think it's pretty clearly מותר. The הלכה is (ש"ע א"ח צו:א) that one should not hold objects during שמנה עשרי because he will be worried that he might drop them and it therefore disturbs his concentration. However, holding a סידור is permitted (צו:ב) because it's a need of the תפילה. Holding a smartphone for light should be no different; since it's a need of the תפילה one may hold it during שמנה עשרי.

However, I would like to point out from a practical standpoint that this is not such a good case. Most smartphones have flashlights, eliminating the need to tap the screen (or can be set so the screen never times out), and many smartphones also have סידורים (although I'm not certain if that would be preferred). What I wrote applies in a case it's actually necessary for the תפילה.

  • I don't see how it is permitted, based on those Halakhot, as there is still the worry that it will drop and become damaged, and one also has to keep maintaining it's position so it lights the Siddur, thus diverting their attention from praying. – Tamir Evan Sep 4 at 10:16
  • @TamirEvan, holding a siddur is also permitted even though one is concerned they may drop it. However, it if helps with the tefillah it is permitted. – Rafael Sep 4 at 11:17
  • The problem is that it doesn't just help, but also adds distractions (not just for fear of dropping it). How are you sure the help it provides outweighs the effect of the added distractions? How are you sure one can add helping distractions, beyond what is explicitly permitted? – Tamir Evan Sep 4 at 14:39
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    @TamirEvan, you are 100% right. Of course you should only use a smartphone light if it will improve your concentration, not detract from it. It just depends on the person. A siddur is not permitted to be held because of some gezeiras shavah; it is permissible because it is a need of the tefillah. If a smartphone light is a need of the tefillah, it is permitted. – Rafael Sep 4 at 18:57
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שולחן ערוך אורח חיים צו

כשהוא מתפלל לא יאחוז בידו תפילין ולא ספר מכתבי הקודש ולא קערה מלאה ולא סכין ומעות וככר מפני שלבו עליהם שלא יפלו ויטרד ותתבטל כוונתו...

משנה ברורה שם

ודוקא הני שאם יפלו יש בהם הפסד או יזיקו לו אבל שארי דברים מותר לאחוז וי"א דהני לאו דוקא...

Shulchan Aruch O"H 96

When praying, one should not hold Teffilin, a holy book, a full bowl, knife, coins or loaf because one is watching over it, so they will not fall, so he is distracted, and his focus is disturbed.

Mishna Brura, There

Specifically those, because if they will fall, they will be damaged or cause damage, but other object allowed, and others say, all objects are forbidden

So, for one opinion, it's obviously allowed, because the phone helps the prayer, not just not disturbing.(@Rafael's answer) IF IT'S ON FLIGHT MODE!!!, Otherwise, it's the biggest distraction exists.

About the other opinion (T"Z), it's source is the rule of not holding anything in front of you while praying:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים צז

הנושא משאוי על כתפיו והגיע זמן תפלה פחות מד' קבין מפשילו לאחוריו ומתפלל ד' קבין מניחם על גבי קרקע ומתפלל:

Shulchan Aruch, end of O"H 97

One who carries burden on his shoulders, and it's time to pray, if it's less then four kabin (small measure of volume), he passes it behind (on his back), if it's more, he puts it on the ground and pray.

The connotation of Shulchan Aruch paragraph 97 is "things you don't do while praying, since it's not honorable".

Is holding smartphone in front you is dishonorable? This question is valid even if we accept the first opinion on paragraph 96!

Some Rabbis consider it the tool of the devil. Some Rabbis might not like a tool made for conversions in praying, making it very dishonorable ,especially in shul. Some Rabbis might allow this.

Consult your Rabbi!!

---Advanced resolve---

1) The T"Z explains that any object held in front is problematic, not just burden. That can be argued.

2) Aiding the prayer might nullify the dishonor of holding an object while praying (makes perfect sense), but maybe not the dishonor of holding a smartphone during prayer (depends on the Rabbi, I guess).

  • "So, for one opinion, it's obviously allowed, because the phone helps the prayer, not just not disturbing". Where is that said or inferred above? Why does phone's usefulness override the lack of concentration it causes due to (a) fear of it dropping out of the hand and it becoming damaged, and (b) having to maintain it's position so it actually lights the Siddur? – Tamir Evan Sep 4 at 10:10
  • @TamirEvan, Well, the thing is the quality of one's prayer. If the prayer with the phone, together with the flaws that you mention, is still better then praying in the dark (or one can't pray at all at dark), it should be permitted. I agree that if one can pray latter with no distractions afterwards, it's better. – Alaychem Sep 4 at 10:45
  • If ... I don't see that it necessarily is better. – Tamir Evan Sep 4 at 10:57
  • @TamirEvan You are right, it's not. I assume that the settings is that its better, otherwise the subject wouldn't have done it. – Alaychem Sep 4 at 10:59

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