A Chabad Rabbi said for a case where the urge was minor that one can delay until finishing the Aleinu.

What is the law for those who follow a litvishe minhag? Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff in “Prayer by Non Angels” says that when we finish a section of tefillos we must use the restroom.

If the urge begins in the middle of Shmona Esrei, may one continue until finishing Aleinu? Does this depend based upon the type of need, as often it could be just nervousness?

  • Welcome my almost namesake. I edited your question to depersonalise it, because personal shaalos are not on topic here and the question has already attracted two close votes. But you can reverse the edit if you wish. Jun 10 '20 at 18:33
  • It's definitely not a good idea to hold back for a long time: sefaria.org/Berakhot.25a.2?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en Jun 10 '20 at 18:43
  • Otherwise start reading here: he.wikisource.org/wiki/… Jun 10 '20 at 18:48
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    Out of curiosity, what would be any different with the Shimonei Esrei for Shacharit?
    – Josh K
    Jun 10 '20 at 23:36

R Eliezer Melamed answers your question (in Peninei Halacha Prayer 5:8)

If a person begins to recite the Amidah when he cannot control his need to defecate for 72 minutes, his prayer is considered an abomination and he does not fulfill his obligation. Instead, he must go back and repeat his prayer after he relieves himself. [...]

If a person is able to control himself for 72 minutes, and he recites the Amidah, his prayer is considered valid because his need to relieve himself is not so urgent. In any case, l’chatchilah, even a person who can wait 72 minutes is prohibited from praying. [...]

If he thought before the prayer service that he could wait 72 minutes, but after beginning to pray he was proven mistaken, his prayer is still considered valid, since at the time he started to pray he believed he could contain his need

See the original for sources, rationale and other cases.

  • I don't think this addresses the original question: If he started Amidah and then realized the need.
    – MichoelR
    Nov 4 '21 at 14:40
  • @MichoelR A person should check himself before prayer and go to the bathroom if he needs to. If a need emerges during the tefila, his prayer is still valid (see the additional source at the end of the article I quoted - which I will add above for further clarity)
    – mbloch
    Nov 4 '21 at 14:51
  • I agree, I was just pointing out what the original question was.
    – MichoelR
    Nov 5 '21 at 21:24

The Gemara says:

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: הָיָה עוֹמֵד בִּתְפִלָּה וּמַיִם שׁוֹתְתִין עַל בִּרְכָּיו — פּוֹסֵק עַד שֶׁיִּכְלוּ הַמַּיִם וְחוֹזֵר וּמִתְפַּלֵּל. לְהֵיכָן חוֹזֵר? רַב חִסְדָּא וְרַב הַמְנוּנָא, חַד אָמַר חוֹזֵר לָרֹאשׁ, וְחַד אָמַר: לְמָקוֹם שֶׁפָּסַק

The Sages taught in a baraita: One who was standing in prayer when, for some reason, urine is flowing on his knees, he must interrupt his prayer until the urine ceases, and then resume praying. The Gemara, asks: To where in the prayer does he return when he resumes his prayer? Rav Chisda and Rav Hamnuna disagreed; one said: He must return to the beginning of the prayer, and the other said: He must return to the point where he stopped. [Berachot 22b]

The last opinion is codified in Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 78:1.

I would conclude that it is best to go to the bathroom BEFORE starting the prayer; but if you didn't, do as it says above.

Yevamot 62b notes that Rav Huna’s speeches were so drawn out that Rav Sheshet became impotent because he waited too long before relieving himself. I hope we don't have to go that far today.

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    I assume the question is rather asking about ex ante than ex post... Jun 11 '20 at 5:54
  • The rambam(if I recall, from the gemara) says that someone who does not go before and must go in middle is called a sinner.
    – Sam
    Aug 18 '20 at 18:09

There's a good summary of the relevant issues and opinions at https://shulchanaruchharav.com/halacha/using-the-bathroom-in-middle-of-davening/. The focus is mainly on the opinion of the Baal Hatanya (and the Lubavitcher rav that you asked almost certainly followed his opinion), but at the end it cites the opinion of the Mishnah Berurah, which is normative for Litvaks:

...according to the Mishneh Berurah, one who feels a need to urinate or defecate, must always do so prior to beginning Birchas Shema, or Shemoneh Esrei, unless she can withhold himself for a Shiur Parsa.

The article doesn't discuss the parts of davening after Shemoneh Esrei, but presumably the same considerations would apply there as before Baruch She'amar.


The Steipler in Kreina Digrasa 1:375 (quoting the Ashel Avrom) writes that as long as the long as the urge will pass (even momentarily) if you don't focus on it, you should just ignore it. Which would probably be the case if it starts right in middle of Shemona Esrey.

Although the Steipler was clearly responding to someone who had OCD and the question was about Ba'al Tsaktzu (the actual question was what to do about frequently feeling the urge when being the chazan) he makes the comment that it is proper for everyone to follow that guidance.

Ask your LOR is this halacha l'maaseh

  • "someone who had OCD" Yup. This is one of those issues where people can make themselves crazy. The Steipler is giving a useful guideline for not doing that.
    – MichoelR
    Nov 4 '21 at 14:42

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