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Rulings of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
One of our most revered and venerable Torah sages of this last century was Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zatzal, of Jerusalem, Israel. Members of the Torah community in Eretz Yisroel did not make a move without consulting his prodigious Torah knowledge and sagacious advice. He was recognized as a leading sage in both the Chareidi and Chardal Torah communities. Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l passed away on February 20, 1995 and the loss of such a Gadol was immeasurable.
The loss to American Jewry, however, is perhaps more profound, in that we were not even fortunate enough, due to the language barrier, to have had access to his rulings and statements. The following is a short compilation of some of the rulings that were issued by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman zatzal, a few years before his passing.
These rulings only comprise the actual halachic rulings that were issued. The text of the rulings do not include the extraordinarily profound halachic thought processes that characterized Rav Shlomo Zalman’s method of halacha. To glimpse a taste of that, the reader is referred to the Hebrew responsa Sefer entitled “Minchas Shlomo.”
The rulings found below were culled from the prestigious Torah journal “Mevakshei Torah” printed in Jerusalem, Israel [ POB 41170, Jerusalem, Israel]. The rulings (in the original Hebrew) were reviewed by Rav Shlomo Zalman ‘s son. Between each section of rulings, a brief overview of that particular section was included by this author to provide a frame of reference for the reader.


The Shulchan Aruch begins with the statement that we must arise like a lion to serve our Creator. This statement serves as a call to arms of sorts, imbuing the observant Jew with the motivation to face his evil inclination head on. For man’s ultimate purpose is to serve G-D in every way possible – with all our “heart, might, and soul.” This can be realized in a number of ways, whether it be by developing our personal sensitivities to where we should pray, and what we should avoid doing before we pray, or by heightening our sense of the immeasurable loss incurred by the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash by not even being awakened by music. The laws below deal with the halachos that apply when we first awaken in the morning.
1] One should not daven next to Netilas Yadayim water (See Shaarei Teshuvah 4:8) [On account of the impurity].
2] One should not be awakened with music [A tape or radio on a timer] nor a musical alarm clock [See Ramah 560:3 – the reason is on account of the destruction of the Temple we should avoid all music not associated with a Mitzvah].
3] If no one else makes his bed he may do so before davening. If however, someone else will make his bed for him he may not do so before davening.
4] If one did not sleep during the night, and he needs to wash his hands there is no need to do it at the exact point of dawn. Rather, before he leaves to daven – he should wash his hands.
5] It is prohibited to wash one’s body with soap before davening, even if it will cause him Bittul Torah. The reason is so that others will not learn from his actions.
6] Since, in our times everyone drinks tea with sugar, it is permitted to drink tea with sugar before davening and there is no problem of Yuhra (haughtiness in taking care of our needs before we thank G-D).
There is a little known halacha that is found in the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim Siman 5) that we are required to have certain ideas in mind when we pronounce the names of G-D. When we pronounce the name ”Ado-shem” we must think that He is Master of all and that He was, is and always will be. When we pronounce the word “Elokainu” we must have in mind that He is our G-D and that He is All- Powerful, or Omnipotent. Rabbi Auerbach zt”l explains the exact details of this Halacha.

7] One may rely on the opinion of the Aishel Avrohom who writes that a person should state in the morning that the intention he has for all Divine Names that he recites that day is like it is found in the Siddurim. The whole issue of the intentions when pronouncing the Divine Names is not found in the Gemorah, and therefore one may be lenient. It is enough to have in mind that this is the name of the Master of the world and it is known that Rabbi S MiKinon had the practice of davening like a one day old child. The meaning of this is that he prayed, but prayed to the Master of the World. Even though it is not recommended to argue with the Shulchan Aruch, the Vilna Gaon has already written that one does not have to have the intentions that the Shulchan Aruch writes.
8] This statement in the beginning of the day [that the Aishel Avrohom writes] is ineffective for the first verse in Shma, nor does it work for the first bracha in Shmoneh Esreh.

