Chapter 1: The Mitzvah of prayer, Daily prayer, personal prayer, & who is obligated

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Chapter 1: The Mitzvah of prayer

Is the Mitzvah to pray Biblical or Rabbinical?[1]
  1. Personal Prayers-Praying in time of distress:[2]

It is a Biblical obligation to Daven to Hashem in a time of need and distress, that these needs be fulfilled by Hashem and that He bring him salvation.

Petty needs: This Mitzvah applies even towards petty needs and desires, that he should Daven to Hashem for all his wants and desires.

The main intent of prayer: This is the main intent of prayer, to pray for one’s needs and desires to be fulfilled. Hence, those personal prayers which request from Hashem his personal needs carry a special quality that is not found in the set daily prayers.

  1. The Daily Prayer:[3]

The dispute  It is disputed amongst Poskim whether there is a Biblical obligation to pray daily, irrelevant of distress or needs, and the final ruling is that the daily prayers are only Rabbinical, as explained next.

Main ruling: Practically, the main ruling follows the lenient opinion that daily prayer is only a Rabbinical obligation.

Foundation of all Torah: Nevertheless, even according to the lenient opinion, the service of prayer is the foundation of the entire Torah, to know Hashem and recognize His greatness.

Spinal cord of all the Mitzvos: Likewise, prayer is considered the spinal cord of all the Mitzvos, and serves as the energy and vitality that enliven our Mitzvos and make them effective. It is not counted as one of the 248 positive commands being it is higher than them.

Fulfills a Biblical Mitzvah: Accordingly, irrelevant of the dispute of whether daily prayer is a Biblical obligation, all agree that when one Davens he fulfills a Biblical Mitzvah.

Mitzvos fulfilled during prayer: Many Mitzvos are possibly fulfilled throughout the prayer, including 1) Belief in Hashem; 2) Achdus Hashem; 3) Ahavas Hashem; 4) Fear of Hashem; 5) Bitachon in Hashem.

The time of prayer: Even according to the stringent opinion, the times of prayer is not Biblically mandated and one may pray to fulfill his obligation whenever he chooses. The set times of prayer are merely Rabbinical.

The number of daily prayers: Even according to the stringent opinion, there is no Biblical obligation to Daven more than one time per day [unless one is in a time of need to make a request from Hashem]. When one Davens one time, whether at day or at night, he fulfills his obligation.

The Nussach of prayer-Shacharis, Mincha, Maariv: Even according to the stringent opinion, there is no Biblically required Nussach of prayer [and the Nussach of prayer is Rabbinical].

  1. Laws relating to personal prayers:[4]

The Mitzvah and obligation: See above 1A!

When: Personal prayers may be said any time he desires, and it is not necessary to recite them only in Shemoneh Esrei. Nonetheless, it is auspicious for these prayers to be recited specifically during Shemoneh Esrei during Shema Koleinu, as the blessing of Shomeia Tefila includes all of one’s requests and was instituted for this purpose. [This applies likewise according to Chabad custom.] If, however, saying personal prayers in Shema Koleinu will cause one to miss saying Kedusha with the Minyan, then it is better to say the personal prayers in the Yehiyu Leratzon. Likewise, if he desires to lengthen his requests, then he may only do so after Shemoneh Esrei, as stated above. 

Verbalizing the words: The words of personal prayers must be verbalized and not just said in one’s thought.

Aloud versus quietly: Some Poskim rule that personal prayers carry the same laws and guidelines as does Shemoneh Esrei in terms of the prohibition against raising one’s voice, and one is hence to say his personal prayers in silence. 

Intending towards Jerusalem: Some write that when saying personal prayers, one is to intend that his prayers are elevated through Jerusalem and the site of the Temple.

Saying Hashem’s name: One may mention Hashem’s name in his personal prayers, and is to preface it with the words “Yehi Ratzon Milifanecha..”

In what language are the personal requests to be said in? One is to be particular to say his requests in Lashon Hakodesh if he [is fluent in the language and] understands what he is saying.  If, however, he does not understand Lashon Hakodesh, or can express himself better in his native language than in Lashon Hakodesh, then he is to say his requests in whatever language he understands. 

Praying on behalf of another: One who is praying and arousing mercy on behalf of another, needs to mention that person’s name in the prayer, if he is not making the request in front of the person. It is disputed if this applies even to one’s own father, or if it suffices to say my father even when not in front of him.

