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Fidgeting: Torah Study, Davening, and Its Broader Context

Question:

For those of us who fidget, either for mental health or some other reason, is it permissible to use a fidget tool during periods of Torah study? This is of course under the assumption that the fidget is aiding ones concentration or ability to function rather than acting as a toy or distraction. I believe I have read that some fidget tools are advised not to be used during davening, is this true? How about during study? For both, does the kind of fidget matter? For example, some may say that it is more respectful for one to be in certain situations with a less obvious fidget. Some tools can range from rings around one’s finger that appear as jewelry to handheld objects that require wielding with two hands–and there is a range of objects that fall in between. Also, would the work being studied matter? For example, perhaps a Chumash would be more permissible for this than the Sefer Torah. Or maybe this would only be permissible with a work from the oral tradition etc. I know that fidgets can be useful tools in our tradition and for many people in general. For example, one who has compulsions that would violate shabbos or other halachic obligations could fidget to help alleviate some of this challenge. Thank you and keep up the good work which provides immense clarity!

 

Answer:

A lot of what you are writing seems correct. While someone is davening, especially Shemona Esrei, which is the time that we are personally talking one-to-one with Hashem we should not be using and fidget gadget. Imagine having a five-minute meeting with the president and bringing along a fidget spinner as you talk to him! It is highly disrespectful. However, while someone is learning, if indeed it is needed and will help the person’s concentration and not divert it, then it can be used. One should take into consideration that his fidget gadget should disturb anyone else’s concentration.

Regarding which type of Torah one is learning, there isn’t much of a difference between the written Torah, such as learning chumash, or the oral law which would include mishnayos and gemara. However, when one gets an aliya, they should not bring along a fidget gadget, as it is disrespectful to the sefer Torah. The sages tell us that when the torah is read it is as if G-d Himself is saying the words thru the mouth of the person read the Torah. Therefore, a person getting an aliya should not use such a gadget at the time.

I am happy that you appreciate and are gaining from the site.

Thank you

 

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2 Comments

  1. A well written and detailed response. I am moved to ask, it was indicated: “while someone is learning, if indeed it is needed”. Without getting too philosophical (as there is plenty to discuss with regard to the subject of need vs want etc.) how does the term “need” practically apply here? For example, (subjectively) a fidget tool certainly would be an aid to my concentration and help me not to become overwhelmed by some mental health issues; but I won’t have a crisis or find myself in a dangerous situation without one (G-d willing). These are, of course, exaggerated examples, but the term ‘needed’ did beckon explanation for me. Thank you for your help and clarity as always.

    1. Thank you for the compliment.
      All I mean with if indeed it is needed, because if it isn’t needed then it is distracting to be doing something else while learning. However if it is helpful to the person’s concentration than it is permitted.

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