May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Bava Batra 47. Here are some highlights.
Bava Batra 47: I missed the afternoon service because I feared walking out in the middle of an important commercial meeting. Should I pray the silent Amida of the evening prayer twice?
Halacha allows for makeup prayers. If someone missed a prayer due to forces he could not control, for instance, if he was too sick to get out of bed in the morning and he ended up sleeping till the afternoon, he can make up what he did not fulfill by praying the silent Amida twice in the next service. In our example, during Mincha he would recite Shemoneh Esrei twice. One recital would serve as the obligatory Mincha, and the other would be the makeup of Shacharit. If a person deliberately missed a prayer, he may not make it up at the next service. What about someone who is in the middle of an important business meeting and realizes that the time left for Mincha is rapidly vanishing? If a man missed the afternoon service because he feared for his job and livelihood, is that considered a deliberate choice to not pray, or is it considered circumstances out of man’s control, ones? May he recite two Shemoneh Esrei prayers during Ma’ariv?
Terumat Hadeshen (Siman 5) taught that by basic law I am obligated to stop my important business meeting to pray. Even though interrupting a meeting might cause me a financial loss, Halacha expects of me to stop my meeting and to pray to the Almighty. However, if I failed in my test and continued the meeting due to fear of financial loss and for that reason did not pray, it is considered missing a prayer due to duress and I can make up the prayer with two recitals of Shemoneh Esrei at the next service.
Shulchan Aruch (OC 108:8) and Rama record the words of Terumat Hadeshen and rule like him. Ideally, one should take financial risk to pray. However, if one did not, it is still considered missing a prayer due to duress and not a deliberate neglect of tefillah. Tashlumin are an option. Mishnah Berurah added that this law is not only when a man is trying to avoid a loss. Even when he is pressured due to his profit concerns, it is a prayer missed because of duress.
Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (YD Siman 152) suggested that our Gemara is a support to the position of Terumat Hadeshen. Our Gemara taught that if pressure was put on a person and as a result of the stress he agreed to sell an item, the deal would be valid. The rationale for this law is that every sale of an item is, in some measure, coerced. People do not want to sell what they own. Because of financial need they sell. Their selling is still valid. So too, other pressures culminate in valid sales. The Gemara calls financial need ones. Therefore, in regard to prayer as well, financial duress and stress create an ones reality. Any prayer missed because of ones can be made up at the next opportunity.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (OC Chelek Daled Siman 2) was asked by a Jew from Denver about wearing a yarmulke at work. The petitioner was in great financial need. He was desperate for a job. A friend had advocated for him. He had received a job interview. However, the employer expected him to be bareheaded in the office. He would not hire him if he would insist on wearing a yarmulke. Even the friend who had recommended him would suffer loss if he came in with a yarmulke on his head, as the employer would be upset that he had wasted his time with a candidate he would never hire. The job prospect asked Rav Moshe if he could go to the interview and then the job without a head covering.
Rav Moshe pointed out that financial loss and stress is considered duress in the eyes of Halacha. A man is allowed to neglect to fulfill a positive mitzvah of the Torah if the only way to fulfill the command would entail a loss of a fifth or more of his wealth. Financial loss allows for ignoring a mitzvah asei. There is no mitzvah in the Torah obligating us to cover our heads. It is merely a good practice (Magen Avraham 91:3). Certainly, financial duress exempts a person from fulfilling a laudatory custom. For the sake of livelihood, one would be permitted to remove head covering. Livelihood is a stress. He is not covering his head only to alleviate the stress; Rav Moshe ruled that it was therefore permitted to work bareheaded (Mesivta).
By Rabbi Zev Reichman