Davening for healthy children that follow the path of Torah: It is proper for one to Daven daily on behalf of his livelihood and that the words of Torah do not cede from his mouth or the mouth of his children and that all of his descendants be true servants of Hashem.


The Mitzvah of prayer is relevant to every Jew; righteous and not so much:[5]

It is obvious that the Mitzvah of personal prayers is not specifically applicable to only those who are righteous and enjoy a closeness to G-d which can be used to achieve a fulfillment of their requests. Rather the Mitzvah of prayer applies to anyone who has a request from G-d, that G-d commands him to pray to him in a time of need and ask his request from G-d. He should not think that G-d will not answer his requests because he is a low stature, as it is the nature of the king to be merciful and kind which is specifically expressed towards giving kindness to those who are low and undeserving.


Does G-d always answer our prayers?[6]

Although one is commanded to always pray to G-d whenever he’s in need of something, this does not mean that his request will always be answered, as at times G-d will answer his request and at times not. [However, see next for a deeper perspective from the Baal Shem Tov.] This is similar to one sending a request to the king that anyone can send them a request, even one of low stature, and it is up to the king to decide whether to fulfill his requests or not. He should not think that G-d will not answer his requests because he is of low stature, as it is the nature of the king to be merciful and kind, which is specifically expressed towards giving kindness to those who are low and undeserving.


Emuna that one’s Tefilos have effect:[7]

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the main aspect of prayer is for one to believe that Hashem fills all the worlds and through his prayer, the Shechina is elevated. He is also to believe that as soon as he verbalizes his request from Hashem, it is fulfilled. Now, although one does not always see this fulfillment, nevertheless it is simply because it is concealed from him. This means, that although the request may not be fulfilled in the specific area that he asked, nonetheless, it is fulfilled somewhere in the world. For example, if one requests from Hashem to remove a certain suffering from him, and he sees that the suffering is continuing, it is perhaps because he needs this suffering to refine him from sin, or perhaps it is for some other good outcome. Nevertheless, his prayer does affect some other area or realm of the world, and there is thus no prayer which is returned empty.

The source of prayer-The prayer of Chana:[8]

Elkana had two wives, one named Channah and the second names Penina. Penina had children, while Channah did not [as she was barren]. Penina], the co-wife of Channah, would annually torment Channah by the pilgrimage to the house of G-d in Shiloh [by asking her questions regarding her “children”[9]]. She would purposely cause her anger to boil, in order so she complain [to G-d of the fact that she is childless, and hopefully be blessed with a child[10]]. Channah would get very upset and cry and not eat. Channah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh, and went with a bitter soul to pray before G-d. She cried profusely before Him. Channah made a vow to G-d and said that if Hashem Tzevaos sees the oppression of his maidservant and remembers her, to give her a child of men [of Tzadikim ], then this boy will be dedicated to G-d for his entire life and a razor will not be placed on his head [i.e. he will be a Nazir to Hashem]. As Channah was increasing in supplication before G-d, Eily was watching her [waiting for her to finish ]. Channah was speaking in her thoughts, to her heart, and although her lips moved, her voice could not be heard. Eily thus mistook her for a drunkard. Eily turned to her and said: Until when will you be drunk? Remove your wine from yourself [and become sober]. Channah replied to Eily that he is incorrect in his judgment, as she is not drunk, and has not drunk any wine or alcohol. However, she is a woman of tormented spirit who is pouring out her soul before G-d. She said to Eily: Do not consider your maidservant as the daughter of a renegade man [who gets drunk and makes a scene in the holiest of places], as I have spoken out of anger and frustration.  Eily replied to Channah that she should go in peace and the G-d of Israel will grant her the request that she asked from Him. Hannah replied by asking Eily [to pray on her behalf  and] that she may find favor in his eyes.


  1. Who is obligated in the Mitzvah of Davening?[11]

Women: Women are obligated to pray to G-d in a time of need just like men. Likewise, according to all opinions, women are obligated to pray to G-d at least once a day. However, it is disputed amongst the Poskim as to whether women are obligated to Daven Shemoneh Esrei of Shachris and Mincha. Practically, the main ruling follows the opinion which holds that women are obligated to Daven Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharis and Mincha on a daily basis. However, according to all opinions, they are exempt from Davening Maariv Shemoneh Esrei. [This law is only in reference to the prayer of Shemoneh Esrei, however, whether women are obligated or exempt from the other prayers which are added to Shacharis, such as Pesukei Dezimra and Shema and its blessings, will be explained each by their corresponding chapter. See also Chapter 46 for all the details of the prayers that women are obligated or exempt from!]

