Readers’ Matzav: Enough With Saved Seating


shulDear Matzav Editor,

It has long been known that in frum shuls throughout North America, people have their “makom” and will not change seats in shul. I have witnessed older and younger men alike, numerous times, yelling at people to get out of their seats.

Besides for the fact that this creates a bad environment to daven in, it is extremely offensive and very rude. Many times, I’ve seen out-of-towners getting yelled at for sitting in someone else’s seat when they simply didn’t know.

I understand the significance of having a makom to daven in, but at what cost? And if it really is so important, then people should make sure to get to davening on time.

New York, NY

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  1. I, for one, when I daven elsewher, ask if the seat is available. I find it disturbing when people sit wherever they please without asking. Especially, when they come into the shul with their coats and belongings and place them on the chairs next to them or across the table.
    How about the ones that come in and push your talis and teffilin bags aside to make room for theirs.

  2. There is a big inyun to daven in a makom kovuah. Sometimes even when one is on time he finds others in his seat. Is it so diifficult for a guest to ask where an availale seat is? This past shabbos I was a guest and did just that. I had a seat for every tefiloh and was comfortable knowing I was not taking someone’s makom. Even so one need not yell when a guest is in his seat. Asking them nicely to move to a vacant seat is surely better.

  3. At the same time, when you do visit another shul it is menchlach to simply ask around for a “free” seat. I’ve seen people come and help themselves to shtenders that clearly belong to someone. I am not condoning the response you are talking about, that is clearly wrong. Just another side to it.

  4. A week after my own Sheva Berachos, I made the mistake of sitting in someone’s seat. That same morning, the president of the shul announced from the pulpit (after the Rabbi spoke) That henceforth, anyone who does not have a specific seat, should sit in the Ezras Nashim until 9:15, and then he would be able to sit in any free seat. 🙁
    Incidentally, I think Shulchan Aruch advises people who find their ‘makom kavua’ taken – to sit somewhere else…

  5. Having a set seat is right.

    Yelling is (generaly) wrong.

    Embarasing somone is wrong.

    Respectfuly and tactfuly requesting ones seat…

  6. never heard of a “Makom Kavuah”??? When i am a guest in a shul I make sure to find out where i can sit by asking someone where is there an availabe seat. Second when i make a simcha i call the people that sit next to me before shabbos to ask them permision to use their seats for my guest.

  7. As someone who seats people in my Shul I can really appreciate your concerns. I agree – the solution is to make sure if you want your seat to be on time. We have an unwritten rule in our Shul that says we will hold your seat up until 10 minutes after the start time of Shacharis. (Mincha and maariv your on your own). I will seat our guests when they arrive and if it is still within the 10 minute mark I let them know up front there is a chance I may need to reseat them. I also try to find out before Shabbos who will be away and I also know who are the ones that get upsetand who stays calm.

    It is an issue but it can be overcome.

  8. One rabbi I know quotes his (rebbitzin) mother as saying there are 5 words you should never say in shul: “you are in my seat.”

  9. I once sat in someones seat in a shul shabbos morning and a few minutes after baruchu this guy comes in and says to move over 1 seat since it was his makom kavuah I moved over a few minutes later he says to find a different seat because his 10 year old has come to shul I didn’t find another seat and I was so sick of his attitude I can’t stand going to that shul unless I have to either get to shul ontime or you forfeit your seat how do you expect someone to find a seat by shmonei esrei time especially if its a guest and didn’t know your seat rabbosai you want your makom kevuah show up on time

  10. to me its simple, if you want your seat (and not having to throw someone out), come on time to davening adn there will be no worries

  11. Indeed! A friend of mine showed up a bit late, and found someone (a visitor to the shul) in his ‘makom’ (using his shtender). He politely went and sat elsewhere. When he returned for mincha, he arrived before the visitor to the shul and returned to his usual place. The visitor arrived, walked up to my friend, and announced that my friend was in his seat.

  12. is there a reason that you posted a picture of the white shul in far rockaway? in the white shul, this is not the case

  13. Sitting in a specific seat for davening is not an immature idea or personal preference such as the typical childish call of “same seats”. It is clearly stated in halacha the significance and importance of a makom kavua and people have a right to be stringent on it and enforce it. Of course, it should be done with respect especially if it is a stranger who is occupying the seat, but people who are not in their “regular” shul also should know to assume that most seats in a shul do belong to someone, so to speak and should therefore ask someone who knows, for an open seat before plopping themselves down in any open seat. As far as coming on time to shul, it is no one’s business (other than perhaps the Rav) when someone comes to shul, especially since you never know when it may be due to an oines. I do agree though that one who is an habitual latecomer can’t expect that his seat will remain open and available for him for whenever he decides to arrive. By the time Sh’ma or Shmone Esrei rolls around, if the seat is still empty it is usually safe to assume that the person will either not be coming or certainly doesn’t expect his seat to still be open.

  14. Nothing to be confused about. There will always be people without common sense and there is nothing you can do to change that. That having been said, it’s best for a not regular mispallel to find an open seat, especially if it is early or before davining.

