Pondering A Kapandria
“It Should Not Be Used As A Shortcut”
As we learned in this week’s daf yomi, it is forbidden to use a shul as a shortcut. Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 12:16), was once asked whether one may rent a room whose only entrance is through a shul. R’ Waldenberg noted a discrepancy between the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 151:5) and the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 11:8) which provides the key to answering this question.
The Shulchan Aruch writes: “If there are two entrances to a shul, a person may not enter one door in order to leave through the other to shorten his path.” This wording implies that a person is forbidden from passing through a shul to shorten his path since doing so is considered disrespectful to the shul. What if there is no other way to get to where one needs to go? Perhaps, then, walking through a shul would be okay and not considered disrespectful since the person is only walking through because he has no other choice – not because he is using the shul as shortcut.
However, the Rambam cites the same halacha about using the shul as a shortcut and then adds the following explanation, “Because it is forbidden to enter a shul except to perform a mitzvah.” This rationale leaves no room for non-mitzvah exceptions.
A Double Shul
The Tzitz Eliezer mentions a question that once arose concerning two shuls in the Old City of Yerushalayim. The entrance to the Beis HaKnesses of the Rivaz was accessible only via the Beis HaKnesses of immigrants from Istanbul. Poskim were asked whether passing through the Istanbul shul to enter the Rivaz shul was permissible. The answer to this question would seem to be “Yes” – even according to the Rambam – because praying in the Beis HaKnesses of the Rivaz is a mitzvah.
Walking through a shul to enter one’s living quarters, however, would likely not be permissible according to the Rambam (although it would be permissible according to the Shulchan Aruch if there is no other way to reach them).
A Kapitel Tehilim
Interestingly, the Mishpatei Uziel (Even HaEzer 2:61) recalls that whenever people would pass through the Istanbul shul to reach the Rivaz shul, they would pause to say Tehillim in order not to be disrespectful the Istanbul shul – even though walking through the Istanbul shul was the only way to reach the Rivaz shul.