Respecting the Sanctity of the Shul

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This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.

Regarding building, selling, dismantling a Shul building see Halachot_of_the_Building_of_the_Shul

Appropriate Mind-frame for Shul

  1. One should not be involved in light-headedness, frivolity, idle chatter, eating, or drinking in a Shul.[1]
  2. One should not lounge around or adorn oneself in the Shul. [2]

Speaking in Shul or Bet Midrash

  1. It’s utterly forbidden to act frivolously in a Shul or Bet Midrash in any way such as laughter, vane speech, or humor.[3]
  2. It’s forbidden to speak about non-holy matters in a shul or Bet Midrash including speech about business or an occupation.[4]
  3. Similarly, it’s forbidden to read or write secular subjects in a Shul or Bet Midrash.[5]
  4. It’s much worse of a transgression to speak forbidden speech such as Lashon Hara, Rechilut, or starting fights in a Shul or a Bet Midrash in the place where the Shechina dwells.[6]
  5. In a Bet Midrash, one shouldn’t say G-d Bless you or LaBriyut or Gezuntite when someone sneezes. Nowadays, some are lenient because many aren’t so caeful about not speaking mundane speech in a Bet Midrash and some are strict because it’ll cause people to speak mundane speech in the Bet Midrash. It seems everyone will agree that in middle of learning it’s forbidden to say it.[7]

Sleeping in Shul or Bet Midrash

  1. One may not sleep (even a temporary sleep) in a shul, but in a bais medrash it is permitted to take a temporary sleep. A talmid chacham may sleep in a shul or a beit midrash.[8]
  2. One may not sleep in a Shul, however it is permitted to sleep temporarily in a Bet HaMidrash.[9]

Eating in Shul

  1. Although it is generally forbidden to eat in a shul, seuda shlishit may be eaten in a shul especially when words of Torah are spoken at the meal. [10]
  2. Any seuda for a mitzvah is permissible as long as it doesn't lead to palaver.[11] However, liquor may not be served.[12]
  3. A Talmud Chacham may eat or drink in a Shul if it is necessary.[13] Some say that a Talmid Chacham may eat or drink in a Bet Midrash. [14]

Entering Shul for Your Benefit

  1. If one needs to get someone who is in a Shul, one should walk inside, learn a little bit and then call that person. If one does not know how to learn one may wait inside the Shul a little bit (the time it takes to walk 8 Tefachim) and then call that person, since just sitting in a Shul is a mitzvah.[15]
  2. One should not enter the Shul to protect oneself from the sun or rain.[16]

Doing Mundane Activities in Shul

  1. One should not perform calculations, unless it is for a mitzvah in a Shul.[17]

Eulogies in a Shul

  1. Eulogies should not take place in a Shul unless it is a eulogy for one of the great people of the town and everyone is coming to the eulogy.[18]

Using it as a Shortcut

  1. One may not use a Shul for a shortcut. However, if the Shul was built in place of a path, it is permitted to continue using that path even after the Shul was built.[19]

Owning a Seat in Shul

  1. If a person sat in a particular seat in shul for three years straight even if he wasn't in on occasion or he changed his seat for avielut he can establish a right to that seat.[20]

Running to and from Shul

  1. When one is on one's way to Shul or going to do any mitzvah, it is a mitzvah to run even on Shabbat. [21]
  2. When one arrives at Shul one shouldn't run inside, but rather one should walk with awe and trepidation like one is walking before a king.[22]
  3. It is forbidden to run when one is leaving Shul.[23]


  1. During davening it is integral to have a mechitza to separate between men and women.[24] However, there is no need for a mechitza to separate between men and women for non-mitzvot activities such as a mundane meal.[25]
  2. If a shul has a women's section which isn't level with the men's section, some hold that the mechitza needs to be so tall that the men can't see the women.[26]
  3. In a place that is used for a minyan on a temporary basis, such as a Shiva house, according to some poskim doesn't need a mechitza and the men and women could simply daven in their respective sides for purposes of kavana.[27]
  4. There is a major dispute if it is necessary to have a mechitza for a wedding meal.[28]

Women's Section

  1. All laws regarding the holiness of the synagogue apply to the women's section.[29]

Above the Aron

  1. It is permitted to do normal activities on the second floor or roof above the Aron Kodesh. However, one shouldn't sleep there or do any inappropriate activities there.[30]
  2. Technically, may one live in an apartment which is located above a synagogue. However, as noted above, one should be careful to not perform any disgraceful activities above the plane above the aron hakodesh, such as sleeping.[31]


