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Coming Back

Some authorities rule that after taking three steps backward there is a mitzva to take three steps forward. Since when leaving Shemoneh Esrei one is like a servant departing from his master, it is very inappropriate to immediately take three steps forward (Yoma 53b). Instead he should wait until he has a good reason to return to where he was standing (Mishna Berura 123,7).

Therefore, if a person is praying together with a congregation he should wait until Kedusha or at night until kaddish. If it is difficult to wait that long, he should remain in the place where he finished his steps until the shaliach tzibbur starts his repetition of Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch 123,2). If one is praying alone, one should pause for at least a few seconds before returning to one’s place (Rema ibid.).

In his latter years, the Brisker Rav had difficulty standing up until Kedusha after completing Shemoneh Esrei due to poor health. After he finished taking three steps back he would sit down in the place where he was. In this way he was able to fulfill the mitzva of not returning to his place right away.

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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