The Bais Haknesses and Bais Hamedrash may not be used for one’s personal needs. The Mechaber (151:1) says if one needs to enter them in order to call out his friend, he should first say some pessukim, a halacha or Mishna, and only then call him out. It should not look as if he is entering for his own personal needs. If one does not know how to learn, he should ask one of the children to read for him the passuk he is learning. Another option is to spend some time in the Bais Haknesses, since being in the Bais Haknesses itself is a mitzvah. The amount of time one must be there is the time it takes to walk eight tefachim, which is about one second. The Aruch Hashulchan says that this can be done even by standing. Others disagree and hold that one should actually sit down.
Earlier in this halacha the Mechaber says that one may not enter the Bais Haknesses or Bais Hamedrash to escape the heat or because of the rain. The Mishna Berurah says that the heter mentioned above to learn a little cannot be applied here. There is a difference between entering because of the heat or rain and entering to call someone. When it is hot or raining outside, one has the option to enter a different place other than the Bais Haknesses. However, when one needs to call out his friend, he has no other alternative than to enter. In order that it shouldn’t look like he is entering for his own needs, he should learn a little. The learning should be done before he calls his friend; otherwise it looks as if the dvar Torah is subordinate to calling out his friend.
The Mechaber (151:5) says that one may not use the Bais Haknesses as a shortcut. The Biur Halacha says that if he learns or waits there a little it is permissible to make a shortcut. The Poskim ask that the Mishna Berurah himself said earlier that the heter of learning a little can only be used if there is no other alternative. In the case of a shortcut why can’t he walk around on the outside of the Bais Haknesses? The Ohr Samayach and other poskim hold that one may never use the Bais Haknesses as a shortcut even if learns a little.
Reb Nissim Karelitz zt”l says that if the only way to enter the Bais Haknesses is by walking through another Bais Haknesses, since it is recognizable that he is not doing so for his own benefit, no pessukim need to be recited.
The Biur Halacha brings the opinion of the Pri Megadim that if one is on his way to do a mitzvah, he may use the Bais Haknesses as a shortcut. The Biur Halacha disagrees. Even the Rambam is only lenient when one entered the Bais Haknesses to do a mitzvah, on the way out he may use it as a shortcut. However to use it as a shortcut to perform a mitzvah that is not being done in the Bais Haknesses, even the Rambam agrees that it is prohibited since the mitzvah can be done without using the Bais Haknesses as a shortcut.
It is permitted to use the entranceway or the courtyard of the Bais Haknesses for a shortcut. Reb Moshe zt”l says that it is prohibited to use the ezras noshim as a shortcut.1
Prepared by R’ Avrohom Yehoshua Ziskind
1Sources: Mishna Berurah, Biur Halacha, Dirshu