SECTION 123 Laws Relating to Bowing at the Conclusion of Shemoneh Esreh. (1-8)

קכג דִּינֵי הַכְּרִיעוֹת בְּסִיּוּם י"ח בְּרָכוֹת וּבוֹ ח' סְעִיפִים:

1 A person who [has completed] the recitation of Shemoneh Esreh should take three steps back,1 as one does when taking leave of a king, and should then bid farewell. If one did not do this, it is as if he had not recited She­moneh Esreh.2

He should first bid farewell [by inclining his head] to his left, which is to the right of the Divine Presence3 that abides before him4 as he departs from [the place of his] prayer. He should then [incline his head] to his right, which is to the left of the Divine Presence. To explain: When he says Oseh shalom bimromav,5 he should incline his head to the left, and when he says Hu yaaseh shalom aleinu, he should incline his head to the right.

He should not bid farewell [by inclining his head] while stepping [back], but only afterwards. [I.e.,] before stepping [back] he should bow, and take the three backward steps in the course of a single bow. Then, while he is still bowed over, before he straightens himself, he should bid farewell [as above] to his left and to his right.6 It has become a regular practice to conclude by [facing forward and] bowing7 before G‑d, like a servant taking leave of his master.

Following this, it is customary to say,8 “May it be Your will... that the Beis HaMikdash be rebuilt....” Since [today] the recitation of She­moneh Esreh compensates for the sacrificial service,9 we ask [at this point] that the [Beis Ha-]Mikdash be rebuilt so that we will be able to actually perform that service.

א הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל צָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּפְסַע ג' פְּסִיעוֹת לַאֲחוֹרָיוא,1 כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁנִּפְטָרִים מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְב וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִתֵּן שָׁלוֹם, וְאִם לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן – כְּאִלּוּ לֹא הִתְפַּלֵּל.ג,2

וְנוֹתֵן שָׁלוֹם תְּחִלָּה לִשְׂמֹאלוֹד שֶׁהִיא יְמִין הַשְּׁכִינָה3 הַשְּׁרוּיָה נֶגְדּוֹה,4 בְּצֵאתוֹ מִן הַתְּפִלָּה, וְאַחַר כָּךְ לִימִינוֹ שֶׁהוּא שְׂמֹאל הַשְּׁכִינָה, דְּהַיְנוּו שֶׁכְּשֶׁאוֹמֵר "עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו"5 – יִטֶּה בְּרֹאשׁוֹ לְצַד שְׂמֹאלוֹ, וּכְשֶׁאוֹמֵר "הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ" – יִטֶּה בְּרֹאשׁוֹ לְצַד יְמִינוֹ, וְלֹא יִתֵּן שָׁלוֹם בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁפּוֹסֵעַז אֶלָּא לְאַחַר כַּךְ.

וְקֹדֶם שֶׁפּוֹסֵעַ יֵשׁ לוֹ לִכְרֹעַ,ח וְיִפְסַע הַג' פְּסִיעוֹת בִּכְרִיעָה אַחַת,ט וּבְעוֹדוֹ כּוֹרֵעַ קֹדֶם שֶׁיִּזְקֹףי – יִתֵּן שָׁלוֹם לִשְׂמֹאלוֹ וְלִימִינוֹ.6

וְהֻרְגְּלוּ לְהִשְׁתַּחֲווֹת7 אַחַר כָּךְ לִפְנֵי ה', כְּעֶבֶד הַנִּפְטָר מֵרַבּוֹ.יא

וְנָהֲגוּ לוֹמַר אַחַר כָּךְיב,8 "יְהִי רָצוֹן ... שֶׁיִּבָּנֶה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁיג כו'", כִּי הַתְּפִלָּה בִּמְקוֹם הָעֲבוֹדָהיד,9 וְלָכֵן אָנוּ מְבַקְשִׁים עַל הַמִּקְדָּשׁ שֶׁנּוּכַל לַעֲשׂוֹת עֲבוֹדָה מַמָּשׁ:

2 Adding to the three [backward] steps smacks of conceit, for it implies that the person doing so is honoring the Divine Presence more than others do.

