Shabbat Parashat Shemini| 5764
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I am a new father, and I often take care of my infant all morning. Sometimes, when I get her to sleep and am in the middle of davening, she starts crying. If this happens at a time that I am not able to stop, what am I to do?
Answer: Mazal tov. Of course, the best idea is to daven before starting to watch the baby. We understand that this is not always possible or doesn’t work out, and this response deals with the situation that you did not succeed to do so.
Firstly, it helps to know the needs and habits of the baby (which is difficult, as they often change as fast as you learn them). Many babies will wake, cry, and fall back asleep by themselves. Others whimper relatively calmly for a few minutes until their parent comes. In such cases, it is best to reach a place in tefilla where one can stop before going to the baby, if one can concentrate. One does not have to stop davening at the first cry, nor does a parent need to drop all in the middle of another activity that is hard to stop within seconds. If the baby continues to cry bitterly, it fits the rule that the needs of a child are like those of a sick person (Rama, Orach Chayim 328:17).
There are different preferences at different places in the tefilla. During Ps’ukeiD’zimraandKriatSh’ma, one can stop to walk and hint (except in the first section of Kriat Sh’ma- Shulchan Aruch OC 63:6) and make sounds to a child (see B’er Moshe III, 12). These are all forbidden in Shmoneh Esrei without an acute need (Mishna Berura 104:1). It is a problem to hold a baby while davening any part of the tefilla, as one may not hold the type of thing which one is concerned may fall (ibid. 96:1).
The following are the priorities when you can’t wait. If you can go to console the baby or rock her back to sleep and then continue davening, this is preferable. If you think it is likely the baby will stir and need to be put back to sleep before you can continue davening, then it pays to stand near the baby for Shmoneh Esrei so as to avoid the need to walk to the crib. Before this point, it pays to not be so close, as you don’t want to lose concentration at the baby’s every twist and turn. It is best to finish dealing with the baby before enough time has elapsed to finish the entire section of the tefilla one is in (Mishna Berura 65:4). However, if need be, one can take longer than that and continue from where he left off (Tefilla K’hilchata 12:(198); see Mishna Berura 65:2 & 104:16), while being careful not to talk. It is better to hint and make signs and noises than to move from one place to another during Shmoneh Esrei (Mishna Berura 104:1).
If it is likely that a very long time will pass until the baby will allow you to daven properly, then you can hold the baby while finishing to daven if that will quiet her enough to enable you to concentrate. This is because one who davened while holding something that he is afraid may fall fulfills his mitzva, b’dieved (Mishna Berura 96:2). Concerning l’chatchila, since the reason for the prohibition is the inability to concentrate, if the only way one can concentrate at all is by holding the baby, then that should be done. A better idea under these circumstances may be to put her in some type of baby carrier. (Normally this is problematic, as well- see Shulchan Aruch, OC 97:5). These are usually very soothing for the baby, especially when one is swaying anyway. Logic dictates that, assuming there is no chance the baby will fall out of it, the case should not be considered like that of holding something which can fall.
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