Children: Children who are above the age of Chinuch [i.e. 6-7 years old] are obligated to be educated to pray Shemoneh Esrei both by evening [i.e. Mincha and Maariv] and morning [i.e. Shacharis]. [This law is only in reference to the prayer of Shemoneh Esrei, however, whether children are obligated or exempt from the other prayers which are added to Shacharis, such as Pesukei Dezimra and Shema and its blessings, will be explained each in their area. See chapter 47 for all the details of the prayers that children are obligated or exempt from!]

Gentiles:[12] Gentiles are not commanded in the mitzvah to pray to G-d, although may choose to do so, and are considered to fulfill an un-commanded mitzvah when doing so.

Reshaim: Even Reshaim are obligated to Daven.

Baal Keri: It is permitted for a Bal Keri to Daven after cleaning the semen off from his body. However, so long as he still has semen on his [body or outer clothing] it is forbidden for him to Daven. [It is not obligatory for one to immerse in a Mikveh before Davening. Nonetheless, some meticulous individuals would wash their lower halves of the body in the morning prior to Davening. Furthermore, it is customary of Chassidim to immerse in a Mikveh prior to saying blessings, Davening, or performing Mitzvos, if one is a Bal Keri.  However, if there is no Mikveh available, then certainly one should not nullify the Mitzvah of Davening due to this. In such a case, one can simply take a shower in place of going to Mikveh, prior to Davening.] See chapter 7 Halacha 9 for the full details of this matter!

One who is unclothed: One may not Daven Shemoneh Esrei if his chest is revealed. See chapter 9 Halacha 2 for the full details of this matter!

Bowel issues; diarrhea; flatulence: If a person is very gassy, then it is better that he does not daven Shacharis Shemoneh Esrei in this state and he is to rather Daven Tashlumin of Shacharis after Mincha. See chapter 7 Halacha 6 for the full details of this matter!

May one who is attached to a catheter Daven? Yes. It is Mutar to Daven, wear Tefillin, learn Torah etc while attached to a catheter, being that the urine is covered. It is best for the urine bag to also be covered.

Sick:[13] One who is sick to the point that he cannot concentrate at all on his prayer, is exempt from praying although he is still to recite at the very least the first verse of the Shema. If he cannot manage to tilt completely to his side due to his sickness or weakness, then he may recite the Shema while tilting slightly to his side. A sick person may Daven Shemoneh Esrei in a sitting position.

Onen: The Onen is exempt from reading the Shema [in morning or evening] and is exempt from Davening. Furthermore, even if the Onen desires to be stringent upon himself and read Shema, it is Rabbinically forbidden for him to do so. See chapter 48 Halacha 1 for the full details of this matter!

Avel/Mourner: A mourner is obligated in prayer just like any other person. See chapter 48 for the full details of this matter!

One who is in the midst of a Mitzvah:[14] Anyone who is actively involved in a Mitzvah is exempt from Davening. This applies even towards the Shema, that if one is doing a Mitzvah during the time of Kerias Shema then he is not obligated to stop in order to recite it or Tefila. This applies even if the time of Shema and Tefila will pass. However, initially, it is forbidden for them to begin the Mitzvah near the time that Kerias Shema arrives. Now, if he is able to perform both Mitzvos simultaneously, without any trouble or effort, then it is best to do so and fulfill both Mitzvos.

One who is learning Torah:[15] One who is learning Torah remains obligated to say Shema and Daven. In today’s times, this applies even for someone who is defined as Toraso Umenaso. However, if he is in the midst of teaching Torah to others, then he is only required to stop for the saying of the Shema, and is not required to stop to Daven even if the time of prayer will pass.

One who is involved in matters on behalf of the public:[16] Anyone who is involved in performing an activity for the sake of the public is exempt from Shema and Davening. Nonetheless, in today’s times, even one was involved in public activity is to stop for the sake of saying the Shema, unless the activity itself involves a mitzvah such as to save the public from a monetary loss in which case he can suffice with simply reading the first verse of Shema and Baruch Sheim.

