Hefsek

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The term Hefsek in general means an interruption. It can apply to the performance of any mitzvah or bracha. For the detailed halachot of each topic, please see the respective page below.

In the Middle of a Mitzvah

Tefillah Tefillah Other Mitzvot Other Mitzvot
Fit Unfit Fit Unfit
Rif Restart Restart Continue Continue
Tosfot Continue Restart Continue Restart

Shemona Esrei

  1. If someone stops in the middle of Shemona Esrei and he waited the time it would take to complete the entire Shemona Esrei, whether he was silently pausing, talking, or doing an activity, according to the Rif is a break and needs to restart the Shemona Esrei.[1]
  2. If someone's Shemona Esrei was interrupted because of a halachic circumstance that prevented him from doing the mitzvah, such as if a child within 4 amot soiled his diaper, if one interrupts the Shemona Esrei for as long as it takes to do the entire Shemona Esrei, according to everyone it is an interruption and one needs to start the mitzvah again.[2]

Applications

  1. If someone needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of Shemona Esrei he should go to the bathroom. If by the time he returns the time that elapsed is the time ti would take him to complete the whole Shemona Esrei then he needs to restart the Shemona Esrei. If it was less time he can continue where he left off.[3]
  2. If someone is saying Shemona Esrei and a baby goes to the bathroom nearby within 4 amot he may not continue his Shemona Esrei. He should walk to beyond 4 amot from the feces or urine and continue.[4] If he interrupted his Shemona Esrei for longer than the time to say the whole Shemona Esrei then he must restart.[5]
  3. If someone sees that a baby urinated near the Shaliach Tzibur he should tell him so that he can move and continue unless doing so will be embarrassing to someone.[6]

Other Mitzvot

  1. If someone stops in the middle of a mitzvah and he waited the time it would take to complete the entire mitzvah, whether he was silently pausing, talking, or doing an activity, that doesn't constitute a break and one can return to where one was up to in that mitzvah.[7]
  2. If someone was prevented from doing a mitzvah because of a halachic circumstance, such as if someone was reading Shema and then a child within 4 amot soiled his diaper, if one interrupts the mitzvah for as long as it takes to do the entire mitzvah, according to the Rif it isn't an interruption and according to the Tosfot it is an interruption and one needs to start the mitzvah again. Sephardim hold like the Rif that it isn't an interruption. Ashkenazim hold like Tosfot for Biblical mitzvot such as Shema and Birkat Hamazon, however, for derabbanan mitzvot such as Hallel, Megillah, and birchot kriyat shema, they rely on the Rif that it isn't an interruption. [8]

Application

  1. If a baby goes to the bathroom within 4 amot of someone saying Kriyat Shema he should move and continue. If interrupted for more than the time it takes to say the entire Kriyat Shema, according to Sephardim, he doesn't need to repeat it,[9] while according to Ashkenazim he should repeat it.[10]

Sources

    • The Gemara Brachot 23a explains that someone who urinates in the middle of Shemona Esrei if he pauses for a short time there is a dispute whether he needs to restart his Shemona Esrei or not. However, the gemara implies that if he paused for as long as he needs to say the entire Shemona Esrei it is considered a complete break and needs to restart his Shemona Esrei. Tosfot Brachot 22b s.v. elah ask how an interruption here invalidates the mitzvah while the Gemara Megillah 18b says that an interruption in Megillah doesn't invalidate it. Additionally, the Gemara Rosh Hashana 34b states that for Tekiyat Shofar the mitzvah isn't invalidated because of a long pause.
    • The Tosfot answer that the interruption in Brachot is more serious since he was in a state that he was unfit to recite the Shema since he was urinating. However, any interruption that is optional such as a pause doesn't invalidate the mitzvah as was the case by Megillah and Tekiyat Shofar. On the other hand, the Rif (Brachot 16a) answers differently; he answers that for Tefillah an interruption even if one is fit is an interruption since he paused as long as it takes to say Shemona Esrei, that can't possibly constitute a Tefillah before Hashem. For other mitzvot even an interruption that is as long as it takes to complete the entire mitzvah it doesn't invalidate the mitzvah. The Rashba (Brachot 23a s.v. VehaRaavad) quoting the Raavad, Rosh (Brachot 3:23), and Tur 65:1, 78:1, 85:1, 104:5 accept the opinion of Tosfot, while the Rambam (Kriyat Shema 2:12, Tefillah 4:13) follows the Rif. The Rama 65:1 and 78:1 accepts the Tosfot and Shulchan Aruch 65:1, 78:1, 85:1, 104:5 follows the Rif. Nonetheless, the Biur Halacha 65:1 s.v. kara based on Darkei Moshe 422 writes that for derabbanan mitzvot even Ashkenazim can follow the Rif and not consider it to be an interruption.
  1. See the previous footnote. It is noteworthy that the Rashba Brachot 23a s.v. pesak understands that the Rif would invalidate a Shemona Esrei with an interruption because of something that renders him unfit even if it is shorter than the time it takes to complete Shemona Esrei. Yet, the Bet Yosef 104:5 and Biur Halacha 65:1 s.v. kara don't accept this understanding and simply write that the Rif only invalidates a Shemona Esrei if there is a pause of the time it takes to complete Shemona Esrei.
  2. Shulchan Aruch 104:5. Mayan Omer v. 1 p. 157 in practice asked this of Rav Ovadia Yosef and this was his response.
  3. Shulchan Aruch 90:27 writes that if a baby goes to the bathroom near him while he is saying Shemona Esrei he should stop and either wait for someone to clean it or walk to beyond 4 amot and continue. Rama comments that one should walk 4 amot from the urine and continue. The Bet Yosef 90:27 cites a story where a baby went to the bathroom near Rashi while he was saying Shemona Esrei and he moved 4 amot and continued. However, he adds in the Bedek Habayit that it is acceptable to wait for someone to clean it up and continue. Even if that will take longer than it takes to complete the whole Shemona Esrei since some say that it doesn't invalidate the Shemona Esrei that it acceptable. The achronim point out that this line of the Bedek Habayit is very difficult (see Maamar Mordechai 90:27). The Shemen Lmeor 90:27 explains that this statement of the Bet Yosef doesn't fit either the Rif or Tosfot. The only opinion it is relying upon is the Rabbenu Yonah who says that even a very long interruption in Shemona Esrei even if he was unfit from saying Shemona Esrei doesn't invalidate it. (This might align with the Rashba and Rabbenu Yehuda.) Halichot Olam v. 1 p. 168 also makes this point. However, the Minchat Shay (Hilchot Tefillah p. 248 fnt. 51, Kollel Shomrei Gachelet) reinterprets the Bedek Habayit to be speaking about Kriyat Shema and not Shemona Esrei even though it is in the context of Shemona Esrei. In any event, the Bedek Habayit's point is tenuous and so the halacha is that one should move rather than wait for the feces or urine to be cleaned up. That is the ruling of the Halacha Brurah 78:1.
  4. Shulchan Aruch 104:5. See the previous note. Even though the Bedek Habayit 90:27 quotes the Rabbenu Yonah who said that one doesn't need to restart that is a minority opinion and rejected by the rishonim and halacha in siman 65. The Kaf Hachaim 90:149 however, accepts this opinion of the Rabbenu Yonah and anytime one paused and didn't speak it isn't a reason to restart the Shemona Esrei even though one paused for as long as it takes to complete Shemona Esrei. However, Halichot Olam v. 1 p. 166-8 argues and holds like Shulchan Aruch 104:5 like the Rambam and Rif that an interruption in Shemona Esrei for a pause longer than it takes to complete Shemona Esrei is a reason to restart Shemona Esrei.
  5. The Yavetz (quoted by Biur Halacha 79:1) writes that we can rely on the Rashba who holds that davening near urine is only a derabbanan concern initially but once one began Shemona Esrei one doesn't need to stop. Even though usually we're strict in order to have to stop the Shaliach Tzibur one can rely on the Rashba. The Biur Halacha 79:1 s.v. bitoch argues that we should not rely on the Rashba unless the urine is coming from someone sick and doesn't realize and pointing it out will be embarrassing.
  6. Shulchan Aruch and Rama 65:1
  7. Biur Halacha 65:1 s.v. kara
  8. Shulchan Aruch 78:1, Halacha Brurah 78:1
  9. Rama 78:1