2

Sukkah 41b says a person shouldn't hold certain things while praying shemoneh esrei:

א"ל מר בר אמימר לרב אשי אבא צלויי קא מצלי ביה מיתיבי לא יאחז אדם תפילין בידו וספר תורה בחיקו ויתפלל...ואמר שמואל סכין וקערה ככר ומעות הרי אלו כיוצא בהן התם לאו מצוה נינהו וטריד בהו הכא מצוה נינהו ולא טריד בהו

Mar bar Ameimar said to Rav Ashi: My father would pray with the four species in his hand in an expression of his love for the mitzva. The Gemara raises an objection: A person should not hold phylacteries in his hand or a Torah scroll in his lap and pray while doing so...And Shmuel said: With regard to a knife, a bowl full of food, a loaf of bread, or money, these items are similar to those mentioned above. Why, then, is that not the case with regard to lulav? The Gemara answers: There, in the cases listed above, they are not related to performance of a mitzva, and he is preoccupied with them (which distracts his focus from his prayers). Here, in the case of the four species, they are related to performance of a mitzva, so he is not preoccupied with them (in a manner that will distract him from his prayers).

Rashi explains since he is concerned lest these items fall from his hand, he is distracted and he unable to concentrate on his prayers.

This is codified in the Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 5:5 and Shulchan Aruch 96:1. The Mechaber in Seif 2 adds that you can hold a prayer book since it is for the sake of the prayers.

My question is I occasionally see people holding their babies or little kids during prayers and I'm wondering if it's appropriate. The Mishnah Berurah in Seif Kattan 4 adds

וכתב בברכ"י דה"ה דאסור להושיב תינוק לפניו בשעת תפלה:

The Birkei Yosef writes that it is also prohibited to place a baby in front of you during prayers.

Now I could see a loose baby being more distracting than holding a baby, but a person is still concentrating to avoid dropping it. If it is a problem, I was wondering if these baby backpacks I've seen would be better (I suppose it would depend if a backpack is allowed).

Now there is the related point that often if the parent doesn't hold the child they'll start crying, which would be the highest distraction. Maybe it's allowed just like elsewhere where the MB says it's permissible to make gestures to a crying baby if it will help, even if it's normally prohibited, since the cries are distracting.

  • Maybe a parent actively watching a child is simply exempt from praying. The MB about gesturing is where you already started. – Double AA Aug 20 '17 at 4:11
  • In case any are reading, I'm pretty sure there are different laws for women in regards to this question. – SAH Apr 10 '18 at 6:55
2

My question is I occasionally see people holding their babies or little kids during prayers and I'm wondering if it's appropriate.

Per the sources you cite, no, it's inappropriate. (I seem to recall hearing the same from Rabbi Yisrael Reisman (Brooklyn, N.Y.), too, if you need a more recent source than the Shulchan Aruch.)

  • It wasn't clear to me how to put all the sources together, which is why I posted all of them. SA Seif 1 sounds assur but Seif 2 if you say not having the child cry is for the purpose of tefillah so maybe it could be like a siddur. The MB also seems to indicate you can do things to avoid distraction. I'm guessing Rabbi Reisman takes Seif 1 at face value? – robev Aug 20 '17 at 14:12
  • @robev I was addressing your first question only, not the more case-specific points afterward. – msh210 Aug 20 '17 at 15:43
  • I only have one question, the rest are reasons to say yea or nay... – robev Aug 20 '17 at 15:51
0

The Mishna Brurah (S. 98 s.k. 3) cites the opinion of the Shl"h (as well as the Machatzis Hashekel) that it is inappropriate to bring small children into shul in the first place, one of the reasons being that having them around is disruptive to those who are trying to concentrate on the prayers. It seems to me that this would apply to a baby as well, regardless of how you are holding him/her.

  • I wasn't asking if it's appropriate to have the kids in shul. This question assumes they're there, and if people holding them is an issue. – robev Aug 20 '17 at 20:34
  • I don't see anything in the question about a shul – Double AA Aug 20 '17 at 20:49
  • @robev "My question is I occasionally see people holding their babies or little kids during prayers and I'm wondering if it's appropriate". From the way your question is phrased, it certainly sounds like you are considering as a possibility that it is appropriate to hold a child in shul. It does not at all sound like the question takes for granted that something inappropriate is already being done by having them there (with the underlying problem being the same - distraction). – Jay Aug 20 '17 at 20:50
  • @DoubleAA "My question is I occasionally see people holding their babies or little kids during prayer" - I guess you understood this to be referring to private prayer? Regardless, the reason I cited applies outside of shul as well. – Jay Aug 20 '17 at 20:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .