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What do I do if I need to use the restroom while praying?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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It is important to pray to G-d with a clean body. Thus one is supposed to use the restroom before praying. In fact, it is forbidden to start praying if one feels the need to relieve himself.

That said, if in middle of praying the need arises anyway, one should interrupt, relieve himself, and pick up his prayers from where he was holding.

The only time when one must try to contain himself is in middle of the Amidah. If at all possible, one should try to hold out until the conclusion of the amidah. If one absolutely must defecate, he may leave in middle of the amidah. When returning, he resumes at the beginning of the blessing which was interrupted. If he interrupted somewhere in middle of the first three blessings (from the beginning of the amidah until the conclusion of the Atah Kadosh blessing) or last three blessings (from Retzay until after the Sim Shalom blessing) – which are halahically considered to be one unit – he would begin from the beginning of the unit (i.e. the beginning of the amidah or Retzay respectively).

This all is provided that the time spent in the lavatory wasn’t equal to the time it would take that individual to recite the entire amidah. If it was, then the person must start over from the beginning of the amidah.

The only time when one must try to contain himself is in middle of the amidah. If at all possible, one should try to hold out until the conclusion of the amidah
Two issues which arise when one uses the facilities in middle of prayer are a) the recitation of the Asher Yatzar blessing,1   and, in the case of the Shacharit prayers, b) the re-donning of the Tallit and Tefillin and the recitation of the appropriate tefillin blessing(s).2

a) The following areas of prayer cannot be interrupted in order to recite the Asher Yatzar blessing:
• During the Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach blessings (after one has already said the Baruch atah Hashem…).
• From the beginning of the Shema blessings until after the amidah—both in Shacharit and Maariv.
• During the Hallel.

If one uses the restroom during these prayers, one should recite the Asher Yatzar at the earliest permissible opportunity.
Furthermore, even in those areas of prayer where one may interrupt to say the Asher Yatzar, for example the Pesukei D’zimra, one should preferably recite it between prayer sections—not directly in middle of a Psalm or prayer.

b) The following areas of prayer cannot be interrupted to don a tallit or tefillin:
• During the Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach blessings (after one has already said the Baruch atah Hashem…).
• The first verse of the Shema (“Hear O Israel…”).
• The Amidah. (Directly before the amidah, after the conclusion of the Ga’al Yisrael blessing, it is permitted to don the tefillin, but not the tallit.)

If one dons tefillin between Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach, the blessing should be recited after Yishtabach (before beginning the Yotzer Or blessing). In all cases where there is a delay between the donning of the tefillin and the recitation of the blessing, the tefillin should be touched before reciting the blessing.

If one dons tefillin at any point between Yotzer Or blessing and the conclusion of the Shema, the blessing should be recited between sections.3  After the Shema, the blessing can be recited at any point until the conclusion of the Ga’al Yisrael blessing. If tefillin are donned between Ga’al Yisrael and the amidah, the blessing is recited after the amidah.

Footnotes

  • 1. The blessing recited after relieves oneself—thanking G-d for creating the intricate bodily processes which allow us to expel bodily waste.
  • 2. It is not necessary to recite a new blessing on a tallit after using the restroom.
  • 3. “Between sections” are: after the Yotzer Ha’me’orot blessing, directly before the Shema, between Baruch Shem and v’a’havta, before v’haya im shamoa, and after v’haya im shamoa.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Tefillin
Black leather boxes containing small scrolls with passages of the Bible written on them. Every day, aside for Sabbath and Jewish holidays, the adult Jewish male is required to wrap the Tefillin--by means of black leather straps--around the weaker arm and atop the forehead.
Hallel
Hebrew word meaning "praise." Normally is a reference to Psalms 113-118-- Psalms of jubilation which are recited during the morning prayers of all joyous holidays.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Maariv
Evening prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Tallit
A prayer shawl. A large four-cornered woolen garment with fringes attached to its corners in a specific manner. This garment is worn by males during the morning prayers, fulfilling the Biblical obligation of attaching fringes to four-cornered garments.
Yisrael
1. Additional name given by G-d to Patriarch Jacob. 2. A Jew who is not a Kohain or Levi (descendant of the Tribe of Levi).
Shema
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.