  1. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  2. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  3. S”A 151:1
  4. Mishna Brurah 151:2
  5. Rav Nevinsal in BeYitzchak Yikra on Mishna Brurah 151:2
  6. Mishna Brurah 151:2
  7. S”A Y”D 246:17 writes that one may not say Refuah when someone sneezes based on the Gemara Brachot 53a. Levush Y”D 246:17 brings the halacha as in S”A. The Perisha Y”D 246:36 writes that perhaps nowadays we can be lenient considered that many aren’t strict about mundane speech in the Bet Midrash in general. The Shach Y”D 246:16 and Aruch HaShulchan Y”D 246:33 quote the Perisha as halacha. However, the Taz Y”D 246:6 argues that there’s no reason to be more lenient and it’ll cause people to speak mundane speech in the Bet Midrash. [Bear Hetiev Y”D 246:9 quotes the dispute the perisha first and the Taz second.] S”A HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:11) and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A Y”D 245-6 #33) agree with the Taz. S”A HaRav clarifies that it’s forbidden to answer Asuta even not at the time of learning as long as one’s in a Bet Midrash, and all the more so, when one is learning.
  8. Mishna Brurah 151:15-6
  9. Shulchan Aruch 151:3
  10. Yechave Daat 3:10. Shulchan Aruch 151:4 permits eating a seudat mitzvah in a shul. Even the Mishna Brurah 151:20 agrees but cites the Magen Avraham who forbids a large meal with wine in a shul even for a mitzvah.
  11. Yabia Omer 10:14. Hacham Ovadia Yosef zt"l cites brit milah, pidyon haben, and azkara as examples of mitzvot which grant permission to eat in synagogue
  12. Yabia Omer 10:14
  13. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  14. Rama 151:1
  15. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  16. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  17. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  18. Shulchan Aruch 151:1
  19. Shulchan Aruch 151:5
  20. Rashba (responsa 1:943), Rama CM 140:8. See also Meiri b"b 29a.
  21. Shulchan Aruch 90:12
  22. Magen Avraham 90:24, Mishna Brurah 90:41, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 12:11
  23. Shulchan Aruch 90:12
  24. Igrot Moshe 1:41, Yalkut Yosef (Kriyat Hatorah Vbet Hakenest Mdinei Hahanahaga Bkotel n. 2), Ishei Yisrael 28:9
  25. Rav Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe 1:41 cites the Pesachim 86b that speaks about a bride eating a korban pesach together with the rest of the group which would consist of several families and up to 50 or 100 people. He concludes that isn’t necessary to have a mechitza for non-mitzvah activities, such as a meal but excluding davening or learning. However, he has a doubt about wedding meals if they need a mechitza to separate between the men and women.
  26. Yalkut Yosef (Otzar Dinim Lisha Vlbat 9:42) writes that a shul which has a woman's section that isn't level with the men's section should nonetheless have a mechitza high enough that the men can't see the women.
  27. Igrot Moshe OC 5:12 writes that it isn't necessary to have a mechitza in a temporary situation such as a Shiva house and all the more so for a Shabbos Sheva Brachos since it is just the family. Rather, the men and women should daven in opposite corners to enhance kavana. This is cited by Ishei Yisrael 28:9 and Similarly, Halichot Shlomo Tefillah ch. 8 fnt. 4 writes that on a plane if one is making a minyan that doesn't disturb the other passengers it isn't necessary to have a mechitza since it is a temporary situation and not a permanent shul.
  28. Igrot Moshe YD 4:24 doesn't require a mechitza at a wedding since it isn't a public event, it is exclusively for those invited. Birkat Reuven Shlomo 7:61 argues with Rav Moshe and requires a mechitza for a sit down gathering at a wedding or meal. Shevet Halevi 8:281 writes that for a Sheva Brachos meal they need a mechitza that is at least Ten Tefachim high even though that wouldn't suffice for a mechitza in shul.
  29. Yabia Omer 7:24
  30. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 151:12. The Taz 151:4 blames this sin for the death of two of his children. The Bet Yosef cites the Mordechai Shabbat n. 228 quoting the Maharam who wasn't sure whether it is permitted to use the area above the Aron on the second floor. He proves from Gemara Pesachim 86a that there's on prohibition on the upper stories or roof. He concludes that one should avoid doing a disgraceful activity above the Aron on a regular basis such as sleeping there. Bet Yosef also notes the Maharik who suggests that the upper stories above the Aron are holy based on the comparison between our shuls and the Bet Hamikdash.
  31. Yabia Omer 6:26