"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?"

  • 5
    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
    Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 20:43
  • 3
    Why would this be a problem? Commented Apr 15, 2012 at 20:59
  • 2
    Well if they do not smell themselves then they do not know they have body odor, then they will not be asking this question? Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 13:47
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    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
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 15:57
  • @SethJ and YaakovKuperman: Thank you for your comments. In response, I've edited the question. Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


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".
  • Maybe dinonline.org/2010/06/15/davening-in-freshly-painted-place sheds light on the problem that you raise. Commented May 1, 2012 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"? Commented May 1, 2012 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.) Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 21:51
  • the link to Semeichim Leshomro doesn't seem to be working
    – Menachem
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 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.) Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 19:07

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.

  • that may be lechumra, not lekula Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 2:41

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