What to do if you hear an air raid siren in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei
I live in Israel and was in middle of Davening Shemoneh Esrei when an air raid siren went off. I immediately ran to the closest bomb shelter but was unsure what to do regarding my Shemoneh Esrei. Should I start it again? Should I continue from where I left off, and if yes then from where shall I continue, from the bomb shelter or only after I return to my original place?
If you hear an air raid siren in middle of Shemoneh Esrei then you are to immediately stop praying and move to seek shelter. If necessary, you may even talk for this purpose such as to ask where to go or in order to assist someone to seek coverage. You, however, should not talk for no reason.
Once you are sheltered in place you should immediately resume your Shemoneh Esrei assuming that the amount of time that has passed between you stopping your prayer and seeking shelter is not more than the amount of time it takes you to recite the entire Shemoneh Esrei. If more than this amount of time has passed, then you must return to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei. [In this regard the amount of time is measured individually by each person, so if it takes a person three minutes to pray the entire Shemoneh Esrei, then he will only resume his Shemoneh Esrei from where he left off if not more than three minutes have passed from the time that he stopped his prayer until he entered into a safe shelter. If more than three minutes have passed, then he must return to the beginning.]
Now, regarding where within Shemoneh Esrei one should resume from if the amount of time that it takes him to recite the entire Shemoneh Esrei has yet to pass, then if he did not speak at all in between, then he should continue from exactly where he left off, starting with the next word that he was about to say before the interval. If, however, he spoke during his interval, then he must return to the beginning of that blessing and if he did not do so and already finished Shemoneh Esrei, then he does not fulfill his obligation and must repeat Shemoneh Esrei. If the interval occurred in between blessings, then even if he spoke during the interval, he is to continue with the next blessing. In this regard, the first three and last three blessings are considered one blessing, and hence if he spoke in between them, he must return to the first blessing of that set of three blessings.
This question, which is unfortunately not uncommon in Israel during times of warfare, and by the border settlements is an almost daily question, is complex and must be broken down into a few parts.
- Making interval middle of Shemoneh Esrei: The first subject that we must tackle is whether or not it is permitted for one to seek shelter during an air raid siren. The answer to this question is that although it states in the Mishneh that one may not stop in middle of Shemoneh Esrei even if a snake is wrapped around his leg, nonetheless, this refers to a snake that is known not to bite in majority of instances and hence the danger level is not yet high. However, if one sees that the snake is angry and ready to bite, then one may stop and make an interval in middle of Shemoneh Esrei, as nothing stands in the way of danger of life. In such a case, one may move and speak in middle of Shemoneh Esrei for the sake of saving himself from the danger. Now, even in the event that the snake is not angry and not considered dangerous, it is only forbidden to speak for the sake of getting rid of the snake, however it is always permitted for one to move his body away in middle of Shemoneh Esrei for the sake of removing oneself from the danger, as the Mishneh above only prohibits the doing of a “Hefsek” for the sake of a snake that does not bite majority of times, however to move away is not considered a Hefsek at all, and may be done in middle of Shemoneh Esrei in any time of need, even if one is in the middle of a blessing. Accordingly, it is understood that even if one were to argue that missile fire is considered similar to a snake that does not bite majority of times, being that the risk of a missile actually hitting near the person is very low, nonetheless, it would still remain permitted to run away and seek shelter in middle of Shemoneh Esrei. Furthermore, in truth we can view the missile similar to an angry snake which is for certain coming to bite, and it is similar to one who sees this type of angry snake from a distance coming in his direction, in which case we most certainly can consider it Pikuach Nefeseh, and hence even speaking is permitted for this purpose.
- Resuming Shemoneh Esrei: The second subject that we must discuss is regarding the resuming of Shemoneh Esrei, and it’s laws and guidelines. So, the law is that if one stopped in middle of Shemoneh Esrei due to reasons beyond his control [i.e. Annus], due to finding urine or feces in his four cubit vicinity, then at times he may resume from exactly where he left off, and at times he must return to the beginning of that blessing that he stopped in the middle of, and at times he must return to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei. [Regarding if making a silent interval due to danger is considered like Oness, we find a dispute amongst the Poskim and practically we rule regarding Shemoneh Esrei that it is considered like Oness, although Bedieved he is only to repeat Shemoneh Esrei as a Nedava if he did not return to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei, in those cases that doing so is initially required, as will be explained.] The law regarding where one is to return to is dependent on two factors, 1) the amount of time that passed between him stopping his prayer and his now readiness to resume after getting out of danger; 2)whether he spoke in between or whether it was a silent interval. In all cases that the amount of time that passed between him stopping his prayer and getting into a safe zone is enough time for him personally to say his entire Shemoneh Esrei, then he must always return to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei, even if he was silent the entire time. If this amount of time has not passed, then if he did not speak he is to return to where he left off and if he did speak then he is to return to the beginning of that blessing, or to the beginning of that group of blessings by the first and last three blessings.
- In which location to resume? The last subject that needs to be tackled is regarding where to resume his Shemoneh Esrei in the event that he is not required to return to the beginning. Practically, although we find stated that one should always try to resume his Shemoneh Esrei in the location that he was originally in being that that is the location that the divine presence has been drawn to, practically, one should resume the prayer in his shelter. The reason for this is because the Homefront command gives instructions for one to remain 10 minutes in the shelter after hearing a siren of a missile, and if a person waits this long before returning to his place, then enough time will pass to recite his entire Shemoneh Esrei which will cause him to need to repeat it from the beginning, and one should not cause himself to need to repeat blessings when not necessary, and hence he should resume the prayer in his shelter.
Sources: See regarding the allowance to walk and even talk in middle of Shemoneh Esrei to avoid danger of life: Admur 104:1-3; Tur 104:3; Michaber 104:3; Mishneh Brachos 5:1 (30b); Rav Sheishes Brachos 33a; Rambam in Pirush hamishnayos ibid and Tefila 6:9; Levush 104:3; Bach 104; Ateres Zekeinim 104:3; Rabbeinu Yonah on Brachos ibid; Ketzos Hashulchan 20:22; See regarding the allowance to walk in middle of Shemoneh Esrei to avoid any matter of disturbance even if it is not danger of life: Admur 95:1; 104:1-2; Michaber 95:1; Brachos 10b; Ketzos Hashulchan 20:20 and 22; Igros Moshe 5:38; Piskeiy Teshuvos 95:1; See regarding the law that if you waited enough time to be able to recite the entire Shemoneh Esrei prior to resuming, that you must return to the beginning and regarding if your should return back to your original area where you started Shemoneh Esrei if you did not wait that long: Admur 104:4; 65:1 [brings dispute regarding Shema, and a dispute regarding if Sakana is considered Oness, although concludes with Yeish Mi Sheomer that by Shemoneh Esrei we consider Sakana also as Oness]; 185:5; Michaber and Rama 65:1; 104:5-6; Brachos 23a; M”A 65:1; M”B 65:16; Ketzos Hashulchan 20:21; Ben ish Chaiy Mishpatim 1:8; Kaf Hachaim 10428, 90:48; Ish Matziliach 1:11; Yabia Omer 3:10; Piskeiy Teshuvos 104:11; See regarding returning to your original location: Admur 90:25; Rama 95:27; Piskeiy Teshuvos 104:1