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.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5779, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha


Insulation on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to cover a pot of food on an electric hotplate with a towel on Shabbat? Answer: Long ago, it was customary to cover a pot of food with (or immerse it in) dirt or sand in order to retain the food’s heat. Heat Increasers vs. Heat Retainers Some would immerse th......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Beginning of the Fast when Tisha Be’av Falls Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av this Year (5779)

This year (5779), Tisha Be’av falls out on Shabbat. Thus, the fast is postponed until today, Sunday, the Tenth of Av. On other years when the fast is observed on the Ninth of Av, there are likewise some mourning customs observed on the Tenth of Av as well. We must therefore discuss the law ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av This Year (5779)

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal. Nevertheless, this year, 5779, since the fast of Tisha Be&r......

Read Halacha