If one is in middle of Shemoneh Esrei (which is the only part of Tefillah, I could think of where there might be a problem), and there is a life to be saved, is he/she allowed to interrupt the Tefillah in order to go save the life?

  • 1
    I think Krias Shema would have the same implications.
    – Tzvi
    May 8, 2011 at 3:05
  • @Tzvi How so? -
    – yydl
    May 8, 2011 at 3:07
  • 11
    What's your hava amina to say that it's different from any other non-big-three, non-shmad-situation Mitzva?
    – Isaac Moses
    May 8, 2011 at 4:22
  • 6
    My hava amina was coming from the snake in the gemarah (where one cannot be mafsik). Upon further research, though, it's talking about a non-poisonous snake...
    – yydl
    May 8, 2011 at 4:38
  • Allowed?! Obliged, I should say. Nov 18, 2012 at 19:50

3 Answers 3


If Pikuach Nefesh pushes off the restrictions of Shabbos, all the more so it pushes off those of Tefila.

  • 3
    Can you explain the kal vachomer ("for sure")?
    – yydl
    May 8, 2011 at 3:31
  • 6
    @yydl: Shabbat is d'oraita, but the specific halachot of tefillah are all d'rabbanan.
    – Chanoch
    May 8, 2011 at 15:57
  • @Chanoch - Not all are derabbanan. Jul 20, 2012 at 20:24
  • @Adam: He asked about shemoneh esreh specifically. What's d'oraita there that would be a problem?
    – Chanoch
    Jul 22, 2012 at 11:35

A famous halachic rule of thumb:

If someone has to ask his rabbi on questions of ordinary halacha (not murder or the like) vs. any matter of life or limb, shame on the person asking (duh, go save a life!), and shame on the rabbi who should have made that abundantly clear long ago.

So let's get this straight. If a question comes up about violating mitzva X vs. saving life or limb, ask yourself the following four questions about mitzva X:

  • Is it murder?
  • Is it worshipping idols?
  • Is it a major sexual violation, such as adultery or incest?
  • Is it giving in to mass attempts to stamp out Judaism?

If you've answered "no" to all four of these questions, hang up the phone and dial 911 (or do whatever else needs to be done).

Are we clear here?

  • 2
    There is also the case of Chilul Hashem. Even if its not a mass attempt, if soemone is forcing a Jew to sin (for the sake of sinning) in front of 10 Jews, it is also Yehareg v'al y'avor.
    – Ariel K
    Sep 12, 2011 at 15:33
  • @Ariel K, I chose the phrase "hang up the phone and dial 911" as often you'll hear it on automated answering systems. In most cases where someone isn't on the phone (they'd better not be on the phone when davening, and now asking if they can interrupt to save a life), they should go pick one up to dial 911.
    – Shalom
    Sep 12, 2011 at 15:41

I heard a hidush on the name of rav ovadia, in case someone is doing shemona esre by heart and in the middle can't remember some part, if there's no sidur in reach he can walk get the sidur, go back to his place and continue, since leaving the place is miderabanan and beracha levatala is mideoraita.

in this case I think you could leave your place do whatever necessary, go back and continue. all of course if you didn't speak. if you did speak that would be more complicated.

also I don't know if asheknezim poskim if beracha levatala is deoraita and if it would make a difference

  • Your halacha is true, but would not answer the question above. In your case there is no interuption of tefila. In the question, he is interrupting for a different matter.
    – YDK
    May 9, 2011 at 13:06
  • what I mean is that is he doesn't interrupt by speaking he could continue
    – Avraham
    May 10, 2011 at 12:46

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