The concept of reciting a blessing has three aspects to it. The first is the active recognition of G-D’s presence in every facet of our life cycle, both the holy and the mundane. The expression of gratitude for what Hashem has given us is a second aspect that is achieved through the rubric of blessings. The third aspect, however, of reciting blessings is the qualitative changes that it brings about within ourselves. Expressing gratitude to Hashem transforms us into people that appreciate what has been done for us, even by others. It imbues us with G-dly qualities of goodness which we are commanded to develop. The majority of blessings are of rabbinic origin. The Rabbis took their cue from the two areas of blessings that are of divine origin – grace after meals and the laws of Birchas HaTorah – the blessings that we recite before we study Torah. The laws of this blessing are somewhat intricate. Below we find some of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s rulings on the details of this blessing.
9] If one is in doubt as to whether he had recited Birchas Ha Torah, he may learn even before he finds someone else who can be Motzi him.
10] Those that are careful in Mitzvos recite Birchas HaTorah whenever they sleep three hours in the daytime.
11] One that went to sleep before sunset and woke up after the stars came out does not need to recite Birchas HaTorah again, because when he said it in the morning he had in mind until the next day.

THE TEFILLIN ARE AN ETERNAL SIGN GIVEN TO US BY G-D HIMSELF. Consequently, the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin is a very precious one. Indeed the Rav Shulchan Aruch (37:1) writes that there is no greater Mitzvah in the Torah, as it is equated with the fulfillment of all the other Mitzvos in the Torah combined. The exact details of this Mitzvah were handed down by Moses at Mount Sinai and were transmitted mouth to mouth down the generations. Below we find Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’ s answers to questions on the intricate laws of Tefillin.

12] An ambidextrous person who puts on Tefillin on both hands should not do it (i.e. have them both on) at the same time because it appears as if he is adding to the Torah.

13] The covering for the Tefillin Shel Yad is not considered a covering for the purpose of fulfilling “For you a sign but not for others a sign.”

14] Even though there are those that wrote that the cover on the Tefillin Shel Yad is like an addition to the Tefillin and it is proper to remove it, this is not an obligation. The rubber band that attaches the yud to the Tefillin, however, is not considered an addition. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatzal’s minhag was to remove the cover of the Tefillin Shel Yad before the Brocha and to return it after he donned the Tefillin Shel Yad.
15] One who touches his arm while putting on Tefillin does not need to wash his hands. [Rabbi Auerbach is arguing with a ruling issued by Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch in a published responsa.]
16] If someone’s hair is wet this is not considered a Chatzitza for the Tefillin Shel Rosh.
17] One may place Parprin oil on the Tefillin Shel Rosh to ward off moisture and sweat. This is not considered a Chatzitza because it gets absorbed into the Tefillin leather.
18] The Mishna Brura 27:14 cites an argument of the Achronim whether one should be careful regarding whether the Tefillin strap can be chotzetz between the Tefillin box and the flesh. The opinion of the Revid HaZahav is that is not considered a Chatzitza, because it is considered Min BeMino, of the same type; while the Levushai Sarad’s opinion is that one should be stringent. Even though it should be considered Min BeMino, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatzal explained that since the holiness of the Tefillin Box is greater than that of the straps it is not to be considered Min BeMino.
19] It is permitted to sit down on a bench that has tefillin straps laying on it.


In the times of the Mishna there were a group of people who observed Mitzvos most meticulously. These people were known as “the Vasikin” and performed every Mitzvah at the first opportunity. Those that daven Vasikin begin their Shmoneh Esreh at the crack of dawn. It is said that if one davens Vasikin properly on a particular day, no harm can befall the person on that day. In our times as well there are many people (particularly in Eretz Yisroel) that pray Vasikin.

