Halacha for Thursday 24 Sivan 5779 June 27 2019

Positioning One’s Feet While Praying

Question: While standing and praying the Amida prayer, must one completely join one’s feet together or is it sufficient for one’s heels to be touching one another?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 10b) states that Rabbi Yose bar Chanina said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov that one who prays must join one’s feet together, for the verse states regarding the angels (Yechezkel 1), “And their feet were (like) a straight foot” and when we pray we are speaking to the king and must resemble the Heavenly angels.

Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 95) quotes the great Rabbeinu Yitzchak Abohav that the reason one must position one’s feet next to one another while praying is because this comes to hint to us that we have nowhere to go or to flee, for we can achieve nothing without Hashem’s divine assistance at all times.

The holy Zohar (Parashat Pinchas) states regarding the verse “And their feet were a straight foot” that the authors of the Mishnah said that one praying must position his feet like the Heavenly angels. Hashem tells the angels, “If you see people that are special in the way they pray through the way they stand in prayer, open the gates of the sanctuary for them to enter.”

The students of Rabbeinu Yonah write that there are those who customarily join only their heels together but leave some space between the front of their feet, where the toes are; there is a basis for this custom, for the verse states regarding the angels, “And the palm of their feet is like the palm of a calf’s foot.” The Meiri likewise upholds this custom.

Nevertheless, the students of Rabbeinu Yonah conclude that this reason is not enough to uphold this custom, for our Talmud states that one must join one’s feet together completely so that they actually resemble one foot.

Halachically speaking, the great Rishon Le’Zion, Maran Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a, rules (in his Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah, Volume 1, page 346) that joining one’s heels together is insufficient and one must join one’s feet together completely.

Nevertheless, one who is elderly or infirm and finds it difficult to join one’s feet together and this serves to disturb one’s prayer, such an individual need not be so meticulous regarding this law. Indeed, we have seen that Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, who throughout his life was careful to join his feet together completely, was not so meticulous about this in his advanced age and would sometimes join only his heels together.

We must point out that even when Maran zt”l was ill and his bones were broken, he made great efforts to stand during the Amida prayer. Although this would cause him great suffering as a result, he nevertheless put forth an effort to do so in order to fulfill the edict of our Sages that one resemble an angel while praying. May his merit serve to protect us and the entire nation of Israel, Amen.

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