ב מִי שֶׁמּוֹסִיף עַל ג' פְּסִיעוֹת – יוּהֲרָא הִיא,טו שֶׁנִּרְאֶה חוֹלֵק כָּבוֹד לַשְּׁכִינָה יוֹתֵר מִשְּׁאָר בְּנֵי אָדָם:טז

3 One should remain standing at the spot he reaches after taking three steps back and not return to his original place until the sheliach tzibbur reaches Kedushah [during his repetition of Shemoneh Esreh].10 If one were to return immediately, he would resemble a student who, when taking leave of his master, stepped back and immediately returned. [This appears disrespectful, because] his last act reveals that his initial intention was not to take his leave deferentially by stepping back. When, however, the sheliach tzibbur reaches Kedushah, it is apparent to everyone that [the individual worshiper] is returning to his place for the sake of Kedushah.

However, some authorities maintain that as soon as the sheliach tzibbur begins reciting the Shemoneh Esreh aloud, one may return to one’s place, because it is clear to all that one is doing so in order to pay attention to what the sheliach tzibbur will say.

As to the sheliach tzibbur himself, according to the letter of the law he may return [to his place] immediately,11 because it is apparent to everyone that he is returning in order to enable the people at large to fulfill their obligation. Nevertheless, it has become customary that he remain standing for as long as it takes to walk four cubits. Similarly, according to this reasoning, it is sufficient for a person who is reciting Shemoneh Esreh individually to remain standing for the time it takes to walk four cubits [before returning to his place].

According to the first opinion, by contrast, some authorities maintain that even a person reciting Shemoneh Esreh individually must wait the amount of time it would take the sheliach tzibbur to reach Kedushah. An exception would be a situation in which he is required to repeat Shemoneh Esreh, e.g., to compensate [for failing to recite it in the previous service],12 in which instance all authorities agree that it is sufficient to wait the time it takes to walk four cubits, for the reason explained in sec. 105, and no more. [The rationale is that] it is apparent to all that he is returning to his place in order to pray again. The same applies if he returns to his place in order to recite supplications13 while sitting, as will be explained in sec. 131[:1].

With regard to actual practice, in a place where it is easy to do so, one should give weight to the first opinion. This is the prevailing custom. If, however, the synagogue is crowded and [waiting to return to one’s place] could cause strife, one may return to his place immediately after the sheliach tzibbur begins [reciting Shemoneh Esreh] aloud.

When liturgical hymns are recited before Kedushah,14 all authorities agree that there is no requirement to stand until Kedushah. Instead, as soon as the sheliach tzibbur begins [reciting Shemoneh Esreh] aloud, one may return to the place at which he prayed.

ג בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁכָּלוּ הַג' פְּסִיעוֹת – יַעֲמֹד,יז,2 וְלֹא יַחֲזֹר לִמְקוֹמוֹ עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר לִקְדֻשָּׁה,יח,10 שֶׁאִם חוֹזֵר מִיָּד – דּוֹמֶה לְתַלְמִיד שֶׁנִּפְטַר מֵרַבּוֹ וּפָסַע לַאֲחוֹרָיו וְחוֹזֵר מִיָּד,יט שֶׁסּוֹפוֹ מוֹכִיחַ עַל תְּחִלָּתוֹ שֶׁלֹּא פָּסַע לַאֲחוֹרָיו כְּדֵי לִפָּטֵר מִמֶּנּוּ, אֲבָל כְּשֶׁמַּגִּיעַ שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר לִקְדֻשָּׁה – נִרְאֶה לַכֹּל שֶׁחוֹזֵר בִּשְׁבִיל הַקְּדֻשָּׁה.

וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםכ שֶׁמִּשֶּׁהִתְחִיל שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר לְהִתְפַּלֵּל בְּקוֹל רָם – מֻתָּר לַחֲזֹר לִמְקוֹמוֹ, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנִּרְאֶה לַכֹּל שֶׁחוֹזֵר בִּשְׁבִיל לְכַוֵּן לְמַה שֶׁיֹּאמַר הַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר.

וְהַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר עַצְמוֹ יָכוֹל לַחֲזֹר מִיָּד מִן הַדִּין,כא,11 שֶׁנִּרְאֶה לַכֹּל שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה כֵן כְּדֵי לְהוֹצִיא רַבִּים יְדֵי חוֹבָתָן, אֶלָּא שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ לַעֲמֹד כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ ד' אַמּוֹת.כב וְכֵן יָחִיד הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל דַּי לוֹ שֶׁיַּעֲמֹד כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ ד' אַמּוֹתכג לְפִי סְבָרָא זוֹ.כד

אֲבָל לְפִי סְבָרָא הָרִאשׁוֹנָה יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםכה שֶׁגַּם יָחִיד הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל צָרִיךְ לְהַמְתִּין כְּשִׁעוּר שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר לִקְדֻשָּׁה, אִם לֹא שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לַחֲזֹר וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל שֵׁנִית,כו כְּגוֹן לְתַשְׁלוּמִין,12 שֶׁאָז לְדִבְרֵי הַכֹּל דַּי שֶׁיַּמְתִּין כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ ד' אַמּוֹת מִטַּעַם שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן ק"ה, וְלֹא יוֹתֵר, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנִּרְאֶה לַכֹּל שֶׁחוֹזֵר לִמְקוֹמוֹ כְּדֵי לַחֲזֹר וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל. וְכֵן אִם חוֹזֵר לִמְקוֹמוֹ כְּדֵי לִפֹּל עַל פָּנָיו13 מְיֻשָּׁב, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן קל"א.כז

וּלְעִנְיַן מַעֲשֶׂה, בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר בְּקַל – יֵשׁ לָחוּשׁ לַסְּבָרָא הָרִאשׁוֹנָה.כח וְכֵן נוֹהֲגִין.כט אֲבָל בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ דֹּחַק בְּבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶתל וְיָבוֹאוּ לִידֵי מַחֲלֹקֶת – יָכוֹל לַחֲזֹר לִמְקוֹמוֹ מִיָּד שֶׁפָּתַח הַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר בְּקוֹל רָם.

וּכְשֶׁאוֹמְרִים פִּיּוּטִים קֹדֶם קְדֻשָּׁהלא,14 – לְדִבְרֵי הַכֹּל אֵין צָרִיךְ לַעֲמֹד עַד קְדֻשָּׁה, אֶלָּא מִיָּד שֶׁפָּתַח שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר בְּקוֹל רָם – חוֹזֵר לִמְקוֹמוֹ:

4 If one desires, he may stand in the place to which he stepped back and not return to his former place. Some authorities, however, maintain that one should take six steps — three steps back, and three as he returns to his place; i.e., with [these] three steps he should [make a point of] returning to his former place.15 For this reason some people watch vigilantly that no one should walk in front of them while they are standing in the place to which they stepped back, so that their six steps will not be interrupted. Nevertheless, by their insistence they [are likely to] err, because when they see that someone desires to pass in front of them, they will hurry to return to their place16 before the above-mentioned interval of time.

ד אִם הוּא רוֹצֶה עוֹמֵד בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁפָּסַע וְאֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר לִמְקוֹמוֹ.לב וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםלג שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִפְסֹעַ ו' פְּסִיעוֹת, ג' לַאֲחוֹרָיו וְג' בְּשׁוּבוֹ לִמְקוֹמוֹ, שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ לַחֲזֹר לִמְקוֹמוֹ בְּג' פְּסִיעוֹת לְפָנָיו.15 וּמִטַּעַם זֶה קְצָת מַקְפִּידִיןלד שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲבֹר אָדָם לִפְנֵיהֶם בְּעוֹד שֶׁהֵם עוֹמְדִין בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁפָּסַע שֶׁלֹּא יַפְסִיק זֶה בֵּין ו' פְּסִיעוֹתֵיהֶם, אֲבָל מִכָּל מָקוֹם עַל יְדֵי קְפִידָתָם טוֹעִים,לה שֶׁכְּשֶׁרוֹאִים מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לַעֲבֹר לִפְנֵיהֶם – הֵם מְמַהֲרִים לַחֲזֹר לִמְקוֹמָן16 קֹדֶם שִׁעוּר שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר:לו

