Some time ago, I was sitting on a NYC subway train on my way to work. A frum guy approached me and asked if I would mind moving as I was sitting in his "makom kavu'ah" (designated place).

I was astounded. As this was the train's first stop, and the train was empty (it always is at this stop), I told him that there were plenty of other seats and, as I understood, there was no such thing as a "makom kavuah" for commuting on the subway. The guy explained that he recites Tehillim on his trip, and this is a form of davening, and he needs my specific seat. In brief, I didn't budge, and he sat somewhere else.

To simplify my question, I won't address the claim that reciting Tehillim when it's not part of Shacharit or other tefillah would still be considered "davening". Perhaps, it is, but I'll leave that for some other question.

As I understand it, the "makom kavuah" is only in a shul or one's home or some other private dwelling and applies only for tefillah. Regardless, I understand that there can not be a "makom kavuah" in a public place such as a subway where 1st to occupy a seat gets it. Likewise, if you were to daven by sitting on a park bench in a public park, you could not claim that bench is your "makom kavu'ah".

Am I assuming correctly, or can a public spot really be a "makom kavu'ah"?

  • 1
    Weeeird... well, you can start with the fact that, if I understand correctly, makom is within 4 amos, so the adjacent seats would also be OK. But in a scenario when someone asks me to do something I think is crazy, and it doesn't inconvenience me, I usually do it unless I actually object in principle.
    – yitznewton
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 17:32
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    @yitznewton - Weirdness exists in numerous forms on the NYC subway ... It was a combo of a bit of inconvenience (I like to sit in my "subway commuting makom kavu'ah"), and I was a bit scared that if this guy starts riding the same train daily and I relent, I may create a bad precedent. I.e. - I think the guy was creating an excuse for sitting in that spot. But, that's separate from my question...
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 17:40
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    Are you asking vis-a-vis his obligation qua tefilla or his right to kick you out?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 17:48
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    @DoubleAA - I THINK I see that you're attempting to expand the question to whether someone is allowed to kick away someone who is occupying your makom kavu'ah for a legitimate Makom Kavu'ah. Separate question. I am more curious if there are any rights of a makom kavu'ah in the 1st place in any public area. If there is none, then, obviously, he has no rights to kick me out.
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 17:56
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    Not an answer, but: (1) Why should the subway (a place anyone can get into for a fee but which belongs to some public or semipublic entity) be different from a synagogue (a place anyone can get into free but which belongs to a nonprofit)? (2) (a) Is it really a "makom kavua" if it moves? (b) Perhaps if he sits two seats forward of his usual spot, he'll be in the same makom (but a moment earlier).
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 7:13

2 Answers 2


This is a post in progress, as time permits, based on research מקום קבוע on Sefaria

In Tur O"C 90 there may be a basis for saying Tehilim in the same location since we see he quotes King David, as per Yerushalmi (and not Avraham like the Bavli) coming back to the same location:

ויקבע מקום לתפלתו שלא ישנהו אם לא לצורך גדול (ס"א לצורך מצוה) דאמר רב הונא כל הקובע מקום לתפלתו אלהי אברהם בעזרו ואין די לו במה שיקבע לו ב"ה להתפלל בה תדיר אלא גם בב"ה שקובע בה צריך שיהיה מקומו קבוע וידוע ולא ישב היום כאן ולמחר במקום אחר דהכי אתמר בירושלמי א"ר תנחום בר חייא צריך אדם לייחד לו מקום בב"ה שנאמר (שמואל ב' ט"ו ל"ב) ויהי דוד בא עד הראש אשר ישתחוה שם השתחו' לא נאמר אלא ישתחו' משמע שהיה תדיר משתחוה שם ‏

According to Redak he wasn't davening - and it was a public location.

,אשר ישתחוה שם. שהיה רצונו שישתחוה שם כמו שאמר עולה במעלה הזיתים ועשה כן לפי שהיה נפרד ממקום המקדש ולא היה יודע אם ישוב עוד כאדם הלוקח רשות מאוהבו בגלותו‏

Rashi similialry:

אשר ישתחוה שם לאלהים. אשר היה רגיל להשתחות שם כשהיה בא לירושלים, היה רואה משם את האהל שהארון בתוכו, והיה משתחוה:‏

In Shabbos 81b we find other instances of Makom Kavua; for his meals and his lavatory.

