For the week ending 21 May 2016 / 13 Iyyar 5776

Departure Decorum

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Ted

Dear Rabbi,

I have seen over and over in many shuls that toward the end of davening people tend to wrap up their prayer early and gather toward the exit door in anticipation of making a quick exit at the end of the service. It seems to me that this can’t be right. Would you please illuminate this matter for me?

Dear Ted,

If this is the custom, it seems we should welcome a departure from it.

The Talmud (Berachot 6b) forbids rushing or hurrying out of shul because doing so looks like one finds davening to be a burden such that he’s anxious to run away from it, G-d forbid.

This would apply to anything that a person does which would appear to others like he can’t wait to get out of there, including wrapping up before the davening is over and gathering by the exit door in anticipation of leaving.

Conversely, not only is it forbidden to rush out of shul, it is actually a mitzvah to run toward the shul, as is the case when performing any other mitzvah as well. Doing so demonstrates one’s enthusiasm to fulfill G-d’s commandments.

Arguably, since the reason for this is to demonstrate to others the alacrity one should have for the mitzvot, it applies primarily when one nears the shul and it is thereby apparent to others that he’s rushing specifically to the shul in honor of prayers. But if, based on the context, it’s clear to others that he’s on the way to shul, he should show his eagerness to get there even at a distance. One example of this would be if he’s visibly carrying tefillin on his way to the shul for morning prayers.

The importance of demonstrating eagerness to perform a mitzvah is so great that we are encouraged to “run” to shul even on Shabbat, despite its being otherwise forbidden to run on the Sabbath. In fact, one of the Talmudic Sages relates that he initially ridiculed rabbis who would run to Torah lectures on Shabbat, until he heard the teaching of a great Sage who declared that it’s a mitzvah to run for a mitzvah – even on Shabbat.

This teaching offers an important qualification to your question. Namely, just as the prohibition of rushing on Shabbat is suspended for the purpose of a mitzvah, so too the prohibition of running out of shul does not apply to one who is rushing to perform a mitzvah.

Accordingly, one who is going to learn Torah after the prayers may “run” out of shul since he’s rushing not because he’s anxious to leave shul but rather because he’s enthusiastic to fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah. Similarly, even if he has to leave the shul for some mundane reason, but it’s his intention to come back to the shul, he may leave quickly in order to hasten his return.

Since earning a livelihood, with the proper intentions, may be considered a mitzvah and, for that matter, since nearly anything with the right intentions may be elevated to a mitzvah, perhaps those people you see preparing for, and making, a quick exit from shul are actually doing so, at least indirectly, for the purpose of a mitzvah…


  • Talmud Berachot 6b
  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 60:12 and Mishneh Berurah

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