5 If an individual who is praying with the congregation completes his recitation of Shemoneh Esreh before his fellow congregants do, he is not permitted to turn around and face them until the sheliach tzibbur completes his [whispered] prayer. He may then turn around. However, he may not return to his place at which he prayed until the sheliach tzibbur reaches Kedushah, when it is possible [to wait that long], as has been explained.17 There are those who are stringent [and require that] in the place to which he stepped back he must stand with his feet together, as he does during Shemoneh Esreh,18 until the sheliach tzibbur reaches Kedushah. It is desirable to give weight to their words.

When one steps [back], he should lift his left foot first. Since people generally begin walking by lifting their right foot first, [in this instance] one should lift his left foot first to show that he finds it difficult take leave of G‑d’s Presence. For this reason, a left-footed person should first lift the foot that is “left” for him, i.e., his right foot.

ה יָחִיד שֶׁמִּתְפַּלֵּל בְּצִבּוּרלז וְסִיֵּם תְּפִלָּתוֹ קֹדֶם לַצִּבּוּר – אֵין לוֹ רְשׁוּת לְהַחֲזִיר פָּנָיו לַצִּבּוּר עַד שֶׁיְּסַיֵּם שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר תְּפִלָּתוֹ, שֶׁאָז רַשַּׁאי לְהַחֲזִיר פָּנָיו, אֲבָל לֹא לַחֲזֹר לִמְקוֹמוֹלח עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר לִקְדֻשָּׁה בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר.לט,17 וְיֵשׁ מַחֲמִירִיםמ לַעֲמֹד בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁפָּסַע וּלְכַוֵּן שָׁם רַגְלָיו כְּמוֹ בַּתְּפִלָּהמא,18 עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ שְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר לִקְדֻשָּׁה. וְטוֹב לָחוּשׁ לְדִבְרֵיהֶם.מב

וּכְשֶׁפּוֹסֵעַ – עוֹקֵר רֶגֶל שְׂמֹאל תְּחִלָּה,מג לְפִי שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ הֲלִיכַת אָדָם בִּסְתָם הִיא לַעֲקֹר רֶגֶל יָמִין תְּחִלָּה,מד לָכֵן עוֹקֵר כָּאן רֶגֶל שְׂמֹאל תְּחִלָּה לְהַרְאוֹת כְּאִלּוּ כָּבֵד עָלָיו לִפָּטֵר מִלִּפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם. וּמִטַּעַם זֶה אִטֵּר רֶגֶל עוֹקֵר תְּחִלָּה שְׂמֹאלוֹ שֶׁהוּא יְמִין כָּל אָדָם:

6 These steps must be at least large enough to enable the toe of one foot to be next to the heel of the other. [This is required] even if the space is cramped, because anything less than that is not called a step at all. As an initial preference, one should not step back with longer strides than this, because he would then appear to be running away from the King’s Presence.

ו שִׁעוּר פְּסִיעוֹת אֵלּוּ,מה לְכָל הַפָּחוֹת הוּא כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתֵּן גוּדָל בְּצַד עָקֵב, וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם הַמָּקוֹם צַר,מו לְפִי שֶׁפָּחוֹת מִזֶּה אֵינָהּ נִקְרֵאת פְּסִיעָה כְּלָל. וּלְכַתְּחִלָּה לֹא יַפְסִיעַ פְּסִיעוֹת גַּסּוֹת יוֹתֵר מִזֶּה,מז מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנִּרְאֶה כְּרָץ מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ:מח