בעא מיניה רבה בר רב שילא מרב פ״א ב חסדא מהו להעלותם אחריו לגג אמר ליה גדול כבוד הבריות שדוחה את לא תעשה שבתורה יתיב מרימר וקאמר לה להא שמעתא איתיביה רבינא למרימר רבי אליעזר אומר נוטל אדם קיסם משלפניו לחצות בו שיניו וחכמים אומרים לא יטול אלא מן האבוס של בהמה הכי השתא התם אדם קובע מקום לסעודה הכא אדם קובע מקום לבית הכסא

And also in O"C 312:1 it refers to the latter.

The Aruch Hashulchan 90:23 makes a few points:

  • Same building. Are all the subway cars identical for this matter?
  • Same location in building. Not every agrees to this. S"A O"C 90:19 does agree.

    יקבע מקום לתפלתו שלא ישנהו אם לא לצורך ואין די במה שיקבע לו ב"ה להתפלל אלא גם בב"ה שקבוע בה צריך שיהיה לו מקום קבוע:‏

  • Within 4 Amos you are in your Makom Kavua
  • You may change if there's a great need or you are forced to

לעולם יקבע אדם מקום קבוע לתפילתו, והיינו שיתפלל תמיד במקום אחד. כלומר: הן לענין הבית שיתפלל תמיד בבית הכנסת זה או בבית המדרש זה, ולא פעם בזה ופעם בזה. והן במקום המיוחד באותו הבית שמתפלל – יתפלל תמיד במקום מיוחד, ולא פעם במזרח ופעם בדרום וכיוצא בזה. וגם כשמתפלל בביתו – יתפלל תמיד במקום אחד. וכל ארבע אמות הוי כמקום אחד שאי אפשר לצמצם. ואברהם אבינו קבע מקום לתפילתו, דכתיב: "אל המקום אשר עמד שם...". ולכן לא ישנה מקומו אלא לצורך גדול, או כשמוכרח לעשות כן. ויש מראשונים שאמרו דבבית הכנסת אין חילוק באיזה מקום, כיון דכולו הוא מקום תפילה (תוספות ר"י פרק ראשון). ובירושלמי פרק רביעי דברכות מבואר לא כן, דגרסינן שם: אמר רבי תנחום: צריך אדם ליחד לו מקום בבית הכנסת, דכתיב: "ויהי דוד בא עד הראש, אשר ישתחוה שם". "השתחוה" לא נאמר אלא "ישתחוה", שהיה תדיר משתחוה שם. וכן פסקו הטור והשולחן ערוך סעיף י"ט.‏

  • Hi Danny. I'm awarding the bounty "in advance", as I don't have the time to analyze this in detail, now. But, it seems comprehensive and quite fascinating. IY"H, I'll view it tomorrow. Thanks for the great research.
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 1:18

Heard from my rav last night:

The concept of "makom kavu'ah" came from Avraham in Breishit 13:3-4 where Avraham returned to the same place to daven. This was a public place, so, apparently a public place can be a Makom Kavu'ah.

Having said this, my rav was skeptical, though not definite that a subway car can be come a makom kavu'ah as it is not the same train every day.

Comments welcome...

  • I assume there's a difference from a normal public place, where it doesn't affect anyone where you are, to a train where you'd bother someone to change places.
    – user613
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 13:30
  • I see a conflation of a ritualistic concept and a civil matter. From your question it seems like you’re asking about the latter. And, WADR to your rav, his answer is akin to a Chashuke Chemed (R. Zilberstien) answer; not a serious ruling based in halachic sources. One can easily argue that Avraham returned to his place where he set up an altar and can therefore presume he acquired the lot which then would be regarded as a private domain.
    – Oliver
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 16:13
  • @Oliver Actually, my focus is more on the halachic aspect of whether the concept of maqom qavuah applies to public spaces and outside of tefillah or learning. Whether civil courtesy matters is just as applicable in shul as it would be elsewhere. (E.g. Boca Raton, FL shul policy is that if you want your spot, get there early. You don't ask anyone else to vacate for you.) I'd like to get a link to R. Zilberstein's opinion, if you have it.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 16:21
  • @user613 No, the fgact that the train moves is not the issue. According to the rav, a train cannot be a maqom qavuah because it can't be qavuah no matter hat you do b/c either you're not getting on at the same time each day, and even if you were, it's not the same physical train each day, either.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 16:24

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