  15. a simple way to avert this problem by asking other people before taking the seat if its anyone’s personal place

  16. Sheli sheli, shelcho shelcho,
    What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours is defined by chazal as Midas Sodom.


  18. What’s worse, if the person in the “wrong seat” is not just from out of town, but a tinok she’nishba. You can be sure telling them to move out of your seat will send them walking out of shul altogether.

  19. I have seen on a number of occasions people (kids and adults) asking guests to move their seats because they were in their makom kavuah, what about hachnosas orchim or derech eretz, are they any less mitzvos than makom kavuah? Just one more place where ben adom la chavero is being pushed aside for ben adom lachavero.

  20. the entire concept of makom kavua is learnt from Avraham Avinu and is a sign of Anivus. If u eed to fight, scream, and yell then u completely defeated the purpose.

  21. When you book a seat on a plane but someone gets to that seat before you does that give him the right to take it because you came the last minute before the door closed.
    people pay money for a seat no matter when he comes the mentchlach way is to have a someone there early enough to place newcomers and guest into known available seats
    a person coming into shul should enquire as to where he can sit before taking someones spot

  22. Are we so backward and self centered that if someone is sitting in our seat that we can’t FIRST find a spot and show him over to it to make him feel comfortable and welcome? This much selflessness is too hard for us? This shouldn’t even be an issue if there were more of us who did exactly this!

  23. #25, If he’s late, he lost his makom.

    When a plane closes its doors, and you’re not it, you lost you’re seat. (In fact the airline probably gave it away once you didn’t check in on time.)

  24. In our government program-laden, ess-kumt-mir society, a seat in shul is just one more entitlement many take for granted.

    I, for one, applaud those who make a point of becoming members in the shul they frequent and donate money (buy aliyos, Melava Malka, Yizkor etc.) to maintain the place that acts as their makom tefila.

    Too often I see freeloaders coming in to a shul (where they give nothing and are not members) and opening siddurim to reserve three or four seats. These same parasites are the first to deposit their grotesque table shtenders (which look more like coffins than shul furniture) on the table where it hogs the space 24/7. Try and sit down to learn with a chavrusa in many shuls and you will find it impossible to do so without evoking the wrath of someone who finds his heilege shtender out of its place.

    So be kovea your makom by paying for it and insist that the shul post a chart showing which seats are taken. The guests will appreciate the heads-up and the freeloaders will find their non-payment exposed and that others will promptly close those open siddurim and claim the open seats on a first-come-first-served basis.

    Time to grow up!

  25. I see the writer posts, New York, N.Y. Maybe in Manhattan they kick you out. Not in Brooklyn. We are very welcoming here.

  26. # 25 – the issue if the seat is yours because you ‘paid” for the seat is only partially correct. yes, you are entitled to a seat, but if you believe that its only for that particular seat, ask any gabbai what happens on Rosh Hashanah. a person that davens in a shul all year and elsewhere for rosh hashanah cannot say ‘its my seat, you cant sell it”.
    Bottom line is –
    1 – Makom kavuah is in the Shulchan Aruch.
    2 – daled Amos from your actual seat is still makom kavuah’.
    3 – If you walk into a strange shul, ask if you can sit in that seat.

  27. A simple solution to avoid making guests uncomfortable would be to not make the back row or bench your makom kavua or for the shul to designate the back for guests. After all, when a foreigner comes in he usually stays towards the back of the shul anyway. This way when a guest comes in to shul without knowing anybody, he can just take the liberty to sit in the rear of the shul and not have to think he is taking someones seat. Members noticing a new face can then approach the unknown guest and offer him a different seat that is still yet unassigned to anybody or offer a member’s seat that is absent for the current davening and at the same time informing him that somebody usually sits there to avoid a future misunderstanding. In doing so, all guests who are come and don’t know anybody will be greeted by members who see them in the back or designated area and will result in giving the shul a good and friendly name. I tried it and it works!

  28. Does the shul have a policy regarding seats? I daven in a shul with limited seating and pay dues specifically so that i have the right to sit in “my” seat. This is the shul’s policy. That being said, i make sure to come to shul for the zman of the tefilla so as to be able to sit in that seat. Last year someone in the shul made a chasunah. when i came to shul before mincha on Friday Night i noticed that the mechutan was sitting in my seat. I asked him if it would be ok to show him to a table where the seats are normally empty.

  29. Honestly Frum – I think you make a great point. Derech Eretz and doing good for another Jew are just as important as davening in a makom kavuah. If someone made the mistake of sitting in your seat, even if they should have asked first, you can get just as great a mitzvah, or perhaps an even greater one, if you would sit somewhere else. You may embarrass the person who sat in your seat if you tell them it is your seat and maybe a newcomer in shul is even feeling uncomfortable. It may be easier to say “I need to sit in my makom kavuah” than to find a different seat, but it is no more of a mitzvah.