7 The sheliach tzibbur, too, must take three steps back after he has recited the whispered Shemoneh Esreh. However, when he repeats it aloud, he is not required to take three steps again, because he may rely on the three steps that he will take at the end of the complete Kaddish19 which the Sages ordained that a sheliach tzibbur should recite after every Shemoneh Esreh.20 [True, this Kaddish is not recited directly after She­moneh Esreh. For example:] An interruption is made [at various times] for the Reading of the Torah, the Seder Kedushah,21 Hallel, Avinu Malkeinu, and the like. [Yet] these all constitute part of the sequence of prayer, and the Kaddish that follows them focuses back primarily on Shemoneh Esreh. [Because of this continuity, a sheliach tzibbur is not required to take three steps after Shemoneh Esreh.] Nevertheless, if he desires to step back after Shemoneh Esreh, too, one should not object to his doing so.

If the sheliach tzibbur had not recited Shemoneh Esreh in a whisper but only recited it aloud,22 he must take three steps back after reciting it aloud, apart from the steps that he will take after Kaddish.

ז גַּם הַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר צָרִיךְ לִפְסֹעַ ג' פְּסִיעוֹת כְּשֶׁמִּתְפַּלֵּל בְּלַחַשׁ.מט אֲבָל כְּשֶׁחוֹזֵר הַתְּפִלָּה בְּקוֹל רָם – אֵין צָרִיךְ לַחֲזֹר וְלִפְסֹעַ ג' פְּסִיעוֹת,נ מִפְּנֵינא שֶׁסּוֹמֵךְ עַל הַפְּסִיעוֹתנב שֶׁבְּסוֹף הַקַּדִּישׁ שָׁלֵם19 שֶׁתִּקְּנוּהוּ חֲכָמִים לִשְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר אַחַר כָּל תְּפִלָּה,נג,20 אֶלָּא שֶׁמַּפְסִיקִים בִּקְרִיאַת סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה וְסֵדֶר קְדֻשָּׁה21 וְהַלֵּל וְ"אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ" וְכָל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁכֻּלָּן לְסֵדֶר הַתְּפִלָּה בָּאִים, וְקַדִּישׁ שֶׁלְּאַחֲרֵיהֶם חוֹזֵר עִקָּר עַל תְּפִלַּת י"ח.נד וְאִם בָּא לִפְסֹעַ גַּם אַחַר תְּפִלַּת י"ח – אֵין לִמְחוֹת בְּיָדוֹ.נה

וְאִם לֹא הִתְפַּלֵּל בְּלַחַשׁ רַק בְּקוֹל רָםנו,22 – צָרִיךְ לִפְסֹעַ ג' פְּסִיעוֹת אַחַר תְּפִלָּתוֹ שֶׁבְּקוֹל רָםנז מִלְּבַד הַפְּסִיעוֹת שֶׁאַחַר הַקַּדִּישׁ:

8 When the sheliach tzibbur repeats She­moneh Esreh, he is not required to say Yih’yu leratzon afterwards, because he relies on the clause Tiskabel Tzelos’hon23 [that he will soon say] in the latter part of the Kaddish. Some authorities, however, maintain that [the sheliach tzibbur] must say Yih’yu leratzon at the end of Shemoneh Esreh. Though the custom is to follow the first view, it is desirable to give weight to the second view.24

ח כְּשֶׁהַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר חוֹזֵר הַתְּפִלָּהנח – אֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר "יִהְיוּ לְרָצוֹן"נט בְּסוֹף הַתְּפִלָּה, מִפְּנֵיס שֶׁסּוֹמֵךְ עַל "תִּתְקַבֵּל צְלוֹתְהוֹן"23 שֶׁבְּסוֹף הַקַּדִּישׁ.סא וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםסב שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לוֹמַר "יִהְיוּ לְרָצוֹן" בְּסוֹף הַתְּפִלָּה. וְנוֹהֲגִין כַּסְּבָרָא הָרִאשׁוֹנָה.סג וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן טוֹב לָחוּשׁ לִסְבָרָא אַחֲרוֹנָה:סד,24