Halacha for Sunday 27 Sivan 5779 June 30 2019

Taking Three Steps Back Before Praying

The Roke’ach (quoted by the Rama in his notation on Chapter 95) writes that before beginning to recite the Amida prayer, one should take three steps back, then take three steps forward (to one’s original place), and then stand there and begin praying silently. The reason for this is because this resembles an endearment and readiness to perform the matter at hand similar to when Moshe wished to pray to Hashem, he entered three partitions of darkness, cloud, and fog. This custom is quoted by the Kenesset Ha’Gedolah and other great Acharonim.

Although the Eliyah Rabba writes that there is no need to observe this custom since it is not mentioned in the Talmud or in the works of most Rishonim, nevertheless, the Mishnah Berura writes that the prevalent custom is to do so. Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim writes in his Sefer Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Beshalach) that there is a great reason behind this custom of taking three steps back and then taking three steps forward before praying according to the Kabbalah.

On the other hand, some say this custom is correct only when one is sitting and learning in a Bet Midrash or at home and suddenly realizes that the time for prayer has arrived, for in this case, one must take three steps back in order to prepare somewhat for prayer. However, if one has already taken many steps by walking to the synagogue to pray, one need not be meticulous regarding this custom.

Hagaon Peri Megadim writes that although one who has walked to the synagogue need not observe this custom, nevertheless, since this does not involve great difficulty and effort, it is preferable to do so.

Halachically speaking, those who customarily take three steps back and forward before praying shall surely be blessed; however, many great Sephardic luminaries were not meticulous regarding this custom at all, for they relied upon the Poskim who did not mention this custom or because they relied on the steps they took while walking to the synagogue. Indeed, we have observed that when Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l stood to pray in the exact location where he was sitting and praying right before, he would not take three steps back or forward before praying and he would act in accordance with Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and other Poskim who did not mention this custom at all.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Thermometers on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to use a thermometer on Shabbat? Answer: Clearly, there is no room to take one’s temperature with an electronic/digital thermometer. Our discussion will revolve around using a thermometer that is not electronic and contains mercury which expands and rises as it h......

Read Halacha

Making a Bookmark on Shabbat

Question: If one is reading a book on Shabbat and would like to mark a certain page by making a slight scratch with one’s nail or by slightly folding the corner of the page, would this be permissible on Shabbat? The Forbidden Work of Writing Answer: One of the forbidden forms of work on Sh......

Read Halacha

A Driver’s License-“Lashon Hara”

Question: If an individual wishes to obtain a driver’s license and I am aware of a medical problem that will impair him from driving, may I relay this information to the Department of Motor Vehicles? Answer: The Rambam (Chapter 1 of Hilchot Rotze’ach) writes: “Anyone who has the......

Read Halacha

Coloring a Napkin or Handkerchief on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha, we have explained in general the fundamentals of the forbidden work of dyeing on Shabbat which is one of the works which are forbidden to be performed on Shabbat. The Opinion of the Sefer Yere’im Rabbeinu Eliezer of Metz writes in his Sefer Yere’im (Chapter 2......

Read Halacha


Writing on a Window on Shabbat

Question: In the winter when it is cold outside and there is condensation or frost on the window, may one use one’s finger to write or draw on the window? Answer: One of the thirty-nine works forbidden by Torah law on Shabbat is writing. Nevertheless, our Sages teach us that the Torah prohi......

Read Halacha

Various Dangers- A Car on the Road

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the positive Torah commandment for one to make a railing around one’s roof so that no one falls from there. After explaining this Mitzvah, the Rambam (Chapter 11 of Hilchot Rotze’ach U’Shmirat Nesfesh) adds: “Similarly, it is a M......

Read Halacha

The Forbidden Work of Dyeing On Shabbat

The Basis of the Forbidden Work of Dyeing One of the thirty-nine works forbidden by Torah law on Shabbat is the forbidden work of dyeing. The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) states likewise. We have previously discussed that any work which was performed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was prohibit......

Read Halacha

Widows and Orphans

The Torah states (Shemot 22): “You shall not oppress any widow or orphan. If you oppress them and they call out to me, I shall surely hear their cry. My anger shall flare and I shall kill you with the sword; your wives shall then be widows and your children orphans.” The Torah explains t......

Read Halacha