20] It is preferable for a Yeshiva student to pray in Yeshiva rather than to pray Vasikin, even though Vasikin is a great thing as its name attests to. The reason is that the Yeshiva student must be careful with the Sedorim, learning and prayer schedules, of the Yeshiva.
21] If one has a custom to pray Vasikin every day and he wishes to stop this custom, he must make a special hataras nedarim in front of three people – the hataras nedarim he makes on erev Rosh HaShana is not sufficient.
22] However, one who has a custom to pray Vasikin just one day a week and wishes to stop this custom, may rely upon the Hataras Nedarim of Erev Rosh HaShana.
23] One who davens each day at a set Minyan and it happens that he was awake at sunrise, does not have to recite Shma then, rather he reads it with the brachos in his regular manner.

The Talmud (Brachos 32a) tells us that one should not approach G-D for personal requests without first having sung praises to the Creator of the World. Psukei DeZimra, or literally, “Verses of Praise” composed by King David himself, was placed in the morning service in order to address this issue. Psukei Dezimra, however, is an entity separate and apart from the Shacharis service, which technically begins with the blessing of Yotzer Ohr. According to the Kabbalists it is filled with wonderful mystical significance. How its unique identity correlates to Shacharis and other aspects of davening is of paramount significance and is the subject of the next few responsas.
24] One whose custom in Baruch SheAmar is to say the word “Pi” should continue in his custom.
25] If one is davening Psukei DeZimra and if he does not recite it quickly he will miss Tefillah BeTzibbur, it is preferable to skip some and say fewer of them with greater Kavanah, because few with kavanah are better than many without Kavanah.
26] One who is reciting Psukei DeZimra and he hears a Kaddish or a Kedusha from another Minyan should preferably noot stop to respond since this distracts him from having the necessary intent for Psukei DeZimrah. This is preferable, however, he does have the option of answering if he wants to.
28] One who is reciting Psukei DeZimra and the Shliach Tzibbur has already reached Kaddish and Borchu should have in mind that he does not wish to be Yotze with this Borchu. Since Borchu is the beginning of the bracha “Yotzeh Ohr” he can no longer continue saying Psukai DeZimrah.
29] It is prohibited to omit from Psukei DeZimra if it is possible to daven properly afterward in a different Minyan, unless he feels he can daven better in this minyan. Similarly, if he is rushing for purposes of his parnassa, daily occupation, he may omit.
There is perhaps no other prayer in the Jewish siddur which better encapsulates Israel’s mission and ultimate purpose – the sanctification of G-D’s name. It is this prayer when recited by a relative of a deceased which gives the greatest benefit to the soul of the deceased. It is thus most appropriate and no wonder, that we treat the Kaddish with the greatest respect possible.

30] One who davens in a large place where one cannot hear the Kaddish from where he is standing is nonetheless forbidden to speak, as this is considered a bizayon, disrespectful to speak in the middle of the recitation of Kaddish.


The Shma, is the formulation in which we articulate twice daily our expression of the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven. In its essence, it also expresses the creed of a Jew. In the first statement, we express G­ D’s Oneness and Unity. “Hear oh Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is One. In these six Hebrew words lies the kernel of Judaism’s entire philosophical ouevre.
G-D is One.
This has implications. What are they and what does this Oneness imply? The implications are in the paragraphs that follow. The first paragraph tells us how exactly to serve Him – with heart, might and soul. The Oneness implies that He is the only source of goodness, and that we should strive to be like Him. The Halachic interaction of this prayer with other sections of davening is the topic of the next few rulings by Rabbi Auerbach zatzal.

31] If one remembered in the middle of Yotzer Ohr that he did not say Yishtabach, he lost out on the bracha and cannot go back and recite it.
32] If one generally recites the Krias Shmah slowly and carefully and cannot reach the Shmoneh Esreh with the congregation, one should read the Shmah before Davening slowly and carefully and when reciting the Shmah during davening he may do so quickly. One should not, however, just say the blessings of the Shmah during the actual davening and leave out the Shmah itself.

