77. Where to Pray

12:9 It is a great mitzvah to daven in a shul or a beis medrash since these are places of holiness. Even when praying alone, without a minyan, it is still preferable to pray in a shul. One who regularly studies Torah in a beis medrash should also daven there with a minyan even if there is also a local shul. However, if one is not regularly in that beis medrash, he should go to the shul because there are more people, which is a greater source of praise to God, Who is our King, as per Proverbs 14:28. If there are two local shuls, one earns greater reward for going to the more distant one. In Talmud Brachos (47b), Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says that one should always try to be among the first ten in the minyan because no matter how many arrive after them, they receive merit equal to all of them. The Talmud also says (Brachos 8a) that regular attendance in the synagogue – and proper decorum while there – is a source of merit towards a long life based on Proverbs 8:34-35, “Happy is the one who listens to Me, coming daily to My gates, waiting at the doorposts of My entrances… whoever finds Me, finds life.”

One should select a shul to attend regularly and he should pray in the same location within the shul. (Four amos in any direction – about six feet – is still considered “in the same place.”) A place by the wall is preferable, since we see that King Chizkiyahu faced the wall to pray (Isaiah 38:2 – Mishnah Brurah 90:63 points out that this is merely preferable, not imperative. If it is not easily done, don’t go nuts over it). One should try not to pray next to an unrepentant sinner. When praying at home, one should likewise have a designated spot so that he should not be distracted by household activity.