Chasan/wedding:[17] In today’s times, the Chasan is obligated to Daven during Sheva Brachos, just like on any other day of the year. The custom today is for the Chasan and relatives to stop and Daven and wear Tefillin as usual on the morning after the wedding, even if they are still in the midst of the celebration meal.

Drunk: It is forbidden for someone who is drunk to Daven Shemoneh Esrei until he becomes sober. See chapter 6 Halacha 2 for the full details of this matter!

Traveling: One who is traveling remains obligated in prayer. However, in certain circumstances, he is only required to recite an abridged prayer, as explained in chapter 27 hello Halacha 8B.


[1] See Admur 106:2; Chinuch Mitzvah 433; Derech Mitzvosecha Shoresh Mitzvah Hatefila 1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:1; Tefila Kehilchasa [Fuchs] Chapter 1; Shaareiy Tefila [Heichal Menachem] p. 1-82

[2] See M”A 106:2; Ramban Sefer Hamitzvos Hasagos on Mitzvah 5; Chinuch Mitzvah 433; Derech Mitzvosecha ibid; Likkutei Sichos 29:183; Sefer Mivaser Tov-Tefila 2:4; Taanis 20b, Maharsha Kiddushin 29b; Even Yisrael 9:106-25

[3] See Admur 106:2; Likkutei Torah Balak 70c; Admur Hazakein in Igros Kodesh p. 34; Toras Menachem 27 p. 47 for explanation of this letter of Admur. Admur in Tanya Kuntrus Achron p. 162 “Prayer is an actual Torah obligation]”; Michaber 106:2; Rama 55; Rambam Tefila 1:1; Ramban in Hasagos Sefer Hamitzvos 5; Rif Brachos 17b; Riea Brachos 10b; Semag Asei 19; Chinuch Mitzvah 248 and 433; Rashi Brachos 20b; Tosafus Brachos ibid; Rabbeinu Chananel Brachos ibid; Semak Mitzvah 12; Rashbatz in Zohar Harakia 12; M”A 106:2; Taz 106:2; Peri Chadash 89; Shagas Aryeh 14; P”M Pesicha Koleles 89 and 106 A”A 2; P”M 4 M”Z 15; Piskei Dinim Tzemach Tzedek Tefila; Derech Mitzvosecha Shoresh Mitzvah Hatefila 1; M”B 106:4; Kuntrus Havoda p. 50; Likkutei Sichos 29:183; Toras Menachem 27 p. 47; Igros Kodesh 14:73; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:1; Shaareiy Tefila [Heichal Menachem] p. 1-17

[4] See Admur 62:3; 101:5; 119:1 and 3; 185:2; 206:5; Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:12; Tanya chapter 38; Michaber 119:1; Michaber Y.D. 335:5; Shabbos 12b; Avoda Zara 8a; Machazik Bracha end of 101; Chayeh Adam 24:19; Yearos Devash Derush 1; Shaareiy Teshuvah 101:6, 116:1; M”B 122:8, 101:13 and 16, Biur Halacha ibid “Yachol Lihispalel”; Machaneh Yisrael of Chofetz Chaim end of chapter 10; Kaf Hachaim 119:1 and 12; Hamagid Taluma Brachos 30b; Igros Chazon Ish 23; Piskeiy Teshuvos 101:7

[5] Derech Mitzvosecha Shoresh Mitzvas Hatefila 1

[6] Derech Mitzvosecha Shoresh Mitzvas Hatefila 1

[7] Ben Porat Yosef Kuntrus Achron 127a; Keser Shem Tov 80

[8] Shmuel 1 Chapter 1; See Brachos 31a; Likkutei Sichos 29:183, 187; 35:192; Shaareiy Tefila

[9] See Rashi 1:6

[10] See Rashi 1:6

[11] See Admur 106:1-4 and 70:1-5; Kaf Hachaim 70 and 106; Piskeiy Teshuvos 70 and 106; Tefila Kehilchasa 1:8-35

[12] See Igros Moshe O.C. 2:25; Tefila Kehilchasa 1:8

[13] Tefila Kehilchasa 1:31

[14] See Admur 70:3; Kaf Hachaim 70; Piskeiy Teshuvos 70; Tefila Kehilchasa 1:24-27

[15] See Admur 38:9 and 106:4; Tefila Kehilchasa 1:22-24

[16] See Admur 70:4; Tefila Kehilchasa 1:28-

[17] See Admur 38:7; Michaber 38:8; Sukkah 26a; Tefila Kehilchasa 1:24

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