33] One who begins Krias Shmah after the Shliach Tzibbur has already recited “Hashem Elokaichem Emes” does not have to say “Kel Melech Neeman” before the first posuk, as this is not considered BeYachid.

34] If someone awoke on Tisha BeAv at a late hour, even though the time for saying Krias Shmah has passed, he is permitted to recite the Shmah without its blessings even though it is considered as if he is merely reading in the Torah.


The Talmud tells us that one should always attempt to pray with the community. The benefits are manifold- the prayers are more efficacious, it shows community-mindedness, and indeed, the bundling of prayers together allows the prayers of the not-so-righteous to enter before G-D as well. When we pray alone, the prayers are presented to G-D through an intermediary, when we pray together, G-D Himself accepts it. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch rules that if one has a synagogue in his town and he does not enter it, he is labelled a Rasha, an evildoer. The exact details of Tefilla BeTzibbur are what lie in the next few rulings by Rabbi Auerbach zatzal.
35] The parameters of Tefillah BeTzibbur are: to begin exactly at the same time as the Shliach Tzibbur when he recites the blessing of Avos. However, if he began after this it is still considered Tefillah BeTzibbur.
36] One who prays in a different room (such as the women’s section] is considered as if he is davening with the congregation. However, it is not considered 100% with the congregation and the Tefillah BeTzibbur is somewhat deficient.
37] Even according to the Rashba (who holds that in the first blessing of Shmoneh Esreh it is forbidden to have a hefsek in thought even in between the words) if one is still in the middle of this first brocha and the Shliach Tzibbur has reached the recitation of Kedusha, one remains silent and remains attentive to the Kedusha with the Shliach Tzibbur.
38] If one is reciting Shmoneh Esreh and the Shliach Tzibbur begins the recitation of Kedusha there is no need for the person to finish up to Atta Kadosh, rather, he remains silent until the Shliach Tzibbur finishes Kedushah.
39] If one is davening together with the Shliach Tzibbur, even though some have written that he says Atta Kadosh, he should rather say Ledor VaDor and follow what the Shliach Tzibbur is saying.
40] If one is not davening in a minyan, it is preferable to daven at the time that the Minyan is davening rather than in the Shul when there is no Minyan.


The Shmoneh Esreh, of which the text and its themes were formulated by the Anshei Knesses Gedolah, is the climax of the morning service. Everything until now led up to this where we stand before G-D and list off our needs. We extol, we thank, and we request. In this section there is protocol; where we can walk, what we can wear, and what we do when we forget crucial sections. In the next few rulings we find numerous insights into the halachic protocols.
41] A Shtender is not considered a separation regarding the law that one cannot walk next to someone who is davening. The reason is that it does not have the area of 4 by 4.
42] One is permitted to daven while wearing a scarf and this is not considered a lack of kavod, respect, in davening.
43] It is not proper to pray with ones jacket placed over his shoulders (i.e. with his arms not in the sleeves of the jacket), for if he were to stand before a nobleman he would not stand thus.
44] When Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatzal was asked about the Rashba (who holds that in the first bracha of Shmoneh Esreh it is forbidden to have a hefsek in thought at all even in between the words), he responded, “Who can possibly follow this?”
45] One who is in the middle of the Bracha of Barech Alainu and forgot to mention Vesain tal umatar but already said Baruch Atta Hashem, should complete the bracha and say vetain tal umattar in between the brachos. He should not say “Lamdaini Chukecha” and begin again from the beginning of the braeha.
46] In the bracha of Shmah Koleinu it is forbidden to answer “Amain Yehe shmai Rabbah” [as some would have it] because this is not an individual request but rather a request for the honor of heaven.
47] One who forgot Yaaleh Veyavoh and returns to daven again does not have to daven with the congregation since he has already fulfilled this requirement with his first Tefillah. Similarly, on Shabbos when he forgets Retzai in Birkas HaMazon his first brachos count toward the required hundred brachos of the day.
48] On Shmini Atzeres, if one is in doubt as to whether he said “BeYom Shmini Atzeres” or “BeChag HaSukkos” in yaaleh veyavah, he does not have to repeat it again. The reason is that even though he has been saying BeChag HaSukkas for the past 7 days, it has not been for 30 days and he is not considered accustomed to saying it that way.
49] One whose custom is to say Sim Shalom during the Mincha Shmaneh Esreh cannot change to the shorter Shalom Rav in order to hear kedusha, since this is the nusach of his Tefillah.
50] If one forgot to say the word “Shalom” in the conclusion of the bracha of Sim Shalom he must go back to “Retzai” as the last three brachas of Shmaneh Esreh are considered as one.
51] One who forgot to say Yaaleh VeYavah but remembered it in Elokai Netzor may not respond to Kaddish or Kedusha (as he would normally when he is in Elokai Netzor) rather he should be silent and remain attentive for it is as if he is in the middle of Retzai.
52] If one says the pasuk of “Yehei u leratzon imrei fi” before Elokai Netzor the only verses that he should respond to in Kedusha are Kaddish and Barchu. Other verses should not be said then.
53] One who is waiting to take his three steps back for the person who is praying behind him should ideally wait until that person finishes his bowings as well, for the Shechina is still before him.
54] One who has completed his Shmoneh Esreh but has not taken his three steps back yet – may join with the congregation in reciting Tehillim.


