On shabbat for shacharit and mussaf, I am usually still davening shmoneh esre by the time the chazzan gets to kedusha. In this situation, can I hum to the tune of kedusha?

This essentially boils down to: At what point does use of your voice for something other than shmoneh esre in the middle of shmoneh esre become a hefsek?

Is saying "oyoyoy" in places where you're not allowed to speak (e.g. Shemoneh Esreh) a hefsek (interruption)? Does it make a difference that it doesn't have any consonant sounds (in which case "oyoyoy" would be permitted and "aididididi" forbidden)?

  • Since one stops for kedusha anyway, why not?
    – yoel
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 5:33
  • 1
    You could generalize to all kinds of things: humming while waiting for motzi, the chazzan humming in between words, humming during leining etc.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 17:11
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    In birkas kohanim, it is customary for the kohanim to sing/hum/lai-lai while the tzibbur says the prayers that begin "Ribono shel Olam". That is evidently not a hefsek. I don't know if you can extrapolate from it to your case. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 20:21
  • @AvrohomYitzchok I wouldn't be so confident. The Biur Halacha tries to justify that practice here but leaves it in a Tzarich Iyun.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 5:20
  • No, its obviously improper to hum in the midddle of shemoneh esrei, whether or not it's a hefsek!
    – Ariel K
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 6:06

3 Answers 3


Shu"t Shevet haLevi (V:16) divides this into 3 parts:

  1. If the singing is done together with the words of tefilla, this is considered part of tefilla and a kiyum of lezamer leshimcha elyon.
  2. Other times, music is considered separate from the tefilla. For example, the nigun is separated from the words and is "too long" or it's not for the davener's tefilla enhancement, but to get the congregation "into it".
  3. In all cases, a nigun without dibur is not considered a hefsek to have to repeat shemona esre.

To sum up: While the chazzan may sing during recitation of the kedusha (and may be a good thing as well), one who isn't davening should not hum. B'd'eved, though it's not a hefsek.


Igrot Moshe (OC 3:8) discusses reciting English translations during prayers. He says:

ול"ד לניגונים בעלמא שאף שנשמע כעין הברה כיון שאין לההברה שום כוונת דבור אינו הפסק.‏
And it is not similar to regular tunes [niggunim] for even though they sound like phonemes, since the phoneme is in no way intended to be speech, it is not an interruption.


Divrei Chaim blogspot bases his words on Rabbi Wahrman. He says, there is a well known machlokes between Rashi and Tosfos (Brachos 21) regarding what to do if one is in the middle of shmoneh esrei and the tzibur is saying kedusha. Rashi writes that one should remain silent and simply attend to the recitation of the tzibur -- based on the principle of shome'a k'oneh, hearing can substitute for actually saying the words. Tosfos disagrees. If hearing is equivalent to saying the words, then listening to the words of kedusha would be no less a hefsek, an interruption, than actually reciting the words themselves. According to Rashi, obviously this is not the case -- there is a distinction between a recitation done aloud and recitation done quietly or by listening.

He then goes on to explain why "Baruch shem..." that we say after the first Posuk of Krias Shema is not a hefsek. Based on the Tzlach , he suggests that there is no problem of creating an interruption because we say, "Baruch shem..." quietly. “In other words, a quiet recitation, a recitation that is different in tone than the normal tefilah voice, (my emphasis) does not constitute a hefsek.”

"This is exactly the point Rashi and the Rokeach were making. Through shome'a k'oneh listening counts the same as a recitation of kedusha, but since that recitation takes place silently, it does not count as an interruption."

Perhaps we can extend his idea a little to include the humming.

On the other hand, at least for the first brachah of Shmone Esrei see this OC 101:1. “In addition, one must not think other thoughts during the first brachah of Shmone Esrei, even when not actually saying the words. According to some poskim, those thoughts may constitute a hefsek which may invalidate the brachah - see Mishnah Berurah 63:13 and Biur Halachah 101:1 quoting the Rashba and Igros Moshe OC 5:5.”

It’s a clear CYLOR.

  • Rabbi Silver's extrapolation from listening to reciting quietly hardly seems compelling. First of all, the standard interpretation of Rashi is that shome'a' k'oneh does not literally mean that hearing has all of the same properties as reciting. Rather, the person hearing is equivalent to the person reciting in terms of having discharged his obligation, but only physically reciting would constitute a hefsek....
    – Fred
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 18:30
  • Secondly, regardless of the mechanism that you attribute to Rashi, there does not seem to be a precedent for comparing listening to quiet speaking. It is quite a stretch to interpret the Tzlach's actual words that way. R' Silver's extremely novel approach to talking as a non-hefsek should not be applied as practical halacha without, at least, serious consideration. Also, note the final line of the Divrei Chaim blog post: "R' Wahrman notes that his rebbe said this derech derush."
    – Fred
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 18:35

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