Makom Kavua For Davening

1. The Gemara in  Brachos (6b) states that “Anyone who establishes a set place for his prayer, the God of Avraham Avinu will be a help to him”. This Gemara is the source that one should always pray in the same place (Kovea Makom). (S.A. 90:19)
2. There are many reasons for this Halacha. The Rif explains that by a person who instead of praying in his immediate surroundings, goes to a specially designated place demonstrates that he regards prayer not as an unpleasant burden, but as an opportunity to connect to Hashem.
3. [It goes without saying that although it is important to be kovea makom for Tefillah, one should not chas v’shalom get into arguments or hurt another Jew’s feelings over one’s place in shul.]

4. This halacha does not just apply to praying in shul, rather, one should have a specific place in his house where he always davens when he cannot make it to shul. (M.B. 90:59)

5. One need not daven in the exact spot each day. Rather, as long as one is within 4 amos of his makov kavua (davening spot), he has fulfilled his obligation to daven in the same spot. (M.B. 90:60)
6. If there are people talking near one’s makom kavua, one may forgo davening in his spot and he may daven in a different place in the shul where it is more quiet. (Kaf Hachaim 90:118)
7. The Toras Chaim (90:25) and the Shearim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (vol. 1 page 79) both explain that the main issue is to daven shemoneh esrei in the same spot each day (makom kavua). The remaining of davening need not be recited in one’s makom kavua.
8. It is well known that every person should try to be one of the first ten people to arrive for prayer. The question was posed to Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a (Shealas Rav page 188) what should one do if he has a choice to daven in his makom kavua (and not be one of the first ten to arrive to shul) or daven in a different shul and he would be one of the first ten to arrive for prayer? Harav Chaim responded that in his view the importance of davening in one’s makom kavua outweighs the importance of being one of the first ten to arrive at shul.
[Please note that if the minyan will only have ten men and by davening in one’s makom kavua, the other shul will not have a minyan, all agree that making the minyan outweighs makom kavua. Rav Chaim was only referring to a case where both shuls will have a minyan without you. In one shul you can be from the first ten people to arrive and in the other shul you have your makom kavua and in that instance Harav Chaim says that makom kavua has greater importance.]
9. The Shulchan Aruch (90:19) writes that in addition to davening in the same spot each day, one must also daven in the same shul every day.
10. The poskim explain that the Shulchan Aruch does not mean to say that one must daven in the same shul throughout the year. Rather, one may daven in one shul during the summer and another during the winter. He may pray in one shul on Shabbos and a different shul during the weekdays. He may even pray every shachris in one shul and every mincha in a different shul etc. The Shulchan Aruch is ruling that one should not daven shachris in one shul on one day and in a different shul the next day. Or one should not daven in one shul on one Shabbos and in a different shul the next Shabbos. (Ishei Yisroel page 87 note 39)

Windows In Shuls

1. The Shulchan Arukh (OC 90:4) writes that a person should only daven in a room that has windows that face the direction of Yerushalayim. [It is preferable for the room to have 12 windows, but it’s not necessary for them to all face Yerushalayim]. The Mishnah Berurah explains that this definitely applies to one praying in his home, but is also applies to a shul.
2. The Beit Yosef brings a number of explanations for this law. Rashi’s explanation is that the window exposes the sky, reminding us of our subordination to Heaven.
3. The Mishnah Berurah asks what is the purpose of having windows if one should pray Shemoneh Esrei looking downward and not looking out the window? He explains that if one loses his concentration during Shemoneh Esrei he can momentarily look out the window up at Heaven, remind himself of Hashem and regain his concentration.
4. Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l explains that one should not pray directly in front of the window as this can actually distract you. Rather, one should stand a little bit back from the window so that he can look through it whenever he needs to. Similarly, the Chasam Sofer (27) explains that the common custom is to build the windows higher up, towards the ceiling. in order to avoid people from being distracted by what’s going on outside.
5. It is better to pray in a quiet room without windows than to pray in a room with windows where there are alot of people walking and talking. (Shraga Hameir 6:154)

