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, 2017 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, 2018 at 6:55
  • @DoubleAA, if they can pray while holding the child, why would they be exempt from praying?!?
    – Rafael
    Sep 4, 2019 at 22:53
  • 1
    @Rafael because holding something is distracting! You can't pray while distracted. Maybe someone can manage to say all the words while juggling torches, but that's not prayer!!!!
    – Double AA
    Sep 4, 2019 at 22:54
  • @DoubleAA, because they can't have so much kavanah, they can't daaven? If so, if a person is very tired they should be exempt!
    – Rafael
    Sep 4, 2019 at 22:57

4 Answers 4


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, 2017 at 14:12
  • @robev I was addressing your first question only, not the more case-specific points afterward.
    – msh210
    Aug 20, 2017 at 15:43
  • I only have one question, the rest are reasons to say yea or nay...
    – robev
    Aug 20, 2017 at 15:51

During Shemona Esrei it is not allowed (see O:CH 96-1, M:B-4). If the child is crying and you are in middle of davening, you can sign to him to try to get him to stop without talking out, but if that doesn’t work and his crying is disturbing you, you can go somewhere that the child will not disturb you (Sharei Teshuva 104-1). If need be, you can also walk over to the child and quiet him without talking out (Tefila Khilchos 12 footnote 200 in the name of R’S. Z. Auerbach zt”l).

Regarding the other parts of davening, see M:B 96-1, who brings the Pri Megadim that we may also not hold something in our hands during Pesukei D’zimra and Shema, (See Ishei Yisroel 11 ftnt. 64 in the name of Horav C. Kanievsky shlit”a). Other poskim say that women may hold a child during Pesukei D’zimra and Shema, but not during Shemona Esrei.

These halachos do not apply to the other parts of davening.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. As you can see in my original question, I already brought some of the information that you posted. As such, I don't quite see what you added to the discussion. I do see the line "Other poskim say that women may hold a child during Pesukei D’zimra and Shema, but not during Shemona Esrei." beng the most relevant, as you say there are those that explicitly discuss holding a baby, and for some reason differentiate between a father or mother. Could you please clarify who these other poskim are and where they address this?
    – robev
    Apr 29, 2020 at 18:01

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, 2017 at 20:34
  • I don't see anything in the question about a shul
    – Double AA
    Aug 20, 2017 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, 2017 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, 2017 at 20:55

I heard from a Rabbi that it is permitted to hold a baby who will cry when put down. Holding the child is a lessor distraction than the child’s cries. This would be especially true for mothers who otherwise would not pray at all.

  • Why pray if distracted? They're exempt
    – Double AA
    Sep 4, 2019 at 15:51

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