Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
With davening, the offering of prayers to Almighty G-d, taking place mostly from our homes these days due to the COVID-19 virus restrictions in place, I offer the following guidelines of halacha (Jewish law) helping to direct us to the most appropriate and respectful settings for the offering of prayers.
The place chosen to daven should face east as the davener keeps Jerusalem in one’s heart and thoughts.
When possible, one should choose a location in one’s home where the davener will be free from any likely or conspicuous distractions. Davening near a television, radio, or source of music that is typically on (or likely to be turned on while one is davening) would make davening in that place a challenge for maintaining one’s focus and concentration.
In similar fashion, if a family member IS davening near any of the aforementioned potential causes for distraction, the respectful and polite conduct for OTHER family members is to NOT turn on the source of distraction while his/her family member is davening. That person should wait for the davener to finish or wait for a point in the prayers when the davener could speak and either indicate how much longer he/she will be davening or his/her wishes concerning the use of the TV/radio/music source.
When possible, one should say choose a place to daven that ideally is in front of a wall, post, or pillar but mindful of choosing a location that is not in front of a picture, a person’s portrait, a statue, any other form of a person’s image, and certainly not in front of a mirror.
Davening in front of a window is not recommended as one can easily be distracted by any actions or goings-on that can be readily seen through the window.
As a family member is davening, others should be mindful not to walk in front of someone davening and if possible, not closely behind the person as well.
If there is a family pet such as a dog or cat, the davener should choose a place where he/she would not see or be approached by the animal and certainly, IF APPROACHED by the animal, NOT touch the pet while davening. If, for any reason, the davener DID touch the animal during the time of davening, he/she should rinse his/her fingers before continuing to daven.
The location chosen to daven should be away from a bathroom and if possible, away from the kitchen. Fragrant aromas emanating from the kitchen or less than pleasant odors potentially coming from the bathroom make that location a place where the davener will be distracted by the smells challenging his/her focus and concentration.
Similarly, one should not choose a location that is close to a garbage can or from where a garbage receptacle would be directly visible to the davener.
In general, if the place chosen lends itself to natural distractions such as a table where magazines are displayed, the front or back doors from which people enter the home, a play area where children come together and make noise, one should choose a more appropriate location.
G-d willing, we hope to be back in our beloved shul (where, by the way, these same guidelines help direct us to the most focused davenng), where by its very nature and set-up, we tend to be able to better focus and concentrate on the prayers we say.
Until we are together again, I invite everyone to participate in my twice weekly on-line shiur (class) on Sunday and Wednesday evenings via Zoom and I wish everyone to remain healthy, safe, and secure.
With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin