Question: If one cannot join one’s feet together while praying the Amida standing up but he can do so while sitting, should such an individual pray while standing with his feet separated or sitting with his feet joined together? Similarly, can one open one’s eyes during the Amida prayer?
Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that one must join one’s feet together during the Amida prayer; this law is based on a verse in the Book of Yechezkel. We have also written that standing while reciting the Amida prayer is obligatory, for most Poskim rule that if one prayed Amida while sitting and later has the opportunity to pray again standing, one is obligated to pray once again.
Regarding our first question, according to most Poskim, even if one recited the Amida prayer while one’s feet were separated, one has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation. On the other hand, if one prayed while sitting, if one is able to later, one must repeat the Amida prayer while standing (however, one should make this prayer a “conditional, donated prayer, as we have explained). Thus, clearly, one should pray while standing, even if one’s feet will be separated rather than praying sitting down with one’s feet joined together, for standing while praying the Amida is more important than the law of joining one’s feet together.
Regarding our second question, the Poskim write that one must look down while praying; those individuals who look up while praying are mocked by the Heavenly angels and they are worthy of rebuke. The holy Zohar states, “One who stands in prayer must cover his eyes so as not to look at Hashem’s holy presence. One who opens his eyes while praying will not merit seeing Hashem’s presence at the time of his passing; rather, he will be greeted by the Angel of Death first and he shall not merit dying through a ‘kiss’.” The Sefer Charedim (authored by Rabbeinu Elazar Ezkari, one of the greatest sages of Tzefat during the times of Maran and the great Ari z”l) quotes the book of Rav Hamnuna Sava who writes that this punishment is actually measure for measure, for just as one disrespects Hashem’s presence by looking at it while praying, at the time of one’s passing when one wishes to leave this world through the death of “kiss” by gazing at the presence of Hashem, this person will not merit seeing the holy presence of Hashem, as the verse (Shmuel I 2, 30) states, “For I shall honor those who honor me and those who disparage me shall be degraded.”
Nevertheless, one who usually prays from within a Siddur may certainly look in the Siddur while reciting the Amida prayer; however, one should take care not to look around and merely gaze directly into the Siddur. This is truly a worthy custom, for praying from within a Siddur makes it much easier for most people to concentrate on the prayer and will usually prevent one from erring while praying. The custom of Maran Rabbeinu zt”l was indeed to recite the Amida from within a Siddur.