Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Five
A person who prays must be careful to tend to [the following] eight matters. [However,] if he is pressured, confronted by circumstances beyond his control, or transgresses and does not attend to one them, they are not of absolute necessity. They are:
2) facing the Temple;
3) preparation of his body;
4) proper clothing;
5) proper place;
6) control of his voice;
7) bowing; and
Standing: What is implied?
[Generally,] one should pray only while standing. [Thus,] a person sitting in a boat or in a carriage, if able to stand, should do so; if not, he may sit in his place and pray.
A person who is ill may pray even while lying on his side, provided he is able to have the proper intention. Similarly, one who is thirsty or hungry is considered as one who is ill. [Therefore,] if he is able to concentrate properly he should pray. If not, he should not pray until he has eaten or drunk.
One riding an animal should not descend [from the animal] - even if he has someone to hold his animal. Rather, he should sit in his place and pray so his mind will be settled.
Facing the Temple: What is implied?
A person standing in the Diaspora should face Eretz Yisrael and pray.
One standing in Eretz Yisrael should face Jerusalem.
One standing in Jerusalem should face the Temple.
One standing in the Temple should face the Holy of Holies.
A blind person, one who is unable to determine direction, or one travelling in a boat should direct his heart towards the Divine Presence and pray.
The preparation of one's body: What is implied?
When one stands in prayer, he should place his feet together side by side. He should set his eyes downwards as if he is looking at the ground, and his heart upwards as if he is standing in Heaven.
His hands should be resting on his heart, with the right hand clasped over the left hand. He should stand like a servant before his master, in fear, awe, and dread. He should not rest his hand on his hips [during the Amidah].
Proper clothing: What is implied?
One should adjust his clothing and make himself neat and presentable before [praying], as [implied by Psalms 29:2]: "They bow to God in resplendent holiness."
One should not pray wearing [only] his undershirt, bareheaded, or barefoot - if it is the custom of the people of that place to stand before their most respected people with shoes.
In all places, one should not hold tefillin in his hand or a Sefer Torah in his arms during the Amidah, since he will worry about them. [Similarly,] one should not hold utensils or money in his hand. However, he may pray while holding his lulav on Sukkot, since it is the commandment of the day.
If one is carrying a burden of less than four kabbim on his head when the time for the Amidah arrives, he should throw it over his shoulder and pray. If it is larger than four kabbim, he should place it on the ground and then pray.
It is customary for all Sages and their students to pray only when wrapped in a tallit.
Proper place: What is implied?
One should stand in a low place and turn his face towards the wall. Also, one should open windows or doors that face Jerusalem and pray opposite them, as [Daniel 6:11] states: "...and he had windows open in his room facing Jerusalem."
A person should establish a fixed place where he always prays. One should not pray in a destroyed building, nor [should one pray] behind a synagogue, unless he turns his face towards the synagogue.
It is forbidden to sit down next to someone in the midst of the Amidah or to pass in front of him, except at a distance of four cubits.
One should not stand in a place three or more handbreadths high and pray. [Similarly, he should not pray while standing] on a bed, bench, or chair.
A raised platform that has a surface area of four cubits by four cubits which is the [minimum] size of a house, is considered like an attic. Thus, one is permitted to pray there. Similarly, if it is surrounded by walls, even if it is not four cubits by four cubits, one may pray there, since its height is not noticeable, because it constitutes an area unto itself.
Craftsmen working at the top of a tree, or on top of a board or wall when the time of the Amidah arrives must descend in order to pray, and then return to their work. If they were at the top of an olive or fig tree, they may pray where they are, because of the excessive effort [involved in descending].
What is it that they pray? If they are working for meals alone, they recite three prayers of 19 blessings. If they are working for wages, they recite "Give us understanding." In either case, they do not lead the congregation or lift up their hands [to bless the people].
Control of one's voice: What is implied?
A person should not raise his voice during his Amidah, nor should he pray silently. Rather, he should pronounce the words with his lips, whispering in a tone that he can hear.
He should not make his voice audible unless he is sick or cannot concentrate otherwise. In such a case, it is permitted except when in a congregation, lest the others be disturbed by his voice.
Bowing: What is implied?
One praying bows five times in each and every Amidah:
In the first blessing, at the beginning and at the end;
in the blessing of thanks, at the beginning and at the end; and
upon completing the Amidah, one bows and takes three steps backwards while bowing. He takes leave from his left and afterwards, from his right. Then, he lifts his head up from the bowed position.
When he bows the [other] four times, he does so at [the utterance of the word] "Blessed" and straightens up when [reciting] G-d's name.
To whom does the above apply? To an average person. However, the High Priest bows at the beginning and end of each and every blessing. A king bows at the beginning [of the Amidah] and does not lift his head until he completes his whole Amidah.
Why should one take leave from the left first? Because one's left is to the right [side] of His countenance; i.e., just like when one stands before a king, he takes leave from the right of the king, and then afterwards from the left of the king. Thus, they established that one should withdraw from the Amidah in the same manner as he withdraws from before a king.
All these bows require that one bow until the vertebrae in his spine protrude and he makes himself like a bow.
However, if one bows slightly [to the extent that] it causes him pain and he appears to have bowed with all of his power, he need not worry.
Prostration, what is implied?
After one lifts his head from the fifth bow, he sits on the ground, falls with his face towards the earth, and utters all the supplications that he desires.
"Kneeling" always refers to [falling to] one's knees; "bowing," to bending over on one's face; and "prostration," to stretching out on one's hands and feet until he is flat with his face on the ground.
When uttering the supplication after the Amidah, there are those who bow and there are those who prostrate themselves.
It is forbidden to prostrate oneself on stones except in the Holy Temple, as we have explained in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim.
An important person is not permitted to fall on his face unless he is certain that he is as righteous as Yehoshua. Rather, he should tilt his face slightly, but not press it to the ground.
One may pray in one place and offer this supplication in another 011215. It is an accepted custom among the entire Jewish people not to utter the supplication on Sabbaths or festivals. Nor [does one utter it] on Rosh Hashanah, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah or Purim or in Minchah on the eve of Sabbaths or holidays, nor in the Evening Prayer of any day. There are [however,] individuals who do utter the supplication in the Evening Prayer.
On Yom Kippur only, one utters the supplication prayer in every prayer, since it is a day of supplication, requests, and fasting.
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