The Kohanim, the priests of a nation of priests are enjoined to bless the nation of priests by the Torah. This too has a protocol; one for the Kohanim and for the nation receiving their blessing. What should we be doing while they recite their blessings?

55] One who, while reciting the Shmoneh Esreh, is standing in a place where the Kohanim will Duchen may pass by someone who is in the middle of his Shmoneh Esreh in order that the Kohanim may be able to stand in their place.
56] If one cannot wash his hands before the blessing of the Kohanim because he cannot step backward, he may, if he has no other option, wash his hands before Davening, and make sure that he guards his hands carefully that they not become impure. Even though the Achronim have written not to do so, in this situation where there is no other recourse and he knows that he can maintain the purity of his hands – we may be lenient.
57] One who is standing in the middle of Shmoneh Esreh and the Shliach Tzibbur has reached Birchas Kohanim, should remain silent and be attentive to their blessing. This is because it is the opinion of the Charaidim that there is a positive Mitzvah incumbent upon Bnai Yisrael, Jews, that they be blessed. Even without this it would be permitted to stop because he wishes to be blessed with Birchas Kahanim.
58] One who is davening his silent Shmaneh Esreh while the Shliach Tzibbur is davening his repetition of the Shmoneh Esreh (and the one davening the personal Shmoneh Esreh is keeping up with the Shliach Tzibbur) should answer A men to the brachos of the Kohanim (but not to the bracha that the Kohanim make Asher Kid shanu BeMitzvosav etc.)
59] Those that have the custom to recite the blessings of the Kohanim silently so that just the Kohanim and not the congregation will hear are mistaken, and should recite them aloud.


Here are listed other rulings of Rabbi Auerbach that take us through the end of davening, and into other aspects of davening in a shul. We begin with the laws of Tachanun, literally, “supplication.” Jewish history, marred as it was with blood, tears and tragedy, gave rise to this section of davening. Below we find the halachic aspects of its recitation. Other rulings that follow it give details of how the final sections of the Tefillah interact with previous parts.

60] One who is Davening in a Minyan and the congregation reached the thirteen attributes, yet he as yet did not, must stop and recite them and then go back to where he left off.