The Tefillah of Aleinu

1. At the end of davening we recite the prayer of Aleinu Leshabeach. This prayer is a great and significant one. The first paragraph of Aleinu was authored by Yehoshua Ben Nun. He recited it 7 times backwards and forwards while circling Yericho and it was one of the factors that caused the walls of Yericho to become swallowed up in the ground. The second paragraph (V’al Kein) was authored by Achan after he repented for taking the booty from Yericho. (Chida Machzik Bracha 132:2, Seder Hayom Aleinu and Meam Loez Yehoshua 6:15)
2. The Chida writes that one should recite the prayer with a tremendous amount of concentration as “there is no greater praise to Hashem [as that of Aleinu]”.
3. Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Siddur) adds that reciting it with kavana is a segulah as a protection “that all tzaros not befall you”.
4. Harav Yitzchak Yosef shlit”a (Yalkut Yosef Dinim L’isha page 38) writes that women are not obligated to recite Aleinu but it is a praiseworthy thing for them to do so. Similarly, Harav Pesach Falk shlit”a explains that women are technically exempt from reciting Aleinu, however, it is the correct thing for them to recite it. (Mechaze Eliyahu 20 and Halichos Bas Yisroel 2:13)
5. If one enters a shul and he hears a congregation reciting Aleinu, he should recite it with them even if he is not praying with them (the rest of davening). (M.B. 65:9)
Here is a link to a ten minute shiur that I gave on the Tefillah of Aleinu:

Kol Isha

The Prohibition-

1. It is forbidden for a man to hear a woman sing. This prohibition is called “Kol B’Isha Ervah.” (Brachos 24a and Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 21)

2. The Sdei Chemed (Kuf 42) cites an argument amongst the authorities whether this prohibition is Biblical or Rabbinic in nature. The Chochmas Adam (4:1), in his commentary Nishmas Adam, concludes that it is Rabbinic in nature. (See Mishnah Berurah 75:17)

Listening To Multiple Women Sing In Unison-

3. The Beer Sheva (Beer Mayim Chayim 3) writes that this prohibition exists whether it is one woman singing or multiple women singing and whether they are singing secular songs or singing Zemiros on Shabbos. This is also the view of most authorities. However, there were those that wished to rule leniently as shall be explained.

4. The Chasan Sofer (Taharas Yadayim 14) extends a lenient ruling based on the Talmudic rule that “Trei kali Lo Mishtamay,” two voices cannot be heard simultaneously. The Gemara uses this principle to prohibit two people to read from the Torah at the same time. Therefore, argues the Chasan Sofer if multiple women are singing there should not exist a prohibition since men cannot focus on two voices simultaneously.

The Tzitz Eliezer (14:7) felt that the Chasan Sofer was not definitive in his ruling and that it is unclear whether the Chasan Sofer would permit this in normative halacha. However, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l (Sridei Eish 2:8) records that Rav Azriel Hildesheimer zt”l and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l also ruled leniently for the same reason of the Chasan Sofer.

5. The poskim point out that there are two major issues with the permissive ruling of the Chasan Sofer:

1) The rule that two voices cannot be heard, as used in the Gemara, tells us that one cannot concentrate on the words of the speakers and therefore cannot fulfill his obligation for Krias Hatorah. One does, however, still hear the sound of the speaker. In this case, regarding Kol Isha, the major concern is that hearing a women’s voice is inappropriate and considered an Ervah. Even if he cannot make out the specific words he can definitely hear the women sing and it should still be prohibited.

2) The Gemara in Megilah (21) says that two people are allowed to read the Megilah simultaneously. The reason why the Megilah is different from Krias Hatorah is that, “Since the reading of the Megilah is dear to people, they concentrate and can hear.” The same argument can be extended to our discussion. Since the Yetzer Hara will make the man want to hear the women sing then we assume that two voices are able to be heard at the same time.

6. Harav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l was asked regarding a German Jewish organization where the boys and girls sang together. Rav Weinberg quotes the earlier heter of “two voices cannot be heard simultaneously” and writes that he does not find this explanation satisfying. Rav Weinberg instead defends the German Jewish practice by citing the Sdei Chemed who “allows for men and women to sing together.”

