Daf 23. Summary. When one is interrupted in prayer for a period of time equal or exceeding the interval it would take to recite the entire prayer, one must return to the beginning. One who has to relieve himself may not pray. Rav Zevid “and some say Rav Yehuda” says he may pray “if he can retsrain himself.” The gemara seeks to determine how long he must be able to restrain himself, and whether or not he must remove his tefillin before entering a bathroom. Some say “we are concerned . . . he might forget that his tefillin are on his head and will break wind with them still on him.”
A student left his tefillin adjacent to a public toilet and they were snatched by a whore. She brought them to the study hall and claimed she received them from the student as her payment. The student went to the roof and committed suicide. From this incident the rabbis ruled that one should carry one’s tefillin when one enters the bathroom. However, one must not hold them (or a Torah scroll) when one is praying and, likewise, one may not hold them while urinating.
How much may one bare while defecating? How much may one bare while urinating? How far should one distance himself to defecate from the place where he will eat?
Comment. Have we seen this in a Seinfeld episode? Is this the inspiration for Philip Roth’s Conversion of the Jews? The Talmud proves that the urban problem of locating a public facility has been with us longer than we suspected. More importantly, the Talmud shows the willingness of the rabbis to change a rabbinic ordinance when it does more harm than good.