61] If one is unable to recite the entire Tachanun of Monday and Thursday carefully, it is preferable to say less of it but more carefully, as quality is better than quantity.
62] Regarding a shul in which a Bris has taken place, all minyanim that are praying after the Bris has been performed recite Tachanun.
63] One who is reciting Tachanun and the congregation has already reached the thirteen attributes should join up with them, and not say them privately with the Taamim.
64] One who receives an Aliyah in a place with a different pronunciation than his own, that is Sephardic or Yemenite, should say the Brachos with the pronunciation practiced at that place.
65] One who prays with a Sephardic pronunciation may read the Torah with an Askenazic pronunciation to an Ashkenazic congregation. For Parshas Zachar, however, he should hear it specifically in a Sephardic pronunciation.
66] If one is in the middle of Shmoneh Esreh and the congregation is up to the reading of the Torah, it is prohibited to stop his prayer in order to listen to the reading. This is too great a Hefsek and it is inappropriate to interrupt his Tefillah. He also does not have to make it up later by hearing the reading elsewhere unless he wishes to on account of Hiddur Mitzvah, performing a Mitzvah in the most beautiful manner.
67] One who began to say LaM’natzayach one a day that this Mizmor is not said, should stop and not continue the Mizmor even though he already began the posuk Yaancha Hashem BeYom Tzara.
68] One who prays Nusach Ashkenaz and already recited the Alainu after UVah LeTzion and is now saying Ain KeElokainu while the congregation (which is Nusach Sefard ) is reciting the Alainu, does not have to stop and say Alainu with the congregation since he is involved in his prayer. However, ideally, he should be careful to pray just as the congregation is praying.


The Talmud informs us of the prohibition of eating (indeed, there is even a prohibition of learning Torah) within one half of an hour of the time to recite the Krias Shma of night. The concern, of course, is that perhaps we will continue in our meal (or our studying) and forget to recite it. It is unfortunate that this concern is more applicable today than ever before. The Mishna Brurah, however, provides us with an interesting footnote to this halacha. In Orech Chaim 235:17, he quotes the opinion of the Achronim that if he appoints a person who is not learning to remind him to recite the Shmah, it is permitted. This person is called a Shomer.
69] Placing a sign on one’s clothing (such as switching his watch to his other hand) in order to remind oneself to Daven is not considered equivalent to appointing a Shomer (person who will remind one to daven), however, setting a watch or clock alarm that will surely remind him is considered equivalent.
70] In a Yeshiva where they eat before Maariv there is no need to appoint a Shomer since everyone reminds each other and the time for Davening is well established. However, one who does not pray with regularity at the Yeshiva must appoint a Shomer.


Just as davening Shacharis with a minyan is important, so too is davening Mincha and Maariv with a Minyan most important. Among many Yeshivos and some shuls, the custom at Mincha has become prevalent for the reader to recite a half Shmoneh Esreh (i.e. to say aloud until Kedusha and then everyone begins their personal Shmoneh Esreh silently while the reader merely continues silently). Rabbi Shlomo Zalrnan Auerbach zatzal recommended against this practice (at least in a shul setting). Below we find two rulings about the Shmoneh Esreh for Mincha and Maariv.

71] It is better to say a Mincha with a full Shmoneh Esreh even if the repetition of it will be after Shkiyah (sundown) than to say a half Shmoneh Esreh.
72] Even though there is an opinion that davening at the same time as the Shliach Tzibbur’s repetition is still considered Tefillah BeTzibbur, this does not work for one who is davening Maariv when the Shliach Tzibbur is davening Minchah. For this is prayer of the day and the other is prayer of the night. The fact is that even Kaddish Tiskabel of the evening should not be said for the day prayer, but the custom is not like this.
It is the author’s hope that presenting this small glimpse of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zatzal’s rulings will motivate the reader to take a fresh look at some of the halachos discussed herein. We hope that the reader will perhaps have the opportunity to delve further into the halachic issues discussed with his or her Rabbi, in the actual sources themselves.
The author can be reached at

The author would like to note that this article was compiled on the wifi equipped plane trip from New York to Arizona on the occasion of the wedding of Effie Loffman to Leoni Zilcha. Mazal Tov!

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