[However, no where does the Sdei Chemed discuss men and women singing in unison. Perhaps Rav Weinberg was referring to the Sdei Chemed who quotes the Divrei Cheifetz who asserts that the Kol Isha prohibition does not apply to women singing Zemirot, singing songs to children, and lamentations for the dead. This too is problematic since the Sdei Chemed, himself disagrees with the Divrei Chefetz and rules stringently.]

Rav Weinberg contends that when they are singing Zemiros men do not derive pleasure from the woman’s voice (this is perhaps the rationale for the view of the Divrei Chafetz). However, the poskim point out that this is not necessarily accurate and even if the woman are singing Zemiros men can still derive pleasure from their voices.]

7. In summation the overwhelming majority of poskim [including: the Beer Sheva, the Beer Yehuda on Chareidim, the Steipler Gaon zt”l (cited in Journal Ohel Moshe 1992), the Shevet Halevi (4:197), the Tzitz Eliezer, Badei Hashulchan (Nidah 199:119), Chelek Levi, Kinyan Torah (85), Avnei Yashfei (2:5), Ishei Yisroel (55:32), and Netai Gavriel (Yichud page 348)] maintain that a man may not listen to many women sing in unison, even if they are singing Zemiros.

Different Women And Their Status-

8. Married women– One may not listen to a married women sing under any circumstance. (Magen Avraham O.C. 75)

9. One’s wife who is not in a state of nidah– A husband may listen to his wife sing when she is not in a state of nidah. However, while he is davening, reciting Brachos, bentching etc. a husband may not listen to his wife sing, even when she is not a nidah. (Rama O.C. 75:3)

10. One’s wife who is in a state of nidah–  The poskim debate whether a husband may listen to his wife sing when she is a nidah. The Chemdas Moshe (58) is lenient. Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 4 Y.D. 15) writes that although it is praiseworthy to be machmir, those that choose to be lenient are permitted to do so. Rav Elyashiv zt”l also rules leniently. (Umekareiv Biyamin vol. 1 page 163)

However, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:75) rules that one should be machmir and not listen to his wife sing while she is a nidah. This is also the view of the Aruch Hashulchan (75:23), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (153:10), Avnei Yashfei (2 O.C. 5), and ybc”l Harav Azriel Auerbach shlit”a (Levushei Az).

(All agree that when a husband is praying, bentching etc. one may not listen to his wife sing when she is a nidah.)

11. Single Jewish Girls Below The Age of Eleven- One may not listen to these girls sing while he is davening, bentching etc. (M.B. 75:17)
The poskim debate whether one may listen to them sing (when he is not praying etc.). Most assume that it is permitted. (See Beis Shmuel 21, M.B. ibid, and Igros Moshe O.C. 26)

12. Single Jewish Girls Age Eleven and Up–  One may not listen to any Jewish single girl under any circumstance once they have reached the age of nidah. (Pri Megadim 75 M.Z. 2 and M.B. 17) Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l writes that one should not listen to any girl once they have reached the age of eleven since it is possible that they have already become a nidah.

13. Non Jewish Women– Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 4:15:2) rules that one may not listen to a non Jewish girl sing under any circumstance, even if they are below the age of eleven.
14. Mothers and Daughters- While one is praying, bentching etc. one may not hear them sing. Harav Yehoshua Neubert zt”l rules that if he is not praying one may listen to his mother and daughter sing. This seems to be the common custom. However, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a advises that it is still preferable to be machmir. (Ishei Yisroel 55 f.n. 98) For normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.
15. Sisters- One may of course not hear his sister sing while he is praying, bentching etc. The poskim discuss whether one may listen to his sister sing when he is not praying. The Chazon Ish is cited as ruling that it is forbidden. (Orchos Rabbeinu page 55) However, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l maintained that one may listen to his sister sing as long as she is below the age of twelve and that once she reaches the age of twelve it is not forbidden but “deemed inappropriate”.  (Ohel Moshe 1992)