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If one has to choose between the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests) and the mitzvah of davening in a minyan, which takes priority? Like in Halacha, if you have to choose between staying home to welcome guests or going out (where you won’t be able to take in guests) to pray with a minyan, which one should you choose?

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    ילקוט שמעוני בראשית י"ח:ג אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב, גְּדוֹלָה הַכְנָסַת אוֹרְחִים מֵהַקְבָּלַת פְּנֵי שְׁכִינָה, דִּכְתִיב, וַיֹּאמֶר אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אַל נָא תַעֲבֹר מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר, בֹּא וּרְאֵה שֶׁלֹּא כְּמִדַּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם, מִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם אֵין קָטָן אוֹמֵר לְגָדוֹל הַמְתֵּן עַד שֶׁאָבֹא אֶצְלְךָ, אֲבָל בְּהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כְּתִיב אַל נָא תַעֲבֹר מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.
    – Nahum
    Jan 12 at 16:34
  • @Nahum That Midrash makes the answer pretty obvious: If Avraham Avinu did it, it's the right thing to do.
    – MichoelR
    Jan 16 at 22:45

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Short answer: When a genuine case of hachnassas orchim comes at the expense of tefillah betzibbur, hachnassas orchim takes precedence.


If one is busy with guests in a way that is a fulfillment of hachnassas orchim, pausing or stopping this in order for tefillah - or tefillah betzibur - would be subject to the regular laws of עוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה - a general rule that someone who is in the middle of performing a mitzvah does not stop for another.

In a situation where one has not begun the mitzvah and is faced with making a decision to prioritize tefillah betzibur or hachnasas orchim, the sefer Tefillah KeHilchasah (8:23) writes that hachnassas orchim takes precedence.

גדולה הכנסת אורחים מקבלת פני השכינה ומהשבמת בית המדרש. על כן מי שנזדמנו לו אורחים הצריכים כעת לטיפולו והם כבר התפללו יעסוק בהם אעפ"י שיפסיד תפילה בציבור, ובפרט כשהאורח עלול להפגע כשיניחוהו לבדו.

His position is based upon a ruling of the Chafetz Chaim in his sefer Ahavas Chessed (Chelek 3). [See my comments at the end of this answer]

In a footnote, Tefilla KeHilchasa quotes a ruling from R' Shlomo Zalman Aurebach (in responsa to the author) that if the guests will not be slighted, he can go to daven and tend to his guests post-prayer. However, if there is a risk of offending them, hachnassas orchim takes precedence.

Another important source is Shach (YD 242, Hanhagos Issur vHeter 3), where he categorizes all kavod orchim as shaas hadchak regarding all leniences:

ושעת הדחק היינו דוקא במקום הפסד מרובה או בהפסד מועט לעני בדבר חשוב או לעשיר לכבוד שבת ויום טוב או לכבוד אורחים.

However, it is important to note that not every situation of entertaining visitors constitutes hachnassas orchim. See Rema (OC 333-1) that entertaining dinner guests is not 'hachnassas orchim':

וכל שבות שהתירו משום צורך מצוה מותר גם כן לצורך אורחים ולא מקרי אורחים אלא שנתארחו אצלו בביתו או שזימן אורחים שנתארחו אצל אחרים (תרומת הדשן סימן ע"ב) אבל כשזימן חבירו לסעוד אצלו לא מקרי אורחים

See also Pischei Teshuva (YD 69:11).


Note 1: The ruling of Ahavas Chessed upon which Tefillah KeHilchasa bases his ruling is regarding Torah study, which is generaly subject to different rules of priority than other mitzvos. Despite being considered תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם, one must disrupt Torah study to perform any mitzvah that is not possible to be done by someone else. I would personally be hesitant to draw any parrallels to other mitzvos. However, the Chafetz Chaim seems to also base his ruling on the statement of Chazal (Shabbos 127a) - 'גדולה הכנסת אורחים כהשכמת בית המדרש, ור' דימי מנהרדעא אמר יותר מהשכנת בית המדרש', and the subsequent statement 'יותר מקבלת פני השכינה', which may apply to tefillah betzibbur too. I have seen other sefarim who also apply this Ahavas Chessed to tefillah betzibbur

Note 2: Ahavas Chessed (cited above) limits his ruling to situations where nobody else is available to perform the hachnassas orchim, or to distinguished visitors where it is appropriate to host personally rather than delegate to family members. I didn't cite this above, because I think his reasoning would be limited to Talmud Torah.

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  • This is very relevant if you have older people over on Friday night in the summer. It can be hard for them to not make kiddish as early as possible.
    – Heshy
    Jan 16 at 23:33

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