  30. I wish EVERYONE would read #26 and act accordingly. I am always amazed at how rude many of us are to any type of outsiders, anyone who looks different or even just looks unfamiliar and may be a stranger in our neighbourhood. The reasonable, decent thing to do is to point out to a guest in shul where there is an available seat, EVEN if he is not in your seat, but you notice him looking a little lost. Having said that, I do not appreciate my siddur or Chumash etc being pushed out of someone’s way while they make themselves comfortable without inquiring whether or not they are in someone’s makom kavua. How about respect and mentchlichkeit, whether you are a guest, a stranger or a regular in shul? Too much to expect???

  31. Makom Kavu’ah is at best a d’Rabbonon (probably just a Minhag or an eitzah tovah).

    OTOH, yelling at someone sitting at your makom kavu’ah, or embarrasing in any other way is a violation of a d’Oraisa tantamount to murder.

    So, if someone is sitting in your makom kavu’ah, think twice about how your will get him out of that seat, and don’t imperil your Neshamah.

  32. Rav Mordechai Willig one pointed out that that while a makom Kavua is important because of Kabolas pnei HaShechinah, we learn from Avraham Avinu in the beginning of Parashas Vayera that Hachnasas Orechim is greater than being mekabel pnei hashechinah! If you want your Makom kavuah come early to shul to claim it. otherwise, don’t ruin your mitzvah by shaming a guest.

  33. i have my own set of rules when i am a guest
    first i ask then i sit but if i come late
    (yestabach) i take any open seat they become hefker once i sit i will not move till after
    daving is over will not move for nobody

  34. Sorry, ha’malbin pnei chaveiro b’rabim” is equal to killing him. The writer spoke about “after the fact” that someone was in your seat. Then what? Say “Please get up. It’s my makom kavu’ah?” Doing that undermines the whole point of makom kavua — kavannah…
    And at dinners, and semachos, no makom kavua aspect there. and how often do ADULTS say, “Excuse me, I’m saving this seat?”
    I was born, bred and still live in Brooklyn. When it comes to menschlichkeit and manner we have a lot to learn out of our daled amos.

  35. Embarrassing someone in public (“causing their face to turn color”) is the moral equivalent of murder. Do you really want to become a rotzeiach just to keep your makom kavuah? Try courtesy – even try a little being mevatel your own ego. After all, that’s one of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter’s 13 midos.

  36. Why not have little tags attached to the seat naming the person whose seat it belongs to? This way there is no confusing or misunderstanding and have an area for seats that are non-established for regulars.

  37. This pales in comparison to taking someone’s seat at a Kiddush. Here a guy goes & fills up a plate of herring & kichel, fills a shotglass of booze, and lo and behold – someone else takes that seat. Where’s the Mentchlichkeit?? Or worse yet, he goes & loads a bowl of cholent & kugel, pours a cup of seltzer & returns to his seat to find a kid sitting in it & fressing candies. Imagine manuvering two shtiklach of galla-p’tcha onto your plate, somehow keeping it on your plate till you get back to your seat & finding someone else sitting there… It’s just not right!!!!

  38. I find it rude if someone asks me or anyone else to move because it is their Makom.

    A while ago I was davening in a shul in NY. The following week I davened in Yerushliam. The week after that I was davenig in Johannesburg. Would you believe it Hashem was able to find me in all three places. Therefore, when someone is sitting in my Makom I move one or two rows. Would you believe Hashem finds me there too.

    Be a mensch and give up your seat without a fuss.

  39. Rabbi Reimsn ahs given many shiurim about this and clarified what is right and what is wrong in regard to this issue.

    Halacha is halacha and wether you like halcha or not it does not change!

    If someone comes late (Yishtabach) he has no right to hsi seat period.

    On the same token it is better to be quiet and not make someone feel like a piece of garbagage when he is in your seat.

    If someone constantly is in your makom , even if it’s not the same person then you have a right in a polite way to tell the person it is your mokom.

    A mokom also means that you daven in the same daled amos day and day out or shabbos in and shabbos out.

  40. Isnt it interesting that we learn about makom kavua from Avraham avinu who is the forefather of hachnoses orchim. We must ask ourselves, is this how our Tatele would have acted?

  41. Hey #41-
    It is Benjamin Franklin’s 13 middos, not R’ Yisrael Salanter.

    According to halacaha, anywhere within 4 amos of your seat fulfills the requirement of kove’a makom letfilaso, so unless there are no available seats within a 4 amma (about 8 feet) radius, there is no reason to ask the guy to move.

  42. doesn’t everyone realize that Hashem is matter where you are or where youre davening from that Hashem is where you let Him in..dont worry about your special makom.. because Hashem is with you always no matter if someone is in your seat, let them be there..its okay.. 🙂

  43. I love getting yelled at while in the middle of Shema by someone walking in late who says, “You’re in my seat!” and demands I move WHILE IN THE MIDDLE OF SHEMA!

  44. That is an issue, but I never understand when new people in a shul just sit down in any seat they want without asking someone if its another persons seat . Any time I come to a new place I ask if anyone is sitting there.

  45. having a makom kavuah is not just a nice thing, its a halacha. if you are a visitor to a shul you should ask before you sit down. i for one have never seen anyone yell at another person for sitting in his seat. at most the person will show the other person another seat and politely ask them to move. i think the author and most of the commenter s are grossly exaggerating the issue and are being motzie shem ra on a whole community