When People Come Collecting During Davening: A Halachic Analysis. By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
They come daily. They are collecting for tzedakah. And they come during davening.
GREATNESS OF TEFILLAH
The classic work entitled the Chovos Halvavos provides five things that can be achieved in Tefilah – prayer:
• It expresses the yearning of our neshama – to connect and achieve dveikus with Hashem.
• It allows us to develop our own sense of humility when contemplating Hashem
• It allows us to recognize, ever so slightly and to our limited capabilities, Hashem’s Greatness.
• It allows us an opportunity to praise and to thank hashem for the many kindnesses that He performs for us each day – indeed each moment.
• It allows us to cast our burdens upon Hashem by requesting of Him all of our needs and to realize that all of our affairs are truly in His hands.
Clearly, we can achieve remarkable things through davening.
GREATNESS OF TZEDAKAH
The Mitzvah of Tzedakah is also remarkably important. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1) tells us that Tzedakah and chessed are equal to all of the Mitzvos in the Torah. The Midrash Zutah (Shir HaShirim aleph) explains that if the people of the Dor HaMabul (the generation of the flood) and the people of Sdom had only given Tzedakah – they would not have been destroyed. In fact, the Gemorah in Sukkah (49b) tells us that Tzedakah is greater than all of the Korbanos!
THE TWO TOGETHER
What happens then, when both of these Mitzvos Tefilah and Tzedakah collide? There are many needy people that come into shul from throughout the borough, from beyond the borough, and from Eretz Yisroel in order to collect Tzedakah. We have, therefore, 3 questions:
- Are there halachic guidelines and protocols as to when they can collect during Davening and when they cannot?
- Is it permitted during Psukei D’Zimra or chazaras HaShatz?
- Is it forbidden or permitted to give during these times?
The issue is the matter of much shul conversation debate. So, at the very least, an article on the topic could lessen the amount of talking in shul. 🙂
TZEDAKAH IS NOT OPTIONAL
We are working, of course, with the assumption that if one sees a real Ani, one is obligated to give him money. This is the clear implication and understanding of the words of the author of the Shulchan Aruch (247:1). It is also how most of the Achronim understand the Mechaber too.
Tzedakah is a full-fledged obligation to be supporting the poor – it is not optional. One does not have to give an entire dollar, nor, according to many Poskim must one give to people that could theoretically be working. One could, however, prepare quarters to give. It should also be noted that if one does not have funds to give, this is not considered an Ones – it is a full-fledged exemption.
THE RAN’S VIEW
One issue, of course, that comes to mind is the idea of Osaik baMitzvah patur min haMitzvah – one who is involved in a Mitzvah is exempt from another Mitzvah. The RaN (Sukkah 25a) rules that this principle is applicable even if it is possible to fulfill both Mitzvos with the one caveat that if it must affect the quality of the first Mitzvah being performed. Otherwise, one should do both Mitzvos.
So are we truly capable of multi-tasking our giving tzedaka along with the davening that we were originally involved in? The short answer would seem to be “no, we cannot effectively multi-task without compromising the first Mitzvah.” All this is assuming that we are really concentrating on the Tefillah. If we are not anyway, then it seems that the RaN’s caveat is irrelevant. The consequences of this rationale are that if someone isn’t paying attention to the davening – then he could be approached and he would not be exempt. If someone is paying attention then he is exempt.
There is another question, however. Do we paskin like this RaN? The Ramah (OC 38:8) clearly does and the Biur Halacha understands the Bais Yoseph as ruling like the Ran as well. [Tosfos and the Rosh seem to rule otherwise, see BH #1 on Siman 38].
So to address the issue of the RaN, if one had previously prepared the change and will not have any disturbance in kavana – he could theoretically fulfill both Mitzvos simultaneously, but this may be kind of difficult. It would seem odd to state that there would be a requirement to prepare the change beforehand – the requirement is only to give it when the situation arises, but not to place yourself in a situation where you would not be exempt from it. Nonetheless, it would to be meritorious to prepare it beforehand as indicated in the Mishna Brurah.
IS IT FORBIDDEN?
So now that we have established that one is not obligated to give the Tzedaka according to the RaN, is there a prohibition?
To this we seem to have another debate. The Mishna Brurah in Siman 96:1 cites Rav Yoseph Teumim, the author of the Pri MaGaddim, who forbids holding coins even during Psukei D’Zimrah – just like the Mechaber forbids it during the Tefilah of Shmoneh Esreh.
The Mishnas HaMishpat, however, cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo chapter 7) who disagrees with this Mishna Brurah.
WHAT ABOUT DURING KRIAS SHMA AND SHMONEH ESREH?
But what about during Krias Shma and the repetition of the Shmone Esreh? The Poskim (see Tzedaka U’Mishpat 1:4 and Halichos Shlomo 7:4) frown upon it during the shma, and entirely forbid it during Chazaras HaShatz. The Pri Magadim (96:3) also forbids it during the reading of the Torah because it negates an enactment of Ezra HaSofer.
All this is the technical halacha but we do find interesting precedent in Chumash. Avrohom Avinu was in the middle of conversing with Hashem and what does Rashi point out to us that he does? He goes to take care the three wandering travelers – people whom Avrohom Avinu perceived to be idol-worshippers!
Clearly then, the spirit of the Torah’s view on these things is that perhaps we should go the extra yard to prepare the Tzedaka for the aniyim in a manner that will not disturb us or those around us. As we have seen, both davening and Tzedakah are very important Mitzvos. The issues brought up in this article are important. Each shul should seek guidance from their Rav as to how exactly to manage the fine line of fulfilling both of these ideals in the best manner possible.
May Hashem grant us all yeshuos and nechamos in the zchus of